In personal comments from the author of A Course in Miracles to Helen and Bill, we learn that a miracle need not be a dramatic act like healing the sick or raising the dead. While these things can happen and they are wonderful when they do, a miracle can also take the form of the smallest act of human kindness. Recently, I read a touching story that in my mind illustrates this point in a powerful way. To me, it shows that miracles are not the exclusive province of the great spiritual masters among us, but instead can be performed by each and every one of us right here and right now.
The story comes from Barbara Becker. One day, Becker and her eight-year-old son, who are Jewish, spotted a Nazi swastika scrawled on a billboard in downtown Manhattan. The son, who saw it first, said, “Isn’t that a swastika?” and his mother confirmed that it was. As they looked upon this symbol of hatred, the boy said something that Becker says broke her heart: “The person who did that hates me, and he doesn’t even know me.”
Becker then tried to explain, as best she could, what the swastika meant. She and her son discussed its origins as a positive sacred symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism, and its twisting by Hitler into a symbol of the Aryan “master race” (a strange concept for her son, who is a blond, blue-eyed child affectionately called “the Jewish Viking” by a friend). Becker told him that she would call a city hotline to report the graffiti, but she felt that more needed to be done to help her son come to terms with what he had seen.
So she said, “What do you want to do about the swastika?” and the two of them discussed options. He suggested that they paint over it with black spray paint, but she pointed out that this would be defacing someone else’s property. So the boy suggested: “We could put something good over it.” With that, on his own initiative, he decided to come up with something that he could tape over the swastika. With paper and a marker, he created a very simple design: a pink heart with the words “Choose peace.”
The next day, Becker and her son returned to the billboard, and he taped his paper heart with the message of peace over the swastika. The heart was small, so you could still see the edges of the swastika jutting out from behind. But the deed was done. He had responded to the person who hated him without knowing him by covering up the hatred with something good.
When I read this story, I was deeply moved by it. It’s such a small gesture, but sometimes small gestures can have a big impact. In this case, what strikes me is that, while seeing the swastika likely brought up fear and anger in both Becker and her son, they didn’t succumb to the temptation to respond angrily. On the contrary, their response was wholly loving. Becker lovingly helped her young son find a way to make something positive out of the situation. She guided him, but also gave him a loving, supportive space to come up with his own response. They were sensitive to everyone’s needs as they searched for a response together — even the needs of the billboard’s owner were honored, as they decided not to damage his or her property further.
Most of all, there was no expression of hatred toward the person who drew the swastika, no “Take this, you terrible Nazi.” Becker and her son didn’t respond to hatred with hatred. Instead, with his mother’s blessing, the son offered an alternative message of love and peace, a message that gently called both whomever drew the swastika and anyone who passed by to make a decision for a better way.
In my mind, this was rendered even more powerful by the fact that you could still see the swastika behind the heart. Both choices could still be seen, but the new choice covered over and cancelled out the old. To me, these small symbols convey a world of meaning. They say, in a compact but powerful way: “Don’t choose hatred. Open your heart. Choose peace.” What more is there to say?
Was this a miracle? At the very least, I’d have to say that it is a miracle for me. And based on those personal comments to Helen and Bill that I mentioned earlier, it certainly seems that it could qualify as a miracle by Jesus’ standards. Robert has written a wonderful article on those comments, entitled A New Vision of the Miracle. In it, he shows that, based on real-life examples described in those comments to Helen and Bill, a miracle needn’t be something spectacular and rare, but can and often is simply a small act of human kindness.
The examples of things Jesus identified as “miracles” bring this point home. Helen rewriting a report for someone who had done it poorly. Helen not blaming Bill for failing to ask Jesus if they should transcribe the notes. A woman named Mrs. Albert stating her Course-like spiritual convictions and gently correcting Helen’s getting her name wrong “without embarrassment and without hostility.” Astrologer Jeane Dixon saying that we should keep our “feet on the ground and fingertips in the Heaven.” Helen visiting her mother-in-law instead of taking personal time for herself.
In all of these cases and others like them, the miracle is, at least on an external level, a very ordinary thing. It is an ordinary act of kindness, sometimes (as in the cases of Mrs. Albert and Jeane Dixon) taking the form of a verbal message that helps to shift another person’s perception. These aren’t on the level of parting the Red Sea, multiplying loaves and fishes, or raising Lazarus from the dead. These are simply cases of people doing good, being kind to others in the course of everyday life.
Interestingly, this emphasis on the importance of small acts of kindness is also present in the accounts of people who have had near-death experiences. In these experiences, the loving being of light that many people encounter often tells the experiencer that above all else, life is about helping other people. And in a number of these accounts, the experiencer is also told that it is the “small” acts of kindness that matter most. For instance, an anonymous near-death experiencer shared the following:
You think, “Oh, I gave six dollars to someone that didn’t have much and that was great of me.” [You think] That didn’t mean a thing. It’s the little things – maybe a hurt child you helped or just to stop and say hello to a shut-in. Those are the things that are most important.
In the case of Becker and her son, this is exactly what you see: a small act of kindness, in this case taking the form of a message that helps to shift other peoples’ perceptions. All the son did was take pen and paper in hand and cover over a message of hate with a message of love. Using the simple symbol of a heart and the words “Choose peace,” he invited whomever sent that message of hate and everyone else who passed that way to consider a new way of seeing things, a better way of living. And with Becker’s article on what he did, that simple act is now touching people like me, thousands of miles away.
Based on all of this, especially those real-life examples from the early Course dictation, I do believe that what Becker and her son did was a miracle. And I find this very encouraging. As I said at the beginning, it shows that we don’t have to wait until we are great spiritual masters to perform miracles. They are something each and every one of us can do today.
So, let us all take this to heart and apply it to our own lives. What small acts of kindness might we perform today? Why not start our days with the prayer Jesus gave Helen and Bill – “Help me to perform whatever miracles you want of me today” – and offer kind words and deeds to others as we are directed? We just might find that even the smallest miracles of love can help the entire world let go of hatred and “Choose peace.”
Source of material reported on: The Swastika in Our Neighborhood
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