What most stood out to me about the man I sat next to at a community center volunteer dinner was how much he delighted in showing appreciation. When the program director shared a few words about each volunteer’s contribution, my seatmate joined in heartfelt clapping with the rest of us but also joyously added something like “Way to go! Thank you!”
He equally and sincerely praised everyone in this diverse group of givers – those he knew and those he hadn’t met yet. This man was a chaplain, and as we chatted that evening he said to me “The good you do matters.” It was clear that his radiant sense of appreciation for the goodness he saw expressed was far more than just a positive attitude. It grew out of a life dedicated to loving and honoring God.
Inspired by his bright example, I more freely and consciously valued everyone at the dinner. And I realized that in doing so, I was also praising the ultimate source of good: the one infinite Spirit, or God. It was a joyful and practical way of living Jesus’ foundational teaching to love God and our neighbor as ourselves (see Luke 10:27).
It’s not always easy to do this. In current public discourse and behavior it seems pretty common for people to be dismissive of those in other “camps,” whether political, racial, religious, or whatever else. I’ve been praying to understand how a more God-inspired sense of appreciation can play a healing role.
And my prayers have led me to the Bible story of two men from rather different “camps.” Peter (a Jewish disciple of Christ Jesus) gained a whole new appreciation for Cornelius (a Gentile, or non-Jewish person) when it dawned on him, “God plays no favorites!” (Acts 10:34, Eugene Peterson, “The Message”). It’s occurred to me that the same divine power and presence that led Peter to genuinely appreciate Cornelius as equally and fully included in God’s goodness is still present today to move and heal our hearts as well.
Peter’s realization beautifully resonates with a definition of God given by Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, who wrote: “God is universal; confined to no spot, defined by no dogma, appropriated by no sect. Not more to one than to all, is God demonstrable as divine Life, Truth, and Love; and His people are they that reflect Him – that reflect Love” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 150).
I think this holds the key to a sense of appreciation that’s truly healing. That is, what naturally gives us a fuller appreciation for each other as the very expressions of God is a fuller appreciation for the infinite, all-inclusive nature of God as universal Love itself. We are not mortals in separate camps, but each a unique spiritual manifestation of one divine Life.
A friend recently shared an inspiring experience at a midweek testimony meeting at our branch Church of Christ, Scientist. Many years ago she and her daughter (who is mixed race) were at a local park, and another little girl started saying mean things about the color of her daughter’s skin. My friend comforted her daughter and said they could pray to love this girl’s inherent goodness as God’s child – that the meanness didn’t represent her true nature. Together they prayed in this way, and not long after the girl came over to apologize, and the two kids happily played together.
Hearing this experience has given me so much hope for healing in the world. It’s helped me better see how transformative it can be to appreciate the good God knows we are, even when it’s not apparent. Jesus gave the ultimate example of what it means to truly appreciate others in this way. He loved and valued everyone in the spiritual light of Christ – the purely good nature of divine Spirit he embodied – which awakened others to their genuine, Godlike identity as well, with remarkable healing effect.
When we’re tempted to dismiss others as unworthy or incapable of redemption, we can instead pray to value them in their true, spiritual nature as the expressions of God’s goodness. This isn’t ignoring ugly traits or bad behavior, but rather acknowledging it as unworthy of how God has really made us.
Divinely based appreciation like this can heal, encouraging all that’s good in us and the world to spring forth more fully. We’re all essential to the full expression of God’s goodness. That’s to be appreciated!