BAHA'I COMMENT

My personal views on topics of interest to the world. Please feel free to copy and share.    ...by Patricia Wilcox


91. The Intriguing World of Inspiration and Intuition.

 It was a simply perfect summer evening. Whilst my husband and son were happily playing cricket out on the front lawn I seized the moment to grab a recently written letter and jump into the car, heading town-wards to the nearest post office.

A few people were dotted at various points along the high-level bridge that led into town. Carefully I entered onto its high narrow roadway, concentrating in case another car should begin to make the opposite journey towards me.

As I drove past these people, an idea - a thought - came to me. The thought simply said "One of these people is planning to jump off the bridge".

It was as if someone had said that. I didn't hear a 'voice'; just the 'thought'. And yet I heard it as clearly as if it had been spoken right next to me.

I felt torn. My first response was that this was a pretty strange - not to say irrational - thing to be considering, apparently to myself. I was most strongly inclined to dismiss it. But then I thought "if it is true, then that is of real concern and something should be done about it". Surely it was better to be safe than sorry? But do what...?

I began to drive really slowly as the end of the bridge drew closer, whilst a barrage of sceptical questions raced through my head. I was thinking how unreal this was. Who gets thoughts like this randomly entering their heads, when they're merely driving on a beautiful evening, without a care in the world?

By this time I was driving extremely slowly. Just where the bridge ended, I pulled over to the side of the road for a few moments to frantically seek some guidance. As all this played out in a kind of slow motion, I kept silently repeating the Greatest Name prayer in my head.

My next thought was that if it was all imaginary (as I naturally assumed it must be) then there would be no harm done if I quickly reversed and drove back past the group, watching closely for any sign at all that this could possibly be real.

All the while I was really thinking to myself how unlikely the whole scenario was. To be frank, I was feeling a bit ridiculous and embarrassed inside my own self as I drove toward the group again.

What crazy thing was I doing? What on earth did I expect to happen? And how would I even recognise if such a troubled person did exist? By now I had slowed so much that the engine was barely running.

At this very point I noted that a young man had stepped out of his flip-flops to stand barefoot against the bridge railing for no apparent purpose at all. Acting on sheer impulse, I slowly drew up alongside him and leaned across to open the passenger door, calling out to ask if he was ok. 

To my HUGE surprise, at that moment he swung around, saw me and just jumped straight into the car!!!

Frozen, I quickly decided to act as if this happened every day. But inwardly my mind was racing. What was I to do with this strange man - well, now I could see he was a youth really - in this bizarre situation?

For lack of any better idea, I began driving back towards my home. On arrival he meekly followed me inside. As I offered him coffee, we exchanged names. I'm going to call him Dennis which is not his real name. 

By now I had time to observe him more closely. I noted that he was Maori and covered in poorly executed tattoos on every visible part of his body.

Encouraged by my listening ear, he began to explain that he had definitely intended to jump off the bridge, being well aware that below was a very deep and fast-moving river which would have spelt his certain death.

Dennis explained that the first time he had spoken to another - his brother-in-law - of a desire to take his own life, he'd been taunted that he was really too afraid to actually do so. So today's action was both to end his life and, at the same time, prove to the brother-in-law his true courage. (Despite this bravado, I was aware that he had seemed only too keen to seize the slight opportunity to escape offered by my open car door.)

As he talked about having very recently left prison, I tried to move the conversation around to more spiritual matters. However, I could see that he was under the influence of a different type of spirit (!) and lacked any capacity for such conversation.

Instead, I listened as he rambled, often incoherently, but I managed to establish that his large Maori family was from an area where I had recently lived.

Now I was beginning to imagine the growing consternation of my own family still out at the 'cricket pitch' who were occasionally popping a head around the door to ensure all was well with this stranger now monopolising my attention.

Eventually, realising that very little was being achieved in Dennis's confused state, I told him I would deliver him to where ever he was staying. Imagine my surprise when he directed my car to the very house where I had delivered a new friend only a day or so earlier!

