Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Second Baha'i World Congress

As I was walking around the neighbourhood this morning, I got to thinking. This is not unusual for me, as you can imagine, but this time my thoughts went in an odd direction: the past. Ok. That's not all that odd for me either, but it seemed odd at the moment.

You see, dear Reader, what triggered it was my train of thought from yesterday, when this observation about coffee shops changing made me think about the Dawn-Breakers, for that was where I was going when I thought about the Shah.

So there I was, walking back from my son's school bus, and I was thinking about my love for the Dawn-Breakers, that marvelous history captured so beautifully by Nabil. And I got to thinking about how often I am reminded of those stories from there. And that led me to thinking about the Second Baha'i World Congress that occurred in New York City way back in 1992.

You see, I had the incredible bounty of working for the World Congress and helping with the registration. It was truly a life-changing experience for me.

But I never would have suspected that on the first day.

On that day all we did was stuff envelopes.

Well, that doesn't quite describe it. It doesn't really convey the magnitude of it. The National Spiritual Assembly basically closed part of the National Centre and we all proceeded to work in a conveyor-like fashion, assembling the registration forms, stuffing the 60,000 or more folders, and putting them all in large envelopes to be sent as bundles out to the myriad communities throughout the globe. It was quite the major undertaking, and I seem to remember it taking dozens of us a few days to finish it.

It was truly a joyous work, and there was much laughter and sharing of stories.

In fact, now, years later, it is the closest that I can come to understanding what the early pilgrims must have experienced when they helped clean and sort the grain in the Holy Household.

There is one moment, out of all the moments of that time, that really stands out in my own memory. I had only been a Baha'i for a short time when I had the incredible joy of working next to Robert Henderson for one of the shifts, and just stood silently as he shared story after story. Robert, in case you do not know, was the Secretary of the US NSA at that time, as he had been for many years.

We were collating papers and passing them on to the next group in line, when all of a sudden someone cried out in pain. Everyone in the room stopped, and this guy was standing there holding his hand. He had just gotten a really nasty paper cut. Before we could all get back to our little tasks, he held his finger up in the air, looking at the ceiling, and said, "Every drop of blood, Baha'u'llah. Every drop of blood."

That kept us all in giggles for quite some time.

A few hours later, after many more stories had been shared, Robert turned to me and asked, "What are you thinking about?" I guess I had an interesting expression on my face, or something.

"Well," I replied, as honestly as I could, "I'm just thinking about how these are going to be sent all around the world. To every country. And how thousands of people from every continent, nation and tribe are going to gather together in celebration. Isn't this what the Dawn-Breakers gave their lives for?"

Robert was silent for a minute as he processed that, and then gave me some wonderful encouragement to keep thinking along those lines. It is so important to remember the sacrifices that were made, and are still being made, to help us get to where we are today.

I was hoping to insert a video clip from the World Congress where they had the "procession of nations", but I couldn't find it. Instead, this video seems the most appropriate.

And, just in case I never said it, thanks, Robert, for your encouragement.

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