A Christian Science perspective: An encounter with a man who was homeless prompted this writer to gain new insight into loving all humanity.
One day I was walking down the street next to a well-dressed woman who was pushing a baby carriage. There was a man stretched across the sidewalk. I had seen him often. He was dressed in rags with his toes sticking out of his socks, dirty, and unshaven, and he smelled of alcohol. We had to walk around him by going on the grass.
When we reached the crosswalk, he came up beside us. The woman started pushing her carriage fast to get some distance. As I walked in the short gap between them, I began to think, Why is it that I have no trouble walking next to this well-dressed woman, but I want to keep my distance from this homeless man? If I am to love all humanity, can I exclude any of God’s children no matter what they look like? There should be no difference between the two. My biggest frustration was, What could I do about it? As I reached out to God, it came to me that what I’ve learned from studying Christian Science has taught me how to think about my fellow man. There was something I could do to improve my own thought about what I was seeing.
I crossed the street, went into a stationery store, and walked over to a quiet corner so that I could have a moment with God. As I listened in prayer, I realized that the identity of God’s sons and daughters, made in His own image, is spiritual, pure, and healthy. God’s children reflect divine Mind, the only intelligence of the universe, which is evident in clear thinking, uprightness, wholeness. God’s offspring reflect the aroma of Spirit, which is full of Love’s expression and includes sweetness, calm, and harmony. Each of us is wholly spiritual. So I pushed aside what I was seeing physically and considered what a spiritual view of man – God’s view – would look like.
Praying in this way took only a few minutes, but it turned my outlook in a completely different direction. In those few moments I recognized that if God created man in His own image, then He made everyone, without exception, in His likeness, spiritual and whole with a mind that reflected divine Mind and all the qualities of goodness that God expresses. Since each of us is the reflection of God, we include all these qualities within us.
Off I went to finish my errands, much refreshed to realize that I didn’t have to see anyone as lacking anything or without purpose. At no time was I trying to change the man. I had to make a choice within my own consciousness as to how I was going to see others as well as myself. And I decided to see only the man and woman of God’s creating. The result, from that moment on, was that I did not see any homeless people in our town. At one point, I wondered what had happened to them. But I continued to stick, week by week, with what I’d learned, and to hold firmly to my new view of my fellow man.
A few months later as I entered my local grocery store, I noticed a long table set up along the wall where books were being sold. And I saw the man whom I had stepped over months before, and now he was standing behind the table – clean, well dressed, sober, shaven – and he was selling those books with a smile on his face. I realized that I was seeing him as already spiritual when I had changed my view that day. Otherwise, I wouldn’t have recognized him.
My heart was rejoicing. While I don’t know what had taken place in this man’s life between the two times that I encountered him, I thanked God for answering my prayer to see His children as they truly are. When our thoughts yield, even just a little, to the wonderful things that God shows us in prayer, it not only helps us individually, but it also benefits everyone in our communities. Mary Baker Eddy, who discovered Christian Science, wrote in her book “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures”: “Being is holiness, harmony, immortality. It is already proved that a knowledge of this, even in small degree, will uplift the physical and moral standard of mortals, will increase longevity, will purify and elevate character. Thus progress will finally destroy all error, and bring immortality to light” (p. 492).