Some light on dealing with bureaucracy
A Christian Science perspective on daily life.
A recent article in this newspaper noted major cuts in funding for Italian schools and bureaucratic procedures that make it difficult for students to progress and ultimately to get jobs. Tens of thousands of students and teachers have taken part in protests against these conditions ("Cuts put Italian schools under the microscope," Nov. 10, 2008).
Of course bureaucracy isn't found only in Italy. Have you ever gone to get a permit or to renew a passport and found the line so long that you won't be taken until the week after next? Or maybe you were given forms one week, but when you went back the next week, there was a different person on duty – and that person said you had the wrong ones. So you had to start all over again.
When these things happen, it's not unusual to feel powerless before a faceless bureaucracy. There is a way, however, to get past those feelings of powerlessness and resulting anger. It's prayer that rests on the conviction that there is only one Mind, or God, and that this Mind truly does govern all aspects of our lives. Then, when we seem to be up against bureaucracy – whether it's in a major corporation, a government, or a university – we can focus our prayers on understanding Mind's will for us and for everyone. That will guide our steps to the right solution.
Here's an example. A woman was concerned because an unlighted street lamp near her home left a dark area where people congregated at night, sometimes for illegal purposes. Feeling fearful, she called the town hall to see if it could be fixed. At first, she was told that the town could afford only one light per street, but when she reported that this was the one light, the clerk told her they couldn't help her without the light pole's number. When she called in the number, the clerk still refused her request.
Feeling frustrated, she now realized that she needed to take time to pray, if only to maintain her own sense of peace and justice. In her prayer, she reaffirmed that under God's care, harmony and safety are the norm – and that she had a right to persist until justice prevailed.
Christ Jesus told an interesting parable about the value of persistent prayer in the face of injustice. He spoke of a widow who came to an unjust, disrespectful judge and asked him to help her. His natural inclination was to ignore her, but she was so persistent that he finally said to himself, "...because this widow keeps bothering me, I will see that she gets justice, so that she won't eventually wear me out with her coming!" (Luke 18:5, New International Version). Jesus' point was that even if the circumstances don't seem promising, persistent prayer will remove the obstacles we face.
Encouraged by her prayer, the woman decided to try again. She felt deeply that her desire to see a more lawful environment – that is, having the street illuminated as a deterrent to crime – was in line with the intelligence and wisdom that come from divine Mind. Under God's government, there can be no place for crime or even the inclination to consider illegal acts. God's purpose is always good, and this woman refused to believe that something other than divine law – such as apathy, laziness, resistance to change, among other things – could control her community.
After more delays from the clerk, the woman's persistence drew a supervisor into the discussion. When he looked into the record, he found that the town had been being billed for the light right along – even though it hadn't been lit. She had no difficulty making her case for the light to be repaired – which it was. Now, many years later, it still is shining.
Whenever bureaucracy seems to stand in our way, it's important to turn to God for the specific guidance that will help us see the divine plan and then follow it with persistence and conviction. Loving respect for our fellow humans, and the certainty that each one can respond to divine Love's guidance, will open the way.