To give some context; as a member of the local Baha'i community, I had given a lift home from a meeting to a recently-arrived Baha'i from another area. The house that I delivered him to was this same one! The person I had delivered that night was the supposedly 'taunting' brother-in-law Harry (again, not his real name).

Harry turned up again on the following week, to bring his energetic brood of children to one of the 3 mid-week Baha'i children's classes which I regularly held in my home.

I never saw nor heard of Dennis again, but over the years Harry and I worked together frequently on different projects. Shortly I had the pleasure of meeting his wife - the sister of Dennis. In fact she joined the Bahai community not long after, as did her sister, and we were together often through several years to come.

My last contact with Harry was when we online-chatted last year. Meantime, l sometimes wondered what happened to Dennis, and to the children I had enjoyed teaching and singing with so much. I feel sure we will all be together again one day.

Obviously this is just the account of one person's experience. However, it had a powerful effect on me. Much reflection and meditation followed, as I sought over time for some understanding of these events which I simply could not deny. The Bahai Writings contain many references to the reality of dreams, coincidences, and other experiences which are very real to the recipient whilst having limited value to others. Abdu'l-Baha offers this helpful guidance;

"Every subject presented to a thoughtful audience must be supported by rational proofs and logical arguments. Proofs are of four kinds: first, through sense perception; second, through the reasoning faculty; third, from traditional or scriptural authority; fourth, through the medium of inspiration. That is to say, there are four criteria or standards of judgment by which the human mind reaches its conclusions". --- 89 – 16 Notes by Edna McKinney of a talk by Abdu'l-Baha, August 1912, at Green Acre, Eliot, Maine.

The Holy Books of all religions contain accounts of dreams and inspirations which are considered  to carry traditional or scriptural authority. When making our own determination we need to apply sense perception, reasoning, the guidance of authoritative texts and our inner sense of inspiration.

Ultimately it is the individual who must decide what, if any, value their own experiences may hold. The 'life' you save may be your own!

One possible reason for the voice I heard: "But the good souls are given eternal life and sometimes God permits their thoughts to reach the earth to help the people." ---Abdu’l-Bahá, Daily Lessons, Received at ‘Akká, 1979 ed., pp. 35-36

A scientific exploration of this tyoe of intuition;  https://www.pmi.org/learning/library/sixth-sense-intuition-project-management-6601

This has been described as "Spontaneous Intuition A second type of intuition, beyond the scope of this paper, is spontaneous intuition. Spontaneous intuition occurs when people receive a vision, a message, or a feeling from undetermined sources. People might ask themselves, Where did that come from? Unlike experienced intuition, in spontaneous intuition it is not possible to trace the intuitive moment to formal education or one's professional experiences. For example, a person has a bad feeling about walking into the grocery store. He or she acts on this feeling and turns around before walking in the front door. Moments later there is a thunderous roar as a piece of equipment just inside the door comes crashing down. If this person would have entered the door, then he or she surely would have been hit. This intuitive moment can't be traced to formal education or work-related experience. Something else is going on and that's a marker of spontaneous intuition. More research is needed to understand spontaneous intuition.


92. My 'Most Inspiring' Person.

Edith exuberantly sliding down a hillside on old sheets of cardboard, eyes sparkling with joy in her ‘best’ clothes, wispy white hair flying, and shrieking with the sheer delight and happiness of it all.

 If I asked you to tell me about one person in your life whom you deeply admire, does someone come readily to mind? Would that person be a famous figure, a special teacher, or even a parent?

 If I had to choose the one person who has inspired me most throughout the years, I would name a humble little old lady I met several decades ago, who was defiled, swindled, poisoned and narrowly escaped death yet remained eternally cheerful and sweet-natured throughout.  

 I had just moved to a small town on the understanding that we were the first Baha’i’s to live there, and this was a real privilege back in those days when our membership was small. So it was with some surprise that I indirectly learned about an elderly Baha’i woman who had been there for some time, whom I will call 'Edith' for the sake of her privacy; such a forgettable woman to outward seeming that her presence there was not even recorded.

