The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
I lie awake, listening to the storm. Ice against the windows, roaring wind, the occasional car returning home. Then I hear the snow plow, and with it the reassurance of being taken care of.
I think about how fortunate I am to live here in Canada—such an orderly part of the world. We have snow plows, sidewalk clearing, and sand trucks to help us through the winter. In every season we have emergency services and utility companies seeing to our needs and well-being. We have hospitals, school buses, parks, arenas, and libraries. Sometimes we even have bike lanes.
When conditions are imperfect and we go without something we consider essential, it usually lasts for just a few hours or maybe a few days. We can relax, confident that soon it will be restored or replaced. Most of us have enough food to keep from starving, and we have sweaters and blankets to keep from freezing. We have books, games, and other diversions even if we are temporarily without electricity, cell service, or the internet. For those among us who do not have the essentials, as a nation we fund and support social services entrusted to assist them. The system is imperfect, but it does reach most people.
Yes, I am fortunate, though nothing I’ve mentioned is so extraordinary that it shouldn’t be universal. Yet my level of comfort, security, and ease is almost beyond imagining in much of the world.
Most of us subscribe to the idea that everyone deserves an agreed-upon standard of living; this is just and right. But there are parts of even this highly-developed nation (Canada) and our neighbor to the south, the United States, that fall short of this ideal—and if we turn our gaze worldwide, it is especially clear that our work is not finished.
The Baha’i teachings say:
Regarding reciprocity and cooperation, each member of the body politic should live in the utmost comfort and welfare because each individual member of humanity is a member of the body politic, and if one member is in distress or is afflicted with some disease, all the other members must necessarily suffer … Hence, God has desired that in the body politic of humanity each one shall enjoy perfect welfare and comfort.
God … has made provision for all. The harvest comes forth for everyone. The rain showers upon everybody and the heat of the sun is destined to warm everyone. The verdure of the earth is for everyone. Therefore, there should be for all humanity the utmost happiness, the utmost comfort, the utmost well-being.
But if conditions are such that some are happy and comfortable and some in misery, some are accumulating exorbitant wealth and others are in dire want — under such a system it is impossible for man to be happy and impossible for him to win the good pleasure of God. God is kind to all. The good pleasure of God consists in the welfare of all the individual members of mankind. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 312.
Integral to being human is helping each other. Our interdependence is obvious, as we see the complexities of our lifestyle and realize that without other people and our institutions we could never achieve or maintain it. The Baha’i writings tell us that the need and obligation to help each other is divinely ordained:
All religions teach that we must do good, that we must be generous, sincere, truthful, law-abiding, and faithful; all this is reasonable, and logically the only way in which humanity can progress. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 142.
The Baha’i teachings connect humanity’s progress to both spiritual maturity and economic well-being:
When individuals develop moral capacities and spiritual qualities, the skills and knowledge they acquire are likely to promote the well-being of the community as a whole. . .. The economic relationships of a society reflect the values of its members. – The Baha’i International Community, Report on Rural Poverty Alleviation Efforts in Asia and the Pacific, Focusing on Activities for Disadvantaged Women. December 1991.
I offer these thoughts at the beginning of a new year in hopes that we as individuals and as a society may increasingly consider the needs of our brethren around the world with justice, compassion, and love.
No one needs to be cold, hungry, homeless, afraid, or lonely. Together let’s make this New Year’s Resolution: A year from now we will say—truthfully say—that through our efforts life on this planet for all of its creatures has been improved.
How do we make this happen? Before it can become a reality around the world, it begins in our neighborhoods and towns, where we live together, work together, strive and thrive together.