O SON OF SPIRIT!
My first counsel is this: Possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart, that thine may be a sovereignty ancient, imperishable and everlasting.
An urgent question
In 1973-1974, my husband and I traveled and lived in Europe. We got jobs on the Canadian Air Force base at Baden-Sollingen, Germany. I worked in the warehouse pricing stock and Ray Wingett worked there, too, repairing stereo equipment for military personnel. Ray and his wife, Maddie, were pioneers to nearby city of Baden-Baden, close to the Canadian Air Force base.
I had been on a spiritual search for some time, although I was not really consciously aware of it. I had taken a comparative religion course at university, and had made a good friend who espoused Rosicrucianism. One of my roommates at university was a Swedenborgian. I was quite dissatisfied with the Catholic religion, in which I had been raised, but despite this contact with religions that weren't mainstream, I still had not entertained the real possibility that I would not live up to the expectation that "Once a Catholic, always a Catholic." And when I heard the coffee room gossip that Ray belonged to a "weird religion", I sure wasn't interested in finding out about it! There was to be no "weird religion" for this Catholic girl.
However, Maddie would come into the warehouse and she would always be very warm and friendly towards me. Gradually, we got to know each other, and have coffee from time to time. We found that we had similar backgrounds from which we were trying to heal and we would talk for hours about the latest popular psychology theory about what made people tick. I remember her loaning me a book about one of the theories.
Maddie and Ray invited us to their home for an evening. I remember the warm hospitality and especially the homemade cookies--the sure way to get to my heart in those days. Almost out of politeness and not really wanting to know very much, I asked Maddie about her religion. She told me about the Bab and Bahá'u'lláh, and I remember thinking, "oh, sure", because the names were so different. She was sensitive enough not to talk too long. But she said, as we were leaving, that this was a religion for man in his maturity. That particular choice of words bothered me, because I was 26 years old and probably was supposed to be mature, and I really didn't feel mature! I really didn't feel settled in my life and was going through some major emotional tests.
Another time, we invited Maddie and Ray to our little apartment just off the air force base. I was becoming fairly nationalistic about being Canadian, and we had hitchhiked around Europe with Canadian flags on our knapsacks. We wanted to make sure no-one mistook us for Americans. Interestingly, we met some really wonderful American people on our travels, who were very humble and conscious of the image of the "ugly American" in Europe. And, on more than one occasion, we had met Canadians who we were not particularly proud to call our countrymen. On the evening the Wingetts visited us, I was spouting off about being a Canadian. When I had finished, Maddie said, "I am grateful to have been born in Canada, but I consider myself a citizen of the world." I almost gasped, because I recognized the truth in her statement--it cut through all insularities and prejudices. It really penetrated my soul. The seed had been sown.
Maddie and Ray left Germany for Canada a few months before we did, settling in Ontario, while we returned to Nova Scotia after several months of traveling. When we arrived in Halifax, a letter was waiting from Maddie, welcoming us home, always cheerful and always encouraging.
In one of her early letters, Maddie asked me to look up the Bahá'i community in Nova Scotia, because she wanted to know how many Bahá'is were down there, saying she was too stuck in her own backyard to really know what was going on. I wanted to do it, because I really liked Maddie and she had asked me to, but somehow I couldn't. I guess I knew, deep down, that I wouldn't be able to just ask about statistics, I would have to know more.
It was several months, nine in fact, from the time I first asked Maddie about the Faith until I went to my first fireside. I had run into a Bahá'i at a women's conference, and had also seen a Bahá'i ad in the newspaper. I wasn't working much just then, and having a lot of time on my hands to think, my search began to re-surface. I had gone back to church, though I found it difficult to get involved. One day, I was sitting at Mass listening to the sermon, and the priest, who only knew me by sight, stared right at me, and said in very strong, fire and brimstone tones, that we need to REALLY pray and then REALLY listen to what God is telling us. It bothered me that he was staring at me, but I ended up taking his advice. Within a short time, I had decided to go to a Bahá'i meeting.
At the first fireside I attended in Halifax, I asked many questions, especially about how Bahá'is regard Jesus Christ. The questions were answered fully to my satisfaction and my most urgent question: "what are we supposed to be doing with our lives?" was answered in a way which was like a mystical confirmation for me. I had a dream/vision while in Germany which involved light and feeling that I was part of the light. At the fireside, one of the young Bahá'is answered my question by saying: "we should become channels for the light". I later learned that Bahá'i means follower of Bahá'u'lláh, and follower of the light. It was my moment of confirmation. I left the fireside feeling that I probably already was a Bahá'i. I had been loaned the book, "Bahá'u'lláh and the New Era" and by the time I had read through it a few days later, I knew for sure that this was what I had been seeking. I was ecstatic to learn that God had not left mankind alone and that He had sent a new Messenger with teachings for this day. Being from a journalist background, I was very attracted by teachings that met the needs of the times.
Within a week, I had declared my faith and was enabled to get involved very quickly by the Bahá'i community of Halifax. I phoned Maddie when I declared and she burst out in tears. But my story about Maddie doesn't end here, it only begins. We have never lived in the same community, but Maddie has really been there for me through many personal struggles in my life as a Bahá'i. I have been a Bahá'i over 22 years now, and she has never quit being in touch, mostly by letter, over the years. The letters would come several times a year and were long and expressive. She would respond to my questions, and my struggles, with sympathy and encouragement, and would relate them to her personal experiences, and especially to the Faith and the Writings. Because of our similar backgrounds, coming from unhealthy families, she could always relate to my tests. I can truly say she was one of the biggest factors in my becoming deepened as a Bahá'i and being able to stay steadfast in the Faith, in spite of my grave feelings of inadequacy and unworthiness. We have had a few visits over the years, which usually turn out to be marathons of talking and sharing. Maddie's great love and understanding have enriched my life so much, and I am so very honored and grateful that Bahá'u'lláh gave me this wonderful person as a "spiritual mother".