Author: Editors, READER’S DIGEST/Illustration Exchange Printer Friendly
Scripture: James 2:8; 1 John 4:12; 1 Thessalonians 3:12
Source: “Vicks Vaporub Cubs” in READER’S DIGEST, News from the World of Science, p. 146, circa 1985 (exact year/month of publication unknown), see additional source link below
Contributor: Illustration Exchange

“Gary Alt [one of the nation’s most respected wildlife experts] had a problem. The biologist with the Pennsylvania Game Commission often found lost or orphaned bear cubs, but he couldn’t persuade wild female bears to adopt the foundlings.

“A mother bear labels cubs as her own by licking them, and she uses the smell of her saliva to identify them later. If a female smells a cub that isn’t hers, she may kill it. Alt got around this with the help of Vicks VaopRub.

“He sedated a mother bear, smeared the decongestant ointment on her nose and then left an orphaned cub with her in her den. When the bear woke up, she couldn’t smell any difference between her own cubs and the stranger. By the time the Vicks wore off, she had already licked the new cub and so treated the orphan as one of her own.”


Appealing to a momma bear’s sense of compassion is fruitless. You can plead with a momma bear all you want, you can tell her, “Hey, momma bear, we’ve got special circumstance here,” but it will do little good. The momma bear needs a little help if she is going to respond properly to the needs of someone else’s cub. She needs some Vicks VapoRub smeared on her nose to help her overcome her prejudices, her biases, her lack of unconditional love.

How do we overcome our prejudices, our biases, our lack of unconditional love? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could smear a little Vicks on our faces and suddenly begin treating others the way we’d like to be treated? The truth is, we need more help than the momma bear if we are to love our neighbor as ourselves. Our need goes much deeper. We need a new heart. We need the very heart of God.

“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing right” (James 2:8). “No one has ever seen God; but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us” (1 John 4:12). “And may the Lord make your love for one another and for all people grow and overflow, just as our love for you overflows” (1 Thessalonians 3:12).

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