Opening the Doors of Our Legacy
O Thou kind Lord! O thou Who art generous and merciful! We are the servants of Thy threshold and are gathered beneath the sheltering shadow of thy divine unity. The sun of Thy Mercy is shining upon all, and the clouds of Thy bounty shower upon all. Thy gifts encompass all, Thy loving providence sustains all, Thy protection overshadows all, and the glances of Thy favour are cast upon all. O Lord! Grant Thine infinite bestowals, and let the light of Thy guidance shine. Illumine the eyes, gladden the heart with abiding joy. Confer a new spirit upon all people and bestow upon them eternal life. Unlock the gates of true understanding and let the light of faith shine resplendent. Gather all people beneath the shadow of Thy bounty and cause them to unite in harmony, so that they may become as the rays of one sun, as the waves of one ocean, and as the fruit of one tree. May they drink from the same fountain May they be refreshed by the same breeze. May they receive illumination from the same source of light. Thou art the giver, the Merciful, the Omnipotent. ‘
What Path will Lead to Our Own Legacy?
Turn to the person sitting next to you. Look into their eyes. Do you each see a replica of the world in the pupil of another? You may notice that the pupil absorbs and radiates light, just as earth reflects sunlight The illumined patterns of color around it take on the shape of wheat fields, birds in flight light, nightshade drawn, pools of moisture wet by dew or tears, in other words, they radiate and replicate sensitivity to life itself.
In your journal, sketch a picture of the eye as if it were the planet earth.
Read and discuss the following poem. Discuss the implications of this literary concept that the beauty of the eye, with its colors and light, suggests that we were meant to see the oneness of humanity by gazing into it? Then consider the scientific concepts.
Earth and Eye
Night’s curtain lifts.
New light drowns earth’s orb in color:
Skeins of wheat;
rich humus; wan sky; swirls of cloud—
Cranes pierce its core. Lightning throbs.
to wash its face of deep sorrow.
Love’s warmth Illuminates day— drapes now drawn.
Oh, eye, your
grand design mirrors one greater.
aches, feels, mirrors, cries, calms, reels—a
of giving, seeing Earth itself.
Did you mean for us to see in one another
each time our eyes meet?
‘Abdu’l-Baha compared Robert Turner’s soul to a pupil of the eye and a source of radiant light. Robert acquired the station of a Disciple of ‘Abdu’l-Baha because of his personal spiritual capacity.
Consider the parts of the eye. Name two functions that the pupil performs.
Did you mention that it can take light in and also reflect back light? Discuss some reasons why ‘Abdul-Baha might have chosen this metaphor to represent Robert Turner’s spiritual purpose and potential. Do you think his praise was based on the qualities Robert had cultivated rather than on his outward semblance? If you were facing ‘Abdu’l-Baha in that moment, would you want to strive to continue looking beyond life’s hardships to recognize light and truth and to serve all of humanity?
Put a checkmark by the items you raised in your discussion:
___ Do you think Robert Turner’s instinctive recognition of truth and willingness to study represented taking in light?
___ What about his sincere awareness of the needs of others? Could this curiosity about other people, rather than showing self-absorption, indicate the taking in of light?
___ Did your discussion also imagine how he might have radiated out light? Do you suppose he showed love to others, regardless of their education, station, or color?
___ Do you suppose he honored the dignity of all people? Did the ability to see the light in others mean taking in light and reflecting it back?
___‘Abdu-l Baha referred to him as “dearly loved.” Do you think there are any other reasons for this love and for his special station? If so, name them.
At the end of your discussion, list two columns, one showing marked I will take in light and one marked I will radiate light to others.
Taking in Light
(List three specific actions we can take as individuals and as a group, in our studies, our empathy building, and our conscious awareness of the light in others.)
(List three specific actions we can take, as individuals and as a group, to radiate a pure spirit, uplift the downtrodden, remember the forgotten, and work together to embrace the security, dignity and station of the whole human family.)
Follow up: Keep an ongoing journal with these two columns, I will take in light and I will radiate light to others. Make specific goals about struggles you overcome to achieve these challenges.
Praying for Light
Offer a prayer, as a group, that will encourage everyone to develop the qualities Robert Turner cultivated over a lifetime.
“O my Forgiving Lord! Light up the hearts with the rays of a lamp that sheddeth abroad its beams, disclosing to those among Thy people whom thou hat bounteously favoured, the realities of all things.
Verily, Thou art the Mighty, the Powerful, the Protector, the Strong, the Beneficent! Verily, Thou art the Lord of all mercies!”
Door of Our Group Legacy
How can our spiritual strengths, inherent gifts, creative and intellectual tools, our empathy, compassion and unity help us address a particular need? We will identify and design a community project to around that need.