 I don’t recall the details of that first meeting because on first appearance she seemed to be everyone's idea of a ‘little old lady’. Circumstances would shortly prove her to be anything but such a forgettable figure.

 And it also became apparent that she wasn’t a difficult person to get to know at all; in fact I had the clear impression that she was unused to anyone taking as much interest in her life as I did. Her enthusiasm to share became more understandable when I learned about the isolation of being a farmer’s wife with little access to transport or off-farm social life at that time.  

 Edith told me that she and her husband had raised their children on a prosperous farm. It was on a dusty back road which, in the 70’s, received its fair share of hippies, hitch hikers and backpackers, as was quite common at that time. So it was that she and her husband offered bed and board to a youngish man with the hospitality that was typical of our farming communities, on the understanding that he would help with various chores around the property. And it was in this way that Edith met her first Baha’i.  

 Both Edith and her husband came from quite committed, reserved and fundamentalist Christian families, and so perhaps it was due to the loneliness and isolation of a farmer’s wife and her spirit of natural friendliness and curiosity that she took a liking to this new man. They began to spend more time together as - in response to her endless curiosity - he shared the fundamentals of this new religion, one that seemed to satisfy so many of the aspects of Christ’s return that Edith’s early religious training had given her.  

 How is it possible, I would later ask myself, for a ‘nice’ lady, raised in a staunchly fundamentalist family, to recognise the still relatively unknown personage of Baha’u’llah on the mere say-so of some unknown itinerant? I didn’t retain his name, although I’d love to meet him today. I suppose he may have shared a few pamphlets with her (unlikely that an itinerant would carry many books), but whatever the exact circumstances, Edith quickly came to recognise in this new Teaching the very one she had been waiting for.

  Unfortunately the pronouncement of a new religion did not sit at all well with some members of her Christian family, who proceeded to find various ways of making her life extremely difficult; gradually a real sense of religiously-inspired antagonism developed on the part of some.

 Time passed and her husband aged, so he sold the farm and the couple moved to a lovely home in the centre of town with tennis court, large gardens and out-buildings. It was when he died that her problems began to worsen.

 It appeared that the daughter, who strongly opposed her mother’s new supposedly ‘satanic’ beliefs, now resented that the wealth from the farm did not come her own way. It was at this point that Edith began to grow increasingly ill with symptoms that, as she later researched, could only be attributed to tutu poisoning derived from toxic honey, a well-known danger in the area and produced as a result of bees feeding on honeydew containing poison from native tutu bushes. This, she sadly confided to me, was a ‘treat’ her daughter had been regularly feeding her.

  The poisoning didn’t succeed in killing her, but there followed a long slow recovery after which her speech remained slightly slurred and her once very bright and enquiring mind could become noticeably fuzzy at times. Other symptoms remained with her for life.

It was here that I would visit her and be appalled by streams of condensation, caused by an un-flued gas heater, which ran down the walls and into her moulding bedding. I was also concerned by her dependence on preparing whatever sparse meals she consumed by means of a small and ineffective gas cooker, which further contributed to the condensation problems, whilst the daughter supplied her own family from the large kitchen that once was Edith’s.

  Such was her faith in God and her trust that prayer was guiding her actions that, despite enduring the rejection of the daughter she had lovingly raised, and the cruel deception, theft, betrayal, and eventual loss of her physical health, Edith remained ever cheerful and optimistic.

 She would attend our small Bahai gatherings with great enthusiasm but little knowledge of any protocol (which is minimal anyway). Sometimes she would be so carried away with the sheer happiness of our company that, in the middle of some deeply-felt prayer or reading, she would feel moved to spontaneously break in with a happy little story of her life, or some other sudden inspiration.  

 At this unexpected point Edith’s son - totally absent until now - suddenly appeared on the scene, to take over her tragic circumstances with actual plans from which he proceeded to build a beautiful large strikingly modern home on a hill overlooking the township.

