Outside your comfort zone?

When those around us don’t share our language or culture, it can sometimes feel disconcerting, even alienating. But recognizing that we’re all part of God’s universal family empowers us to build bridges and make meaningful connections, wherever we may be.

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Comfort zones, I have learned, don’t have to mean being in a familiar place where everyone looks and acts the same. An experience a few years ago illustrated to me how recognizing that God holds His entire family in safety and peace is the best comfort zone there is – and where I want to be! And because each of us, as God’s child, is part of this family, opportunities for building bridges across racial and cultural lines can come in unexpected and deeply meaningful ways.

I was in a location where virtually everyone else looked different from me. With each step I took, the dissimilarities of language and culture became more apparent. I was feeling uncomfortable and cut off in this unfamiliar place.

Jostled by a crowd of people on the sidewalk, I stepped aside to let others pass. At that moment, I realized I had a choice: dwell on the sense of discomfort and disconnection and feel more alienated, or focus on a deeper, spiritual dimension of the situation – the inherent relationship and connectedness of all of us as God’s children.

From experience, I knew the second option would bring me peace. A verse from Scripture came to mind: “Don’t we all have the same father? Didn’t the same God create us all?” (Malachi 2:10, Good News Translation).

Right on that sidewalk, I stood still, opening my heart to our heavenly Father-Mother, God, who is universal Love. This all-inclusive divine Love is our common source. Being Spirit-created, Spirit-loved, and Spirit-sustained unites us. Our creator doesn’t send us out to navigate confounding interrelationships. We are designed to interact harmoniously and joyously with one another.

What calming insights with which to rethink my relationship with those around me! Differences in race, culture, or language didn’t need to divide us.

I also saw that our common heritage includes vibrant spiritual qualities such as attentiveness, kindness, compassion, and unselfishness. As we realize this, we naturally gravitate toward mutual understanding, helpfulness, and peace. No circumstance can change the true, spiritual, unified nature of everyone. A statement Mary Baker Eddy makes in her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” expresses this beautifully: “With one Father, even God, the whole family of man would be brethren...” (pp. 469-470).

A desire welled up in me to value all those around me not as strangers but as brothers and sisters. I prayed to feel the presence of the divine source and essence, which tenderly binds all of us together.

And then something caught my eye: an infant swaddled in a flowered wrap and strapped to the back of an elderly woman. The baby’s head fell from side to side and bobbed backward, her young neck not yet strong enough to hold her head upright. Her petite caretaker struggled to adjust the child, twisting, visibly frustrated. At that moment, our eyes met. She beckoned with a pleading glance.

I moved toward her. She waited. My hand – instinctively and without hesitation – reached into the folds of the colorful wrap. I felt a swath of crumpled cloth, slid it upward, and tucked it around the baby’s head. Ahh ... a perfect fit. The child, now firmly cradled against the woman’s back, rested safely and cooed happily.

The woman’s eyes met mine again, and we broke into smiles. I felt a connection, a realization that we were joined in a tender moment of support and kindness. Words were not important – a mutual concern for the child’s well-being was all that mattered. Shared caring was what united us. That is my comfort zone!

A recent Monitor article on racial tensions and violence pointed out the need to understand and address nuances, which helps resolve divisive issues and overcome prejudices (see “How one Chinatown curbs anti-Asian violence and unites a city,” CSMonitor.com, April 20, 2021). The commitment of many people to these ends is making a difference. The article quotes Carl Chan, president of the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce in Oakland, Calif., as saying, “Goodness [is] coming out from everywhere.”

Such caring naturally grows out of recognizing our unity as children of a divine Parent whose love is universal and boundless. We can let this divine Love encourage us to step out of our “familiar zone” into our true comfort zone, affirming everyone’s place in our one big spiritual family, which inspires meaningful connections.

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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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