Choose a Project
Study the Community Needs and Resources sheet. Take in the needs of the community as if taking in light and awareness. Reflect light by determining how we can address that need.
Step 1: Take Inventory
In a round-robin discussion, each person describe a particular community need in one word. A scribe will write these words on the board. If you can’t think of one, you may pass and go last.
Step 2: Decide on a Priority
Look for areas of overlap on the list. Do you see similarities that point to one overriding need?
Step 3: List Resources
Write that need down on the Community Needs and Resources sheet.
List people in the community with whom you might address the need. Add skills you could develop in yourselves or among younger students as you address the need.
Step 4: Create a Plan
Review the list of four sample projects. Could any of these ideas be adapted to help you address the challenge you chose? Or could you use one of them to complement your project? Create a timeline for a project.
Step 5: Embrace Partners
How could you create a closer connection with a diverse group through a “wisdom exchange,” by challenging another neighborhood, cultural community or age group to a similar challenge or by sharing the stage with them? Strengthen your bonds and reflect on the results.
Sample Project Idea 1: Rays of One Sun
To link the message of how our unified capacities influence history, students sketch portions of a mural on butcher paper.
Measurements are made to section off each portion to fit the plywood or cardboard panels.
The mural is then projected onto the panels, so that each student or group knows which portion they will paint. Then moves to a public location, celebrated with song.
Step 1 Prepare for the Project
Obtain the materials to create a mobile mural, using plywood or cardboard panels, graffiti- proof paint, butcher paper, pencils and teamwork.
Get permission to post the mural at a farmers market or on the side of a school or community center or even on private property.
Step 2 Depict the History
On the butcher paper, each participant illustrates a portion of the history of the community or of the history shared in this report.
Include a sun in the illustration, with rays connecting the contributions of each contributor to history. Discuss ways to depict the contributions of Robert Turner.
Step 3 Project the Mural
Mark off 3 x 4 foot sections to fit onto plywood or cardboard panels. Project the drawing onto the panels or tape and trace the outlines. Then paint the design. Each student or group paints one section.
A scribe writes captions on an accompanying placard to explain the sections.
Step 4 Prepare and Present a Performance
Invite friends, family, and passersby to the grand opening.
Stage a living museum or sing the songs you have learned in this curriculum to tell the stories depicted on the mural.
Sample Project Idea 2: Vision for All
Create greater equality for people lacking ophthalmological insurance who could benefit from a pair of glasses, to help them improve their vision.
Step 1 Evaluate the Need
Discuss the literal meaning of “vision” and the practical meaning of “vision.” Does equality include giving everyone the right to see?
Interview an ophthalmologist and a representative of the low-income community, as guest presenters, to discuss the most common vision issues of the economically challenged.
Step 2 Design the Project
Ask them to engage with you in a day of service. The eye care specialists will determine the prescriptions of used glasses and give them away to homeless or food bank clients who cannot afford eye care. The agencies will offer referrals. Your group will collect the used eyeglasses.
Step 3 Collect the Glasses
Canvas the neighborhood with signs announcing a “used glasses” drop-off site. Call for unused reading glasses or those with outdated prescriptions.
Bring the glasses to the distribution point.
Step 4 Support the Vision Project
Serve an optional pancake breakfast for those waiting for their free appointments, to see whether any of the glasses meet their needs, as the specialists match patients with glasses.
Entertain them with music as they wait.
Write to thank those who helped bring equality and vision to more members of your community.
Sample Project Idea 3: Stories of Strength and Unity
Each participant will make a family tree, with brightly colored pipe cleaners representing the diverse cultures of various family members. Each person tells a story about one of those family members.
The first three people connect their trees side by side, using pipe cleaners as wire fasteners. Others set their family trees on top of the first, pyramid-style, using pipe cleaners as wire fasteners.
When the structures are three trees high, hang them with yarn or thread on coat hangers, as mobiles.
At a public venue, such as a farmers’ market or fair booth, tell family history stories and demonstrate how you made expandable family trees. Invite visitors to make a tree and add it to yours. Show how the dignity and beauty of each family member contributes to the strength and capacity of the whole.
Create a Backdrop
Paint a tree trunk on butcher paper. Dip hands in colored fingerpaint and splay in on the trunk to represent leafy treetops.
Invite children to create a 9x12 finger-painted tree as a gift for a grandparent--or a parent to tells them a story. Or let the child pick out colored pipe cleaners to build their family tree. Students can also conduct this activity with a younger class at their school or Faith community.
Sample Project Idea 4: Hold Fast to Dreams
Poetry, in the African tradition, grew out of the oral tradition. Storytelling, call and response and participatory arts sometimes melded the lines between the art forms. Unity seemed inherent in the art itself. Tight harmonies, punctuated with the rhythm of audience participation, created distinctions between Black Spirituals (as in the arrangements of Jester Hairston, for example), and what became, for a time, White Spirituals (I’ll Fly Away, for example.)