 This held a certain irony for me because, once it was completed, Edith was able - like the Queen she was in my eyes - to gaze out from her garden and survey the world beyond, down across the valley below to where her lost home remained, with a sense of real satisfaction that she was now being cared for just as her Christian husband would have wished.  

 I can tell you all this only because Edith trusted me enough to confide a situation that was heartbreaking for her to acknowledge, since she never spoke of her family members with anything other than warm and genuine love.  

 It was at that point that I was obliged to move to a new town where I developed a long and painful illness myself, during which there were many occasions when I had reason to remember Edith, her quiet long-suffering and courage under duress, and her unwavering devotion to what others considered an obscure new religion, one vehemently opposed by her family and about which she had only second-hand stories. Throughout all these adversities she retained a spirit of radiant acquiescence to the will of God.  

 My last hours with Edith were on a Baha’i Holy Day that she had offered to host in her beautiful new home. When the time came that all the friends had arrived and were seated, there was no sign of our hostess. On further investigation we eventually came upon her in the excited company of the small neighbouring children whom she clearly adored; together they were exuberantly sliding down a nearby hillside on old sheets of cardboard, Edith's eyes sparkling with joy in her ‘best’ clothes, wispy white hair flying, and shrieking with the sheer delight and happiness of it all.

So that’s my story of the most inspirational person I ever met, and since I was not well enough to attend her funeral, I am grateful for the opportunity to offer this, my personal tribute to her, and to all those humble and faceless Baha’i’s who, over the years, have lived lives of quiet dedication to Baha’u’llah in the face of hidden hardship.  

  Be thou not unhappy; the tempest of sorrow shall pass; regret will not last; disappointment will vanish; the fire of the love of God will become enkindled, and the thorns and briars of sadness and despondency will be consumed! Be thou happy; rest thou assured upon the favors of Baha, so that uncertainty and hesitation may become non-existent and the invisible outpourings descend upon the arena of being! - Abdu’l-Baha.

More like this at: https://v4.simplesite.com/#/pages/443352117?

 

 


93. Why do Bad things happen to Good People? 

One afternoon I was passing time with my friend Bryce in a rather seedy and rundown café, discussing a topic that I had previously explored with my mother: Why do bad things happen to good people?

Why, since God loves us, should there be so much suffering in the world?

We were seated at a table on which some previous guest had spilt sugar – whether recently or even days ago we could not tell. As we chatted, my down-at-heel philosophic friend was absent-mindedly pushing around crystals of sugar with his thumb.

My amusement with his sugar construction made him suddenly aware of what he’d been doing and he laughed and then began to tell me a story about another time, and another table, where he’d also been playing with fallen sugar.

He said he hadn’t paid much attention to his actions at the time until he noticed a small ant running about distractedly at the farthest end of the table as it searched for food scraps, first skirting around a puddle of milk, then disappearing under a spoon, to re-emerge with undiminished resolve.

Recognizing that there was plenty of food for the ant to enjoy if it could just make its way across the table top, Bryce patiently followed the ant’s erratic path with a hovering hand.

Each time the ant veered off course and away from the unsuspected sugar bounty waiting at the far side, Bryce planted his big thumb in its path. The ant would run headlong into his thumb and be deflected into a path that would take it closer to the sugar.

This was quite a time-consuming process and after a while he began to imagine the irritation the little creature must be feeling as it collided with one obstacle after another, seemingly to no purpose. He imagined the ant feeling quite irritated and then, as the obstacles continued, its irritation would turn to anger and eventually to overwhelming frustration, despair and futility.

The ant had no way of knowing that each seemingly arbitrary obstacle was really the intervention of an unseen force that had the ant’s greatest well-being at heart or that, with each apparent misfortune, the object of its search was drawing ever closer.

That’s pretty much been the story of my own life: running headlong into painful obstacles. I was the despair of my headmistress at school, and of my Bible Class teacher at church. I won’t list all the disasters here because I’ve embarrassed my parents enough already, so you’ll just have to trust me. But I’ve grown up enough now to know that running into painful obstacles is not that exceptional after all.

