Albert Einstein once said, “The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.” This point about the importance of being alert to evil has great meaning for me, especially in light of “lone wolf” attacks such as the shootings in Tucson, Arizona; Oslo, Norway; and more recently, the Seal Beach shooting in Los Angeles.
Not long after the Oslo attack, I was working with students in New York City. One of them asked: “Why does it seem that one evil act has so big an impact? Why can’t one good act have the same response?”
I’ve thought about her words often. The answer that has come to me is that even though horrendous acts may occur, they are not the norm—that’s why they get so much attention. It’s important to remember that many more people all over the world, at that very moment, are doing good as reflections of God, who is good. We may need to be more alert and watchful to resist evil, but we should never underestimate the power of this spiritual impulsion to do good.
The cries of our times may seem political, social, or economic. But the heart of all issues is spiritual. Jesus lived in tumultuous times, and his words to his followers and to us were, “What I say unto you I say unto all, Watch” (Mark 13:37).
In harmony with this thought, Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “Prayer, watching, and working, combined with self-immolation, are God’s gracious means for accomplishing whatever has been successfully done for the Christianization and health of mankind” (Science and Health, p. 1).
Is it too much to believe that our individual prayers could actually benefit the health and safety of mankind? Not according to the Preacher. Three thousand years ago he wrote, “There was a little city, and few men within it; and there came a great king against it, and besieged it, and built great bulwarks against it: now there was found in it a poor wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city” (Eccl. 9:14, 15).
We aren’t told what wise thing this poor man did. Probably it doesn’t matter. But the question it raises for me is: “What does it mean to be wise, to watch in this way?” And for me the answer is: to be ready to receive and to respond to the inspired spiritual messages that come from God and that save.
We should never underestimate the power of this spiritual impulsion to do good.
To be watchful starts with the daily conviction that God, good, is in complete control, the only power, and nothing is out of God’s reach. If depressing, heavy thoughts try to invade our thinking, we don’t need to yield to them. Rather, we can see them as perhaps a call to deeper prayer for the world and affirm that only actions related to God, good, can prevail. Such prayer has spiritual power to overthrow any evil intentions anywhere.
This became apparent to me on May 21, 1998, when I woke up on what was supposed to be a happy day of celebration for my daughter’s birthday. Yet I felt such deep sorrow that I immediately prayed to know that there was only one God and that each individual was included in God’s love. There were probably many others who were drawn to prayer that same morning.
Meanwhile, in my community, a young man named Kip Kinkel, who had shot his parents the day before, was attacking students at the high school. After being seriously wounded in the chest by a bullet from Kip’s gun, a student named Jacob Ryker and several others tackled Kip when he paused to reload. Two students Kip attacked eventually died, but hundreds were saved.
When the press asked Josh, Jake’s brother and one of the boys who helped disarm Kip, why they decided to try to stop the shooter, Josh responded, “We just did what we were taught to do.”
Every day, each of us can do what we are taught to do as metaphysicians, following Jesus’ wisdom and guidance to keep a prayerful watch over the world.
Shelly Richardson is a Christian Science practitioner in Eugene, Oregon.