The African-American poets brought the sensibilities of song to their work, but they borrowed from other cultures as well, choosing the extent to which story, rhyme, repetition meter and imagery found their home in the poem. Consistently from the post-Civil War era on, the cadence underscored a common theme: the desire for greater self-reliance and dignity.
Read the Langston Hughes poem, Hold Fast to Dreams.
Clap out the meter of the verses together (2-2-3-2).
Discuss the context and times in which Hughes wrote the poem, as a commentary on the dream of equality and civil rights for African Americans.
Langston Hughes was born just a few years before Robert Turner passed away. His voice became a leading emblem of the Harlem Renaissance, the flowering of the literature, music and art of Black artists in America. His work often expressed a desire to see greater levels of dignity and equality, while celebrating the creativity of his community.
Earlier poet Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906) would have been known to Robert Turner as one of the first internationally known African American poets and playwrights, although he died at age 33 of tuberculosis. He also wrote a poem with a bird as a metaphor and prayer as a solution to imprisonment.
Read the second poem, by Paul Laurence Dunbar. The first line of Dunbar’s poem later inspired Maya Angelou’s most famous poem. The image of the caged bird, longing for freedom, singing for “things unknown but longed for,” thus inspired three separate generations of African-American poets. Compare the poetry to the message in the prayer.
Did any of the poets seek inspiration from the same source recommended in the prayer?
Why do you think Hughes used a broken bird as an image in the poem?
How would a broken wing cripple a bird’s attempt to fly? How would two healthy wings make a difference?
Where else have you seen the metaphor of the broken wing used? ‘Abdu’l Bahá’s prayer referred to the weak and the little ones requiring unity with the divine to seek wisdom and a path of service and to “soar through the limitless space.” Whether in the human community or the spiritual community, we make strides when we work together to overcome limitations.
We will write a poem about our unified dream of unity, inspired by Langston Hughes and by the images in nature.
Step 1: Visualize Examples of Unity
Take a walk outside together. Ask each person to hold both thumbs and index fingers together in the shape of a square, as if to create a camera frame.
Moving the frame around and closing one eye, each person will look around until they see an image that sparks an idea or suggests an activity or a natural metaphor for unity. Where does the natural world show examples—in two interlocking trees or interdependent animals, for instance? How do the buildings and structures in the city depict systems where unity prompted the design and led the construction process? Do you see two very different people expressing warmth toward one another? Who do we see guiding or helping another, as people pass on their way to perform their daily work? Each student should return to the room with one visual image of unity in mind.
Step 2: Prepare to Write
If your class or group is large, divide into groups of four or fewer. Each group shares one sheet of lined paper, and each person has a pencil.
Poetry in free verse typically has non-rhyming lines with ten syllables each. When writing a group poem with multiple writers, this method can offer structure.
The first person thinks about the image they saw outside. They write a ten-syllable line after the introductory line:
In my dreams, I envision unity.It disIlls on our community with
Fill in the blank with a four-beat line; for example: Serried lines of birds, singing spirits free.
The writer then folds the paper up to hide the line they have written, leaving a new blank line under the opening two lines.
The next participant adds their image on that line.
The third student adds a line in the same way, and then the fourth, until each has responded to the prompt.
Each group will end up with a verse that reveals four images representing unity.
Step 3: Encourage Others to Hold Fast to Dreams
In a final draft, put the verses together. The students may rehearse these as spoken word poetry, to present at a public performance—including one of the other projects listed--or they may create a written blog and include the poem, or they may use the poem as a class motto. The students could also hold an informal “Hold Fast to Dreams” storytelling festival for younger students at a park. They would invite each of several classes to send a storyteller to tell a story of unity, and then perform their poem as the culminating performance.
Poem #1 by Langston Hughes
Hold fast to dreams
For if dreams die
Life is a broken-winged bird That cannot fly.
Hold fast to dreams For when dreams go Life is a barren field Frozen with snow.
Poem #2 by Paul Laurence Dunbar
I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,— When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart’s deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings —
I know why the caged bird sings!
O God! O God! This is a broken-winged bird and his flight is very slow—assist him so that he may fly toward the apex of prosperity and salvation, wing his way with the utmost joy and happiness throughout the illimitable space, raise his melody in Thy Supreme Name in all the regions, exhilarate the ears with this call, and brighten the eyes by beholding the signs of guidance.
O Lord! I am single, alone and lowly. For me there is no support save Thee, no helper except Thee and no sustainer beside Thee. Confirm me in Thy service, assist me with the cohorts of Thy angels, make me victorious in the promotion of Thy Word and suffer me to speak out Thy wisdom amongst Thy creatures. Verily, Thou art the helper of the weak and the defender of the little ones, and verily Thou art the Powerful, the Mighty and the Unconstrained.