Now I’m old enough to look back and recognise that it was those very experiences that taught me the most valuable life lessons. I know that Bryce’s brief experience with that little ant had made a profound impression on him, for he had seen his own life in the journey of the ant, who was not able to appreciate that each barrier it ran into was in reality guiding it to the very object of its search.

For the first time he recognized a purpose in many of the considerable adversities he had encountered in his own life; that each episode had been especially designed for him and him alone, to help him grow and develop, leading him to recognise the purpose of his creation and in the process to identify and acquire the spiritual qualities that would be needed for him to successfully fulfil his divine purpose on this plane.

As a teacher I too recognised the apparent injustice of some pupils in the eyes of others - the apparent ease of gifted children compared with the challenges of my 'special class' children.

So that is what I often thought about during my later work as a counsellor, learning of the great burdens some people have had to face in their lives, compared with the apparent relative ease and comfort of others.

Some life lessons are fun and appealing. Some are confronting and difficult. Now I have grown old enough and wise enough to realise that this process is true for both our material and spiritual education; in responding with strength, patience and determination to adversity, we stretch and expand our present capacity, and uncover innate powers and hidden gifts that we may otherwise have never discovered.

Bryce has passed on now but I know he’d agree with me that, although life is really tough at the time, we wouldn’t have missed a moment of it.

So, getting back to that original question; ‘Why do bad things happen to good people? Why, since God loves us, should there be so much suffering in the world?’; the Bahai Writings advise that in spiritual terms, those tests and difficulties that outwardly appear as ‘bad’ are, in reality, precious lessons.

"O My servants! Sorrow not if, in these days and on this earthly plane, things contrary to your wishes have been ordained and manifested by God, for days of blissful joy, of heavenly delight, are assuredly in store for you. Worlds, holy and spiritually glorious, will be unveiled to your eyes. You are destined by Him, in this world and hereafter, to partake of their benefits, to share in their joys, and to obtain a portion of their sustaining grace. To each and every one of them you will, no doubt, attain". ---Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah – CLIII.

"IF ye meet the abased or the downtrodden, turn not away disdainfully from them, for the King of Glory ever watcheth over them and surroundeth them with such tenderness as none can fathom except them that have suffered their wishes and desires to be merged in the Will of your Lord, the Gracious, the All-Wise." ---Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah – CXLV.


94. The Education and Training of Children 'Highly Meritorious'.

The day when the fat lady got on the train turned out to be a pivotal moment in my spiritual development.

At the time my grandfather was very ill, requiring my mother to spend most mid-week mornings working busily until our little family was ready to proceed to the railway station and thence to my grandparent's home several miles away. I had made this trip many times, and it was for the most part a boringly predictable exercise. Therefore it was a moment of high drama for me when our train pulled in to a station and I saw an extremely obese woman struggling to ascend the narrow steps leading from platform to carriage.

“Look, Mum! Look! Look at the fat lady” I shrieked. I had to make my voice even louder and more insistent because my mother had buried her head in her train timetable and appeared not to hear me. Which was strange, because I clearly had the attention of everyone else. 

Eventually, it was the fierceness in her eyes, more than the shushhhhh she hissed at me through clenched teeth, that froze me into silence. It was only after we arrived and shuffled – as invisibly as possible – out of the carriage, that my mother expressed her shame and disappointment.

Continuing in silence up the hill towards my grandparent’s home, I plodded on in misery, trying to understand why that very ‘truth’ that our minister extolled as a great virtue on Sunday could act like an explosive device in the mouth of a child, just a day later. Although I was only three years old, I was already being called to reflect on what constituted this 'truth', and when it was appropriate to share it.

