I was walking by Columbus Circle one sunny Friday afternoon (past the statue of Christopher C pictured on the left). Winding my way carefully through a group of teenagers doing a dance routine on roller blades, street vendors hawking their wares, hoards streaming in and out of the subway stop, while catching snippets of conversation in languages too numerous to count, I was stopped in my tracks by a young man standing directly in front of me, holding a blue notebook, and asking me if I could spare a minute to help the world’s children. How could I say no to that?
I was dressed casually, with the essentials tucked away in a fanny pack around my waste, hands free to carry a single item — a nondescript small paperback book with a mostly white cover. I was busy, working, so I did not feel as if I could spare a lot of time. However, I wanted to be open to whatever interactions came my way. As a Christian Science practitioner, my practice includes being accessible to the public and available to share as the need arises. So, I stopped to hear what this man had to say.
He began to describe a program designed to provide food for children living in poverty. He wanted me to sponsor a child of my choosing from one of 11 countries. I was listening — not only to him, but for the “still small voice” inside — to know how to respond. Noting my hesitation, he asked, “What do you know that I don’t know?”
I wasn’t quiet sure where this conversation was going, so I replied that I was thinking about that saying, “Give a man a fish and you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish and you have fed him for a lifetime.” He looked at me quizzically, then opened the notebook and started flipping page after page of heart-wrenching photographs of hungry children. I tried politely to say that I was probably not going to sign up to sponsor a child, so I wanted to move along so that he could spend his time with a more likely prospect. He closed the notebook and asked a second time, “What do you know that I don’t know?”
At that, the still small voice inside said pretty clearly, “OK, Pamela, this is the second time he’s asked. Why don’t you go ahead and tell him?” So I did. I said what I know is that it is possible to go beyond feeding a child today, to address and eliminate completely the problem of poverty. He looked keenly interested and asked, “How?” I held up the book I was carrying, Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, by Mary Baker Eddy, and I said, “Through the system described in this book.” Then I told him a little about Christian Science.
Nodding in agreement with the ideas I was sharing, he described his own commitment to spiritual growth, sharing details of his spiritual path — raised Catholic, studied Buddhism, now practicing yoga (his mother is a certified yoga instructor). I shared in turn a bit of my own journey exploring various spiritual and religious traditions, including both yoga and a brief time of chanting in the tradition of Baba Muktananda, before finding my home in Christian Science.
I don’t recall the specifics of what I told him about Christian Science. I know we spoke of an all-loving God, one who is all good, not good and evil. This idea of a God who is good definitely resonated with him.
I may have referred to the chapter in Science and Health about the book of Genesis, in the Bible, which is the basis for my understanding that we are spiritual beings, because it says right at the outset that God created us, male and female, in His image. And God is Spirit. So to be like Him, we must be spiritual.
I know I told him how to buy or read a copy of Science and Health via spirituality.com, a web site where he could also read articles about the ideas we were discussing.
When we finally did part, he said to me, “I know I met you for a reason. This wasn’t just chance. I won’t be surprised if I see you again.” I walked away, through the throngs at Columbus Circle, with a big smile on my face. He was smiling too.