Me, a Reading Room Librarian? I didn’t think I was the one for the job.
When my local Church of Christ, Scientist, moved our Reading Room downtown, we had a librarian who just loved the Reading Room and often spoke of her conversations with visitors. Among them was a man who came in almost daily to visit, a woman who had attended a Christian Science lecture at a nearby prison, and a devout Catholic woman who would pop in to talk. I enjoyed hearing about the librarian’s experiences, but whenever I had a shift in the Reading Room, it felt as though I was there more out of duty than joy.
Then, a few years ago I became librarian. It was a little daunting. I just didn’t feel that I had the enthusiasm of the previous librarian. I decided, though, that I could start by loving everyone walking by the Reading Room. I’d never met them, but still, I’d try to recognize them as intelligent, complete, loved ideas of God.
In our area, we see a lot of people going through tough times. It can be tempting to think that we have something from God that other people don’t have. While it’s compassionate to want to meet people’s needs, and very appropriate to share Christian Science, I feel it’s important to hold to the fact that God is meeting all His children’s needs with no exceptions. Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy describes man (and that includes everyone), in part, as “the compound idea of God, including all right ideas” (p. 475). So, it’s not me personally trying as hard as I can to figure out how to inform others about this wonderful religion, Christian Science. It’s about recognizing that the Christ speaks to each of us; and it’s about being open to how I can follow God’s guidance as I seek to share the good news.
God has given to each of us the ability to know Him, to feel His presence.
In the Bible we find this reassurance: “This shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them” (Jeremiah 31:33, 34).
To me this means that God has given to each of us the ability to know Him, to feel His presence. This has led me to wonder, “What, then, is the role of someone serving in the Reading Room?” One answer that has come to me is that the Reading Room offers the tangible, practical evidence of spiritual laws to those who, in their struggles, may not know, or have forgotten, God’s love for them. God’s love pervades the atmosphere of the Reading Room, and is expressed in visible form in the lovingly designed displays, and, most importantly, the products that are available for purchase. In a world where people are often told that material solutions are the only answer to their problems, those serving in the Reading Room have the privilege of removing this imposition by helping to awaken people to their spiritual nature.
As I pray and work to cherish the members of our community as loved ideas of God, and let myself be a transparency for divine Love, I’m finding more evidence of the community appreciating us, too.
A few weeks ago, as we were closing, a passerby asked someone if the nearby farmer’s market was still open. I went out to tell her it had closed. We ended up having a delightful conversation. She said she enjoys hearing about other religions, so we discussed Christian Science there on the sidewalk, and I ended up giving her one of our business cards. I told her how grateful I was to have met her and had to chuckle when she suggested our interaction had been her dose of “Jesus for the day.”
I can resist any impositions that come to me to judge who may or may not be receptive to Christian Science or who can or cannot afford to buy Science and Health.
Recently, we’ve had other visitors specifically say they’re grateful that we’re there, including a woman who had heard that Christian Science isn’t Christian. After our conversation, she ended up leaving a donation and acknowledging that we really are Christian. I’ve also seen an increase in other Christians coming in, and we’re having meaningful discussions, each appreciating what the other has to offer. To me, this has come about as a natural reflection of my efforts to love my community more.
And for me, loving my community also means resisting any impositions that come to me to judge who may or may not be receptive to Christian Science or who can or cannot afford to buy Science and Health. There is something in the book that will speak directly to the heart of each person, regardless of their religion, education, or socioeconomic status.
Mrs. Eddy writes: “Metaphysical healing, or Christian Science, is a demand of the times. Every man and every woman would desire and demand it, if he and she knew its infinite value and firm basis” (Miscellaneous Writings 1883–1896, p. 232). Whereas at one point, I was quick to gift a used copy of Science and Health to visitors who looked needy, I’m now offering everyone the opportunity to look it over, ask about it, value it, purchase it, or make a donation for a used one.
Another of our efforts to actively love our community has been to write messages such as, “You are loved,” in chalk on the sidewalk. At times this has been a catalyst for a conversation about what we have to offer inside. Other times I hear people read the message and say “Amen” and continue on, and I just trust that the Christ is speaking to them, just as it’s speaking to me.
Some days are quieter than others, but I’m going in with a greater expectancy of good, and the community is responding. For example, there’s a repeat visitor who purchases copies of Science and Health to give away and discusses Christian Science with others, a man who pops in on his way to the farmer’s market to talk about angels and Einstein, and a woman who comes in for a hug and to update us on her progress.
The opportunity to see God’s love for each person I encounter makes serving in the Reading Room so much more than a duty … it’s now a joy!
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