Shut down fear of contagion

For today’s contributor, an interaction at an exercise class inspired a kinder, less fearful, spiritual way to think about one’s neighbor.

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As my exercise class started one cold winter day, the person on the mat next to mine reached for a tissue and loudly blew her nose several times. My initial thought was irritation that she would come to class when not feeling well and potentially expose others to her apparent illness.

It seems media outlets are continually reporting concerns of contagion in public places during what used to be called “winter” but is now often referred to as “cold and flu” season. With all the talk of contagion it is easy to become fearful that any public place could expose us to illness.

My study of Christian Science has shown me a constructive way to address these concerns – a way of reasoning from the basis of God’s actuality and infinite goodness, which has proved itself over and over in my life to be an effective form of prayer. As we continued with our exercises that morning, I quickly took up this way of thinking.

I silently considered that my mat-neighbor was in class to express strength and vigor and wellness and that I respected her right and desire to do so. I also mentally affirmed that everyone in the class is in fact more than a mortal with various vulnerabilities and ailments, but is actually spiritual, the expression of God’s love. I embraced the understanding that we are all governed by the divine Spirit, or God, whose presence and goodness fills all space. We all live and move and breathe in God, who created and maintains us well and whole and at peace. As we realize these truths, we begin to see more evidence of this spiritual reality – health and healing – in our day-to-day lives.

One of my favorite psalms in the Bible conveys what it is like when our thoughts dwell with God, in “the shelter of the Most High.” It provides assurance that if “you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways” (Psalms 91:1, 9-11, New International Version).

As I kept my thought firmly grounded with God and recognized that He protects all His children, the fears that were creeping in about being so close to my classmate completely dissipated.

I soon realized, too, that I had been jumping to conclusions about this person’s health, which can create unnecessary fear and wasn’t very loving. Instead I could acknowledge that she, and every other person I come into contact with, has a God-given birthright of health and freedom.

Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of this newspaper, wrote an article about contagion that’s published in her “Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896.” It says in part, “Floating with the popular current of mortal thought without questioning the reliability of its conclusions, we do what others do, believe what others believe, and say what others say. Common consent is contagious, and it makes disease catching.” Instead she advises, “A calm, Christian state of mind is a better preventive of contagion than a drug, or than any other possible sanative method; and the ‘perfect Love’ that ‘casteth out fear’ is a sure defense” (pp. 228-229).

As I adopted this “calm, Christian state of mind” toward my neighbor and everyone in that class, I felt completely at peace. I realized later that my neighbor, who had lots of tissues lined up, never needed to use another one. And I never did get sick after that class or at any other class that winter.

As many parts of the world make their way through another beautiful, snowy winter, we can keep fear in check with the assurance that we all have refuge from any ill in God’s constant and perfect love, which protects and heals.

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Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

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