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A healing link between two brothers

From the September 22, 2003 issue of the Christian Science Sentinel

In the summer of 1995 I had just graduated from high school and moved to Boston to be an au pair for a year. I had been accepted at an art school, but I decided to defer my enrollment and start preparing financially for the costs that would be awaiting me as soon as school started.

In early June I flew out from Missouri for a preliminary meeting with the family I would be working for. I wanted to see exactly what I would be doing, what the two boys were like, and how comfortable I would feel doing this line of work. This would be my first job as a full-time au pair, and my first visit to the East Coast.

The two boys were great and seemed well mannered. I had a good feeling about the situation, and because the boys were 8 and 12, I felt I would be more like an older brother than a parent. The au pair I was replacing, Bjorn, told me that I could expect a pretty good situation.

Bjorn and the mom, however, warned me that Josie, the younger, had problems with anger and occasional temper-tantrums. I was warned that his temper would sometimes provoke minor brawls with his older brother, Jake. But because they told me it was only a once-in-a-while thing, I felt there wasn't too much to worry about. So, a month later, I flew back east, and I started my job in early July.

I was very excited. I felt this was an awesome opportunity really to use all that Christian Science had taught me. I thought that because I was taking care of children, the best thing I could do was to be mentally prepared every day. To do this, I made sure to get up early and read at least three sections of the Christian Science Bible Lesson. Before this, I had never felt this dedicated, but I knew this study of the Bible and Science and Health could only help.

Because of my daily mental preparation, I really felt on top of things—that God was there. With all my tasks, such as shopping, I learned to do things efficiently and quickly. Despite the lack of a grid system in the Boston roadways, I soon found I had the ability to remember new routes after driving them only once. I realized that I was capable of doing this because I was reflecting the all-knowing, universal Mind, or God. It was extremely exciting to realize this fact.

Most importantly, I found that I was learning to relate to the kids easily and very peacefully. Within a few weeks, these children told me they felt as if they were my younger brothers, which was special to me because I had never had younger brothers—I was the youngest of my siblings.

I noticed that because of my daily study of the Bible and Science and Health, I was learning to love, and to feel love, more than I ever had before. And because of this, I felt the kids were very obedient and responsive to almost everything I asked. I could tell they respected me and trusted me. It was such a great feeling to have and to learn from.

Then after being there about a month, I experienced my first of Josie's temper-tantrums. And his whining at the time quickly provoked Jake, his older brother. When this happened, I was driving them through an incredibly busy traffic area with many pedestrians and drivers. But I had an immediate opportunity to pull over quickly and quell the fight that was escalating in the back seat. When I stopped, I told the kids that their only option was to stop fighting, or they would not get the pizza or the video games they were awaiting.

But I also told them that fighting and whining were distracting and that to gain my attention, they had to be patient and respectful of me because I was driving. I also reminded them that I was taking them to a place that was a special treat for them—not for me—so for me to turn the car around would be rather easy. They quickly got the point, and started acting maturely again.

That was the last upset for almost two months. After that incident, the mother told me she had never seen her children so well behaved and well mannered. "Whatever you're doing, keep it up—and you have my support!" she said. So I knew I was doing something right. But I also knew that God, the Father-Mother who is Love, was really guiding the situation—both for me as a caretaker and for these two precious children who in the past had apparently had many difficulties getting along.

But two months later, something went terribly wrong. I had taken the boys to Springfield in central Massachusetts, where their aunt and uncle lived. The boys' mother was traveling to Europe for a week. The second day there, the aunt and uncle also went on a little trip and let me have complete reign of the house and children. This was a unique situation, because I had no adults nearby, and it was the first time that I had no way to immediately contact someone in authority. Now I really had to trust God and my own abilities as parent-figure.

Without my even so much as raising an eyebrow or speaking. Jake reached out to Josie, gave him a hug, and told him he loved him.

That morning I was out of the room where Jake and Josie were sleeping when I suddenly heard yelling, then crying, then the loud and awful sound of a slap. I was scared, but ran quickly to the boys and pulled them apart. Jake had obviously hit Josie several times. Luckily, the blows were not to his face or head, nor did there appear to be any bruising. Still, I was very concerned. This was not a minor skirmish. It was scary, and I knew I was the one responsible for the care of these boys.

I really had to pray hard and fast—so I could gain God's view of the situation. In my prayer I also tried to remember immediately that because these kids were God's spiritual ideas, there could be no hurt or bruising to them. I instantly started praying to remind myself of something my study of the Bible and Science and Health had taught me, that there could never be a space in time or in the human mind that was not touched or filled by the love of God—all-powerful, all-knowing divine Love. I also prayed to know that Love alone would heal this sibling hatred, hurt, and fear.

Almost immediately—and I believe as a direct result of the prayer—I discerned that the reason for the fight was that Josie had provoked his older brother in an effort just to get attention. I had seen this happen before when Jake would ignore Josie because he knew it made his brother angry. The feeling of power over Josie impressed him. But Josie would continue to try for any kind of attention because he really looked up to his brother. It came to me that Josie's actions had provoked the fight because, to him, even getting negative attention was good because it was, at least, attention that was coming from his older brother, whom he adored.

So I sat Jake down and explained that Josie was confused and thought negative attention was good. As I did this, I prayed for divine Mind to guide my thoughts and voice. I had never had to deal with such an intense and difficult situation before. I patiently explained to Jake, as well as clarified to myself, that his future reactions toward Josie had to be kind, so that Josie would know that he was loved. I told Jake that the more he responded with kindness toward Josie, the more Josie would learn how good positive attention felt. The natural result would be Josie's desire to receive and give only positive feelings and actions.

In this situation I had to be careful to listen to God so I could say things exactly the way Jake would understand. This wasn't just because he was 12 years old, but also, since I was Christian and the family was Jewish, I wanted to be sensitive to any possible religious differences.

For over two hours, we worked through some confusion at first, and then on to tears of joy. Jake finally understood what I meant about loving Josie despite his actions (the Golden Rule). I could tell that Jake understood that his brother wanted this attention from him because he loved him so much. Jake also admitted that he loved Josie very much and did not want to hurt him or cause him pain.

Then I spoke to Josie briefly and told him he was never to provoke his brother again, or we would have to have a serious talk with his mom. Again, another message, or thought, from God came to me not to place blame on Josie, because he was acting out of ignorance. I realized that Josie might not have been at a point where he really knew the difference between good and bad attention. He just wanted to feel loved.

I prayed for divine Mind to guide me. I had never had to deal with such a difficult situation before.

After our talk, Jake apologized to Josie for hitting him. But then, even after Jake apologized, Josie actually tried to provoke his brother one more time. And you know how Jake responded? He had that look that said, "You little rat!" but I patiently watched him, and he looked at me that very moment. Without my even so much as raising an eyebrow or speaking, Jake reached out to Josie, gave him a hug, and told him he loved him.

Josie was astonished. He was probably expecting the opposite reaction. I knew then that Jake's simple action changed everything, and the fog of misunderstanding that seemed to have such a foothold over those two brothers simply dissolved—completely—into the air.

When we left Springfield about a week later; the aunt and uncle commented that they had never seen the boys so close and so loving toward each other—ever. They also thanked me, and again I was told to "keep up whatever it is you're doing!" When the mom later returned from Europe, she, too, remarked on the boys' improved friendship. As much as I would have liked to take the credit for how things worked out, I knew that it was God, divine Love, who was solely responsible for all the healing that took place between two brothers that wonderful summer.

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