Sunday, October 14, 2012

Another Brick in the Wall

"The Baha'i Faith", I told the kids, "is like a wall. Each and every brick is a village, or a town, or a city, or an Assembly. It takes lots and lots of bricks to make a big, strong wall. But what else does it take?"

The children all looked at me, wondering what I was asking about. We looked at the wall near us, and then one of them spotted it. "Glue", she shouted.

"Yes, that's right," I said, "glue. And did you know that they use a very special glue to hold brick walls together? This gray, rocky glue is called mortar. Can you say that?" They were mostly fairly young, and a Mr Rogers approach seemed about right. "Do you know what the mortar is that holds all the Baha'i communities together?"

"Love." "God." "Respect." "Truthfulness." "Generosity." They all began shouting out virtues and all sorts of other nice things, and all I could do was sit there and smile.

"Yes, yes", I laughed, "those are all wonderful types of glue to hold things together. But there is a very special glue, one that is so special it is as different from those as regular glue is from mortar. It is called the Covenant."

They had all heard this word many times, but it really seemed as if none of them knew what it was. I had the same problem when I first became a Baha'i. Everyone said that I had to be firm in the Covenant, but nobody told me what that meant. Oh, they said wonderful things like, "'Abdu'l-Baha is the centre of the Covenant", and "The Covenant is the pivot of the Baha'i community", but they never actually told me what it was. I couldn't do that to these children.

"The Covenant is a promise. It's like a pinkie promise, but even more. Baha'u'llah promised us that God would guide us if we trust Him and were obedient to His teachings. He promised us that 'Abdu'l-Baha would guide us if we followed Him. And that Covenant went on to Shoghi Effendi and the Universal House of Justice. By listening to the Universal House of Justice, all the different communities of the world are held together in one strong wall."

They seemed to get that analogy, and they liked it, too. I went on with it a little longer, but I won't bore you with it here, dear Reader, because I then went somewhere else with it.

"And did you know that a family is like a wall, too?"

I just love those quizzical looks.

"The mother, the father, the sisters and brothers, the aunts and uncles and cousins, and even the third cousins twice removed! They are all the individual bricks in the wall of the family." I didn't say that some are thicker than others. Nope. Not me. I didn't even think it. (Well, maybe a little.) "Now, do you know what the mortar is in the wall of the family?"

There was a nice quiet pause before one little girl said, "Love."

"That's right. Love is the glue that holds a family together. And if one of the bricks doesn't feel that love, what happens?"

"It falls out," said the little boy, with a bit of sadness.

"That's right. That's why it is so important to love each and every member of your family. Remember, you get to choose your friends, but God gave you your family to love, so that's a very important job."

And there was still one more thing I wanted to say. It was the reason that I was there. It was why I was talking to the children. I wanted to say something to their parents, but didn't know how.

"And did you know that your own community is like a wall, too? Every brick in your community is a whole family, all working together to be as strong as possible. What do you think the mortar is there?"

The silence lasted longer, and then a few tentative voices piped up. "Love?" "The Covenant?" Nobody felt that either of these were exactly right.

"You're very close," I said. "It's the Feast. It is the celebration of the Feast that brings the entire community together and helps bind it together, through the Covenant, with the bonds of love. By praying together, your hearts become closer. By consulting together, you work more closely, hand to hand. And by eating together, you become better friends. The Feast is that great glue, the mortar that makes each individual brick become part of that mighty wall."

That was long ago. And given some of those recent phone calls, and comments from friends, it seems timely to share it again.

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