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Noisy neighbors? There's a lesson in this!

From the January 30, 2012 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

I woke up exhausted and not a little cranky. My family and I were living in a high-rise condominium building (for the first time in many years), and noise coming from our upstairs neighbors’ banging shades had kept me awake for quite a while in the wee hours of the morning. Living overseas for the first time ever—with building construction noise across the street 24 hours a day and traffic that at times looked more like a rugby scrum than an orderly procession—I had been praying daily to grow into the truth that I could have peace and order in the midst of what seemed to be chaos. But on that morning I was in no mood to face the day.

However, I turned as always to my loving Father-Mother God, who I knew would set my thinking and actions on a more productive path. “Warming up” by reading some articles and healings in a recent Sentinel, I could already feel my heart being lifted. A hymn, a Bible verse, a tenet of Christian Science, and finally a Tom and Jerry cartoon . . . and then peace restored. This is the story of a day of healing and inspiration.

Preparing breakfast, I found myself singing a line from the Christian Science Hymnal: “Love now is dawning over every nation.” I liked that! I thought, “No matter where in the world I am, Love is dawning right this moment, right here, right now.” I continued singing, 

Showing true brotherhood, publishing salvation,
Love bids all discord cease.
Conquering hate, enthroning peace,
Love, Love alone is power.
(Margaret Morrison, No. 179)

I felt a mental sigh of relief and gratitude in the acknowledgment that Love’s transforming power was at hand and active in my present experience, establishing the bonds of “true brotherhood” and peace, wiping out frustration and anger.

I had only just begun to study that week’s Christian Science Bible Lesson on “Everlasting Punishment” when I read this line: “Neither shalt thou bear false witness against thy neighbour” (Deuteronomy 5:20). A wake-up call! How could I label my neighbors, a family of God’s children, as inconsiderate or unkind? In my work as a Christian Science practitioner, consecrated, daily prayer lifts my thought to bear witness to the truth of God’s creation made in His image and likeness. The upstairs neighbors were certainly members of my family, because we were all the children of our heavenly Father, and the requirement was to identify them with their source. Obediently, I released my feelings of resentment and annoyance, and prayed to recognize them as beloved and considerate—obedient to the Golden Rule. I knew that every member of God’s family, the Father of which is universal Love, is wholly filled with compassionate affection for his brothers and sisters, and that was all I could experience.

No matter where in the world I am, Love is dawning right this moment. 

A few moments later, I read the third tenet of Christian Science from Science and Health by Mary Baker Eddy: “We acknowledge God’s forgiveness of sin in the destruction of sin and the spiritual understanding that casts out evil as unreal. But the belief in sin is punished so long as the belief lasts” (p. 497). I’ve read that tenet many times over the years, but this time it felt brand new. It was startlingly clear to me that it was my “belief in sin”—the belief I was holding in my thought of noisy, selfish neighbors—that appeared to be suffering, and that was what needed to be healed, not the family upstairs or the construction company across the street.

If I was willing, even for a moment, to acknowledge or bear witness to a situation or an individual as inconsiderate, self-centered, or even out of control, this was “missing the mark” or sinning. God’s family members do not include one element of thoughtlessness. I knew I could change my perception to reject this lie about God’s family, and I did so every time they came to thought throughout the day, identifying them instead in the character and selfless love of their Maker.

Later that afternoon, I noticed the Tom and Jerry cartoon our son was watching, titled “That’s My Mommy!” In this short tale, a duck’s egg rolls out of the nest and under Tom the cat. Of course, as baby ducklings are wont to do, this little one immediately identifies Tom as its mommy. “Mommy!” he cries, snuggling up to Tom . . . but Tom, who is a cat after all, has other ideas for this juicy little darling. After the little duckling is rescued from the stove and oven multiple times by his guardian angel Jerry (the mouse), he continues to run back to Tom with open arms, crying, “Mommy! Mommy! I love my Mommy!”

The culminating scene begins with Tom’s recipe for stewed duck. The young one tells Tom that he would like to cook for him . . . but when he sees the first ingredient is a young duckling, he suddenly realizes that he is the main course. Rather than running away, he looks at Tom and says, “Now I get it.” He marches bravely up the cooking spoon to jump into the boiling stew, saying at the last, “But I still love you, Mommy!” Tom, his heart finally melted by all that love, snatches the falling duckling out of the air and holds him to his chest with tears pouring out of his eyes. The last scene is of Tom “quacking” along in a pond with the little one in tow.

I looked at my son and said, “That little duck is giving Tom a Christian Science treatment!” This attitude truly is the “. . . love meeting no response, but still remaining love” (Science and Health, p. 586) that Mrs. Eddy wrote about, and it is this love that melts all hatred, anger, selfishness, and fear. And so, in a way, Tom and Jerry provided the last ingredient to complete my healing day by pointing me toward the power of selfless, importunate, all-transforming love, which is the love of God.

While rejoicing in the sweet, quiet night of rest that followed, I thanked God even more for the lessons learned from a hymn, a Bible verse, a tenet, and a cartoon. “The test of all prayer lies in the answer to these questions,” Mary Baker Eddy wrote. “Do we love our neighbor better because of this asking? Do we pursue the old selfishness, satisfied with having prayed for something better, though we give no evidence of the sincerity of our requests by living consistently with our prayer?” (Science and Health, p. 9). Through this ongoing experience and many others, I am learning to “love my neighbor better because of this asking,” and this love is enthroning peace in my heart, and ultimately in my home.

My daily prayer is to express more of the kingdom of heaven in my own heart and behavior, thereby establishing the sanctuary of my home in this kingdom. . . no matter where I am.

Melanie Ball is a Christian Science practitioner. She recently moved overseas from her home in Thousand Oaks, California.

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