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‘To one person, you may be the world’

Today’s column explores the value of selflessness that’s not simply about doing good deeds but about letting God’s love impel our actions.

Over the years, you’ve probably become acquainted with a good number of people – some for only a brief period and others for a much longer span of time. If you take a moment to think back on the specific individuals who have meant the very most to you, would selflessness be a common factor they share? There might have been a person who really believed in you. Someone who taught you something worthwhile. Someone who went out of his or her way to care for you. Someone who has simply always remained your friend.

And on the flip side, you may not have even realized how much your selflessness toward someone has mattered. As the saying goes, to the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.

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In fact, even the briefest encounters with selflessness can leave a lifelong impression. Many years ago, I traveled through the beautiful, history-rich country of Greece. With only a small backpack, I stayed at youth hostels, exploring city after city. One day, a shoulder strap on my backpack broke. I went to the front desk of my hostel and, because I didn’t speak any Greek and the owner didn’t speak any English, pantomimed a question – asked him if there might be a shop nearby where I could have it repaired.

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He was clearly very busy. But he asked someone to watch over the front desk and then motioned for me to follow him. We walked together for a few blocks, arriving at a little shoe repair shop. Within ten minutes, my backpack was repaired, and then the hostel owner insisted on paying for it! I was stunned by this powerful, unexpected demonstration of kindness. More than any other thing, it’s what I recall most often when I think about my trip to Greece.

It could be said, then, that our greatest value lies in our willingness to be loving, rather than in worldly prominence. This certainly includes doing nice things for others, but my study of Christian Science has shown me that this can also mean so much more. “Love one another,” said Christ Jesus (John 13:34). By that he meant to take the same approach to love as he did: a spiritual love inspired by God, divine Love itself. It loved irrespective of rank. It loved without waiting for someone to earn that love. It loved even when hated. Such love actually heals and comforts because it has the power of the presence and pure goodness of God’s love behind it.

The discoverer of Christian Science and founder of The Christian Science Monitor, Mary Baker Eddy, once said, “We should measure our love for God by our love for man,” and she described such love as “fulfilling the law of Love, doing good to all; imparting, so far as we reflect them, Truth, Life, and Love to all within the radius of our atmosphere of thought” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 12).

An active willingness to express qualities such as thoughtfulness, gentleness, forgiveness, and steadfastness helps us recognize our true nature as God’s children, which inevitably translates into helping, and even healing, others, and so showing how much we care.

There is nothing wrong with being famous. But those who make the most difference in the lives of others are not necessarily the ones with the most accolades but the ones who take the time to love. With all of the people we meet, we can strive to follow Jesus’ example and be willing to be open to opportunities to let God’s love and care shine through us, so that we can be the “one person” that means “the world” to someone in need today. Doing so matters more than we could ever imagine. It helps others (and ourselves!) know and feel the tender, comforting presence of the divine Love that heals.