In my mind, it was just like my well-loved nursery story - the 'Emperor’s New Clothes' - when a young boy in the crowd was the only one to say out loud what everyone else knew to be true. All the villagers were in fear of the Emperor and his vanities, and felt obliged to pretend to see what they were being pressured to see by his retinue; only a small child was free of this fear, and willing to speak the truth. When the boy in the story spoke up, he had received great acclaim, so it was more than a little confusing to find myself confronted with my apparent equivalent of that story, yet wondering why I, too, was not being applauded. Surely no honest person in that carriage could deny that our new passenger had indeed been enthrallingly fat.

Later my mother tried to explain to me why, although I had spoken the truth, neither the fat lady nor our travelling companions needed to have their attention drawn to that truth, in that way, at that moment. She talked about empathy and how I needed to imagine the possible effect of my words upon others.

And so it was that I first began to appreciate the depths of a verse I would later discover in the Writings of Baha’u’llah, that:

Not everything that a man knoweth can be disclosed, nor can everything that he can disclose be regarded as timely, nor can every timely utterance be considered as suited to the capacity of those who hear it.- Bahá’u’lláh / LXXXIX; Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah

This became known as the Triple Filter test; before we speak we should consider an idea's appropriateness by 3 factors;

Is it;

1. able to be expressed?

2. timely to the situation?

3. suited to a person's capacity?

So valuable was this verse that I taught it to my children and we still apply it to situations today.

The Fat Lady encounter was what my future Teacher Training described as a 'teachable moment'; an experience, whether planned or spontaneous, that is presented to a child in a compelling way. For a Bahai the ideal Teachable Moment also needs to meet the requirements of that Triple Filter Test.

I think we tend to underestimate the impression that we as adults have upon the minds of children. The purpose of what appear to be insignificant children's stories like 'The Emperor's New Clothes' are common to every culture and religion. Some have factual origins, others are based on tradition or else completely fictional.

Whether ancient or modern, these serve a profound and relevant purpose in explaining the world and man's experience.

The Words of the Bahai Sacred Teachings have been given to humanity for the unique needs of this day. It is the challenge of parents and teachers to impart these teachings in a manner that is understood by the one who hears them, and is both timely and suited to individual capacity.

This is a task of special significance to mothers who are, as Abdul-Baha states, the first educators of the child;

Let the mothers consider that whatever concerneth the education of children is of the first importance. Let them put forth every effort in this regard, for when the bough is green and tender it will grow in whatever way ye train it. Therefore is it incumbent upon the mothers to rear their little ones even as a gardener tendeth his young plants. Let them strive by day and by night to establish within their children faith and certitude, the fear of God, the love of the Beloved of the worlds, and all good qualities and traits. Whensoever a mother seeth that her child hath done well, let her praise and applaud him and cheer his heart; and if the slightest undesirable trait should manifest itself, let her counsel the child and punish him, and use means based on reason, even a slight verbal chastisement should this be necessary.---Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l‑Bahá 94

This education continues from the family through to study circles with the community, in a cradle-to-grave education system. The Bahai Writings emphasise the implications of this spiritual education, not just for the individual child but ultimately upon our wider society, because it is key to the future advancement all humanity.


95. Getting the Bible to Jenny. 


96. Learning about Death and Religious Unity. 

When my mother learned that our playmate Jenny was seriously ill with leukemia, she began to pray passionately that God would cure her, just as I knew from our Bible that Jesus had healed many others.

She made a silent promise that if God would heal Jenny, she would express her gratitude in a practical way, by serving as a Sunday School teacher. Sadly, her prayer was not answered in the way hoped, but with undiminished spirit she resolved to teach the class anyway.

Our neighbourhood families exchanged Christmas cards with one another every year, but because we belonged to different churches we were unable to all come together to celebrate this most joyous of times. Burdened by the sadness and grief that still dwelt among us, my mother determined to use that season to restore goodwill and happiness in our lives. And so it was that she conceived the idea of planning a Christmas Concert to bring us all together for one common purpose, to celebrate as one big family.

Therefore she set to work with vision and energy, drawing upon her new-found experience as a Sunday School teacher to devise a kind of pageant. The venue would be our home. This was a tremendous gesture on her part since she had always been a very private person for whom it did not come easily to entertain people other than close family in her own home. Even so, she set about preparing a musical production; a play that would depict the birth of Christ, but would also involve various humorous skits, songs and poems, concluding with carols in which all the parents could join, followed by Christmas cake for supper.

