The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
The tumultuous state of world affairs has left ample room for us to explore new means of coming together and remembering our basic connection. Humans are social beings, and although we now may have more time to benefit from introspection, quiet, and calm in our own spaces, we naturally feel the desire to spend time with others.
I live in South Africa, and for the rest of my life, I will remember the morning after the president of my country announced that our coronavirus quarantine was over. We could finally leave our homes and exercise in our neighborhoods. After six weeks of minimal contact with anyone except my family, I left my house and walked the dog. I passed many neighbors doing the same thing, and no one walked by without a kind word of joy and care, “Hello! Good to see you! Have a great day! Stay safe!”
I walk my dog regularly, and more than 80% of the folks I saw that day were new to me, but they all felt like long-lost friends. That was the day when I truly felt the spirit of one of my favorite quotes from Abdu’l-Baha, the son of the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, Baha’u’llah: “Let your heart burn with loving-kindness for all who may cross your path.” We all felt so loved, and I imagine that that feeling must have been even more amplified for those who live alone.
The current health crisis has brought to light many other crises involving injustice, such as disease, gender-based violence, educational and economic inequalities, and racism. These issues affect us all and require serious discussion and intervention. As we’re learning to use webinars, Zoom, and FaceTime group chats, it’s also become clear that huge groups are completely excluded from this technology. The development of special funds, petitions, and many people of goodwill devoting significant amounts of time and resources to educating others on the plight of the oppressed is heartening.
We have had to explore how to address these problems while trying to limit our physical proximity while trying to protect our own mental, emotional, and spiritual health. The task can be overwhelming and sometimes feels impossible. When I feel dizzy and overwhelmed, I just stop, reflect, and think: What can I do?
Before the pandemic, I had no idea how to virtually host a meeting, presentation, workshop, class, or a group sing-a-long. Now I can do all these things and have developed new and meaningful relationships with people worldwide. I teach small groups of children online, and it makes all the difference. I feel a strong sense of purpose and joy as I try to inspire children to love and respect those different from themselves. I am moved when I host virtual interfaith gatherings for Baha’i, Christian, Hindu, and Muslim friends to connect and enjoy one another’s prayer style. The youth I work with online each week teach me something new when I humbly listen to their ideas and discoveries. Online study classes that naturally lead to discussions on current affairs and how to react to them through a spiritual lens help me maintain some balance and hope.
I am growing so much from all I am learning from home this year, and it has become as clear as day that our well-being is tied up in the well-being of all people. It is not about me; it is about us. We can only move forward if we don’t focus on ourselves, but instead focus on the collective good. As Abdu’l-Baha wrote, “Were it not for tests, nothing would progress in this contingent world.”
I am also inspired by those I do not know who I see working hard for justice. There are so many clear lessons we are all learning as a human family, and I can see the divine light of wisdom and mercy in them all.
As the Baha’i writings say: “My calamity is My providence, outwardly it is fire and vengeance, but inwardly it is light and mercy. Hasten thereunto that thou mayest become an eternal light and an immortal spirit. This is My command unto thee, do thou observe it.”