As I sat on a bench outside our free public library, a young Latino man said “Have a great day!” to me. What a surprise!
Yes, I definitely felt pleasantly surprised, me, a stranger sitting on a bench. Oh, I didn’t ignore him or his passing, in fact, I immediately noticed the lifting of his right arm and index finger as he pointed at me and nodded his greeting.
“Ah, you too!” I quickly replied, smiling.
I thought: How nice! This stranger said hello to me, to another stranger! Now wouldn’t it have been even nicer if I had said something first?
We have maybe dozens of opportunities to uplift a person’s spirit every day in our normal activities. Yet I remember lunch times in downtown Trenton, New Jersey, where I worked for decades, most people absorbed in thought, not looking into my face for either recognition or a nod or a simple “Hello.” I wish I could say I was always ready with a smile or a nod or “Hello” myself.
We should all have a Great Day—that’s why it was a revelation when I was a young Baha’i to learn that this was “The Great Day of God,” meaning, the day of a new messenger from God, who brought teachings of peace, love and unity. It took longer for me to realize that every age in which a new messenger of God appears is a “Great Day.” What makes it “Great?”
Imagine a prize or an award waiting for you, and one day the Publisher’s Clearing House crew knocks on your door with flowers in their arms and a big banner saying “You’ve won!”
That’s what it felt like for me to realize that Baha’u’llah, a Persian nobleman and prophet imprisoned for most of his life, had a message that could utterly change humanity’s fortunes, if only we heeded his advice and exhortations. In this God-given drawing, everyone on Earth wins:
The world of being shineth in this Day with the resplendency of this Divine Revelation. All created things extol its saving grace and sing its praises. The universe is wrapt in an ecstasy of joy and gladness. The Scriptures of past Dispensations celebrate the great jubilee that must needs greet this most great Day of God. Well is it with him that hath lived to see this Day and hath recognized its station. – Baha’u’llah, quoted by Shoghi Effendi in The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 106.
This is truly, as my new friend suggested, a great day—a shining, glorious, all-encompassing Day, in which we can all love and respect each other, honor and show kindness to each other, to a degree and on a scale humanity has yet to experience.
That is the hope of all Baha’is the world over—that everyone on this planet will recognize this great day. “Have a Great Day,” never meant so much, because it is not only a hope, but also a promise and a divine reality:
Great and blessed is this Day—the Day in which all that lay latent in man hath been and will be made manifest. Lofty is the station of man, were he to hold fast to righteousness and truth … – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 219.
You see, in this contest, everyone has a voice, a ticket, a part to play in the peaceful unification of the world. According to the Baha’i teachings, every person is a child of God, every person has a God-given right to peaceful living and prosperity, a job, education, love and respect and living in harmony with one’s fellows, in cooperation and peace rather than disagreement and hatred.
That’s what I love about the writings of the Baha’i Faith: they renounce division and disagreement and focus on unity and love. That’s why I share these beliefs with all who read them, and then acknowledge, profoundly, that each individual’s choice and free will governs how they may react or not react.
For in this Great Day of God, as on every day, the choice, the wonderful choice, is always ours—to offer cheery “Hello’s,” to strangers, or to respond right back with, “You have a Great Day, too.”