From that point on our home began to bustle with the activity of children of all ages. For weeks in advance they appeared, breathless with excitement, clutching their few scribbled lines of our Nativity play for rehearsal, or begging my mother to include some poem they had written or perhaps share a rendition of 'Twinkle, twinkle little star' on recorder.

Now our home came alive in the most magical way. Christmas ornaments appeared, to sparkle and glitter in stage lights that were, in reality, nothing more than a few strategically placed torches and my brother's desk lamp.

The wide door way between our dining room and lounge area was made ready to be hung with bedspreads to serve as ‘stage curtains‘. The air became clamorous with arguments about costumes as children of all ages and stages rifled through tangled heaps of sheets and tea towels - destined to transform us into shepherds, wise men and so forth whilst shrilly comparing, teasing, and laughing at one another.

In a complete departure from my usual resentment, every night I would cheerfully wash the dishes after dinner, barely noticing the effort as I enthusiastically rehearsed the songs we would sing, with their obscure words and phrases like 'Hosannah' and 'Val de ree, val de ra', and practised my own special poem about spiders, whilst wondering if I - the smallest cast member - might be allowed to play the role of Baby Jesus. (In the end, this non-speaking part was much more suitably assigned to my favourite doll, on whose behalf I felt silently honoured).

When the night of the concert arrived, I was astonished to observe the changes that my mother had wrought to the familiar features of our home. Every trace of ordinariness had disappeared. The glass doors that usually separated the main rooms were open, and now our bed spreads, draped theatrically to each side, looked for all the world like the heavy tasselled stage curtains of our local Town Hall.

Every chair in the house had been set out, so that our lounge room was now a wide seating area for the audience which was beginning to arrive and take their places. They, too, seemed different. Our neighbours greeted one another with more formality than I had noticed before, moving obediently to take the seats to which they were directed.

Then the magic moment arrived. The ceiling lights were turned off until the room was darkened, with only a few lamps and torches remaining to focus on the curtains now being slowly drawn aside by brother Bruce and our friend Johnny, crouching hidden on either side of the doorway.

A hush came over the room as beams of torch-light fell upon the still figure of Jill from next door who sat in sweet serenity in the centre of the 'stage' with my very own 'Baby Jesus' cradled tenderly in her arms.

I felt, rather than heard, a catching of breath amongst the group of parents, and I think that we all became a little lost in the spirit of wonder that this silent scene evoked.

From that moment on, all of us - performers, parents, brothers and sisters - were taken to another world where there was no more grief, heartache or loss.

The hope and vision that my mother had nurtured had borne its fruit. Single-handedly arising to act on the promptings of her heart, she had changed our world, had reminded us of higher things and greater powers, filling our hearts with thoughts of peace and goodwill.

That wondrous concert that brought together people of different Christian denominations to celebrate a common festival had also planted in me the early seeds of religious unity. I realised how our separate different places of worship had created a separation amongst us, inhibiting the development of genuine warmth among both neighbours and strangers.

It was a wonderful example of individual initiative that reached out to engage all the children of our religiously diverse neighbourhood, and touched the hearts of all their parents.

And so my heart would be immediately warmed when I first learned about Bahai places of Worship and how each was built with 9 different doorways, symbolising a welcome to all people of all corners of the earth.

My mother - born and raised during the Great Depression - used limited resources to single-handedly prepare this concert, and in later years began 'The Wholeness Prayer Group', a diverse ecumenical group of women promoting unity among our neighbourhood Christian Churches, with a focus on unity and healing.

Years later, when she and I attended her first 'fireside' Introductory meeting to explore the teachings of the Baha'i Faith, I knew this focus on the Oneness of God and Religion was what she had been raising me to understand. Mere months before her death at 93, she accepted Baha'u'llah as the Messenger from God for our time.