Sample Project Idea 5: Chains of Unity
Robert Turner’s town experienced an outbreak of yellow fever in the year of his birth.
Zora Neale Hurston’s community also experienced the same a decade later.
Tuberculosis took the life of poet Paul Dunbar at an early age.
Today, health disparities in African countries and African-American communities still plague many communities.
Young people are working to mitigate these challenges by interviewing local health experts and spreading prevention techniques, whether the illness is Covid-19 or the malaria, cholera, typhoid of the developing world or any of the climate change impacts affecting all nations.
When we strive to improve the health and comfort of others, we also improve our own sense of purpose.
Research the greatest health need in your community that you can address through prevention.
Is one demographic group (age or ethnicity) especially affected by diabetes or heart disease or epidemics?
Visit a public health official and an official public health website. Determine the factors that influence the issue, including:
Access to care (transportation, cost and insurance coverage, and work time needed to access care)
Available clinics where healthcare is provided
Access to nutrition and prevention information Well-trained health-care workers
Genetic tendencies toward certain illnesses or life span statistics in general
Discuss which of these factors your group can influence. For instance, you might engage in one or more of these ten projects:
Offer to visit elders who are lonely, ill or living in senior centers; offer music, meditation, and conversation
Conduct an awareness campaign about prevention of the most prominent illness in your community
Launch a campaign among local officials to reduce “food deserts” in cities, where few stores sell fresh fruits and vegetables
Spread prevention information at community hubs about the causes of vector-borne diseases or about ways to reduce the effects of asthma
Teach violence prevention at schools using the conflict bridge (steps covered in the Doors of Loveland section)
Make a presentation on substance abuse prevention at a local health fair or farmer’s market
Write to school board officials to make schools available as parks and exercise spaces
Ask permission to grow a community garden on the school grounds; enlist help from a parent support group and offer harvests to a homeless shelter
Write a recipe book focused on economical means to good nutrition for diabetics
Invite a nurse to monitor blood pressure and body mass index for family members while you conduct an aaer-school exercise class
Students have successfully tried these ideas in many other communities like yours! Based on your research and the community needs and resources page, match the greatest need with the most doable project. Help raise the capacity of your community to care for all of its members.
At the end of the project, enjoy a sense of fulfillment with an impromptu unity party.
Make a paper chain with a link representing everyone who helped with the project. Take a photo of it and send it to the local newspaper to suggest that others can take similar actions to contribute to universal happiness and glue their own connections within the human family.
You may want to include a photo of your ubuntu picture.
Sample Project 6: Open the Doors to Others
Review the station and role of Robert C. Turner in religious history. Consider whether you have a role to play in opening the door to others, to share the truths he so readily accepted.
Step 1. Define meaningful experiences.
Determine what elements of this experience had an impact on you? Which would you most like to recreate for others?
Step 2. Consult to create a list.
Compare your priorities with others in the group.
Use the fruit-in-the-bowl exercise to identify a set of actions or activities you would, collectively, like to include in your plan.
Step 3. Brainstorm who to invite
Determine how you will reach out to friends (e.g. Each person bringing one friend, reaching out on social media, etc.)
How did you strive to ensure a diverse group?
Step 4. Plan the details
Plan a time and place to open the door to these friends. Where will you gather, and when, and how often?
Define your end goal in order to answer these questions.
Also ask permission to use the site you have in mind. Make a list of who will bring the needed items.
Step 5. Invite people through the door!
Send invitations. Make calls. Post signs. Give greetings. Let the amity begin!
“Soon will your swiftly-passing days be over, and the fame and riches, the comforts, the joys provided by this rubbish-heap, the world, will be gone without a trace. Summon ye, then, the people to God, and invite humanity to follow the example of the Company on high.
“Be ye loving fathers to the orphan, and a refuge to the helpless, and a treasury for the poor, and a cure for the ailing. Be ye the helpers of every victim of oppression, the patrons of the disadvantaged.
“Think ye at all times of rendering some service to every member of the human race. Pay ye no heed to aversion and rejection, to disdain, hostility, injustice: act ye in the opposite way. Be ye sincerely kind, not in appearance only. Let each one of God's loved ones centre his attention on this: to be the Lord's mercy to man; to be the Lord's grace.
“Let him do some good to every person whose path he crosseth, and be of some benefit to him. Let him improve the character of each and all, and reorient the minds of men. In this way, the light of divine guidance will shine forth, and the blessings of God will cradle all mankind: for love is light, no matter in what abode it dwelleth; and hate is darkness, no matter where it may make its nest.
“O friends of God! That the hidden Mystery may stand revealed, and the secret essence of all things may be disclosed, strive ye to banish that darkness for ever and ever.”
Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 3