Opening the Doors of Our Hearts
Until love takes possession of your heart, no other divine bounty can be revealed in it.
Storytelling offers a doorway to empathy. It allows us to see into the hearts through understanding eyes. It informs the shared human experience, expands compassion and connection, and invites us to better discover the portal to our own spiritual transcendence.
During the workshop, inspire one another with stories.
Introduce this period by considering the story of a Baha’i named Marion Townsend King Jackson, who wanted to honor the equality and worthiness of everyone.
Marion was born in 1932, so she had already graduated from Spelman College, married, and had a family when the Civil Rights movement reached its peak. She felt committed to this vital and challenging issue and wanted to help.
As a young mother, pregnant, with several little ones, she could at least take food and supplies to those imprisoned for their involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. She set out to do that very thing at the Mitchell County jail in Georgia in 1962. However, policemen assaulted her and pushed her to the ground, in front of her children. As a result, she lost her unborn child.
To the amazement of others, Marian later forgave her attackers. Her son Jonathan, then age 3, remembered this lesson of forgiveness as her main gift to him about the qualities required for race unity work.
Honor Marion King Jackson for her powerful example came through constructive resilience, and her sacrifice shed light on others, including her own children.
We each have stories to tell. Which ones are about the kind of power that flips a switch and sheds light?
Think about the qualities ‘Abdu’l-Baha must have seen in Robert Turner. Do you know someone who has inspired you to emulate one of those quality? Or have you overcome a challenge through constructive resilience instead of resistance?
How did you show honor or who will you honor with your story?
(Working in small groups, move in a circle to allow each person to tell a story. They may pass or may tell their story at the end.)
Activity: Pairing up for Daily Story Prompts
Each day, present a page of prompts. Participants silently write down the number of the quote that speaks to them with the greatest force or that reminds them of a recent encounter or discovery.
Call out the number of each quote and, based on the preferences, form diads for paired sharing.
After ten minutes, have each pair tell a story that emerged from their discussion. One partner introduces the other as their brother or sister and tells the partner’s story, with permission. Or they may share their own stories.
The quotes are based on five daily themes include: Resilience, Service, Oneness, Love, and Justice.
Some may offer to publicly share one of their stories during the culmination ceremony on the last day. (If more volunteers emerge than performance time allows, some could tell their stories as part of the living history museum.)
Determine what theme you see emerging from the stories as you choose one of the songs indicated at the end of the chapter. (Save 15 minutes at the end of the session for the sing-along.) You may also use this time to sing songs introduced in the other chapters, listed in the appendix.
Day 1: Resilience
Meet in pairs based on who shares the same favorite quote on transcendence or resilience. Tell why it speaks to you. Let your story emerge.
1. Only spirit is real. Everything else is shadow.
2. The troubles of this world pass, and what we have left is what we have made of our own souls.
3. Be patient under all conditions and place your whole trust and confidence in God.
4. Bestow upon me a heart like unto a glass, that it may be illumined by the light of thy love, and this world may change into a rose garden through the outpourings of heavenly grace.
5. Arise, O people, and by the power of God’s might, resolve to gain the victory over your own selves.
6. And with Thy love in my heart, all the world’s afflictions can in no wise harm me.
Day 2: Service
Meet in pairs based on who shares the same favorite quote on service, from among these six choices. Tell why the quote speaks to you. Let your story emerge.
1. To be a Bahá’i means simply to love all the world; to love humanity and try to serve it, to work for universal peace and universal brotherhood.
2. Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in.
3. Let deeds, not words, be your adorning.
4. Dedicate the precious days of your lives to the betterment of the world.
5. Turn all your thoughts toward bringing joy to the hearts.
6. The more we search for ourselves, the less likely we are to find ourselves; and the more we search for God, and to serve our fellowmen, the more profoundly we will become acquainted with ourselves, and the more inwardly assured. This is one of the great spiritual laws of life.
Day 3: Oneness
Meet in pairs based on who shares the same favorite quote by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá on oneness. Tell why it speaks to you. Let your story emerge.
1. Ye are drops of one ocean and waves of one sea.
2. One must see in every human being only that which is worthy of praise.
3. If you wish to give admonition or advice, let it be offered in such a way that it will not burden the hearer.
4.This small world is not worthy of division.
5. Replace a thought of hate with a thought of love. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love.
6. ...Be as one soul in many bodies.
Day 4: Love
Meet in pairs based on who shares the same favorite quote about love, below, by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Tell why it speaks to you. Let your own story emerge.
1. Until love takes possession of your heart, no other divine bounty can be revealed in it.
2. You must have infinite love for each other, each preferring the other before himself.
3. Show forth tenderness and love to every human being.
4. O God, my God ... Make my heart overflow with love for Thy creatures, that I may become a sign of Thy mercy, a token of Thy grace, a promoter of concord, forgetful of self and ever mindful of what is Thine.
Day 5: Justice
Meet in pairs based on who shares the same favorite quote about justice. Tell why it speaks to you. Let your own story emerge.
1. The well-being of mankind, its peace and security, are unattainable unless and until its unity is firmly established.
2. Religious, patriotic, racial prejudices must disappear, for they are the destroyers of society.
3. The purpose of justice is the appearance of unity among men.
4. We ask God to endow human souls with justice so that they may be fair and may strive to provide for the comfort of all, that each member of humanity may pass his life in the utmost comfort and welfare...
.... We must all strive and concentrate all our thoughts in order that such happiness may accrue to the world of humanity.
Student volunteers may offer to publicly share a story on the program on the last day.
(If more volunteers emerge than performance time allows, some may want to tell their story in the living history museum.)
Music to Match our Stories
Play the songs Honor and Move Those Mountains, performed by African American Baha’is Eric Dozier and Kristin Barnes. Discuss the relevance of the songs to the stories. Use one or both in a singalong.
[If desired, create a simple percussion section for Honor with overturned paint buckets and with shakers made of bags of uncooked beans.]
Songs, lyrics, and links appear in the appendix.