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.
What is the Purpose of Life?
It all started one summer in 1959 when I was sitting on the sand dunes is near my village in Northumberland, England. I was in my 19th year, and had just completed another weeks work underground, as a coal miner. It was one of those rare days for that part of the world, sunny and warm. As I sat there, I began thinking about the purpose of life. I could not believe my only reason for existence to be born, go to this mine daily for the rest of my working life, then die. I reasoned without the benefit of an education because I left school just before my fifteenth birthday, without a spiritual upbringing, and without influence from friends or family that there must be a higher purpose for being. It was intuitive. Having said this, I had no idea what to do about it, so there it was left.
One Sunday evening, a short time later, while discussing the evening plans with my friends—should we go to the movies, church, or the pub?—for some reason I considered that the plan of action was hypocritical. And to this day I do not know why. I only know that my intuition told me that I would one day find a religion that was not hypocritic in word or deed. My friends naturally greeted my ideals with a friendly sarcasm. However, I got my way and we went to the movies.
By 1964, I had been married with two children and immigrated to Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. I had radically changed my job to that of a ladies' hairstylist. One Wednesday afternoon, I worked on a client's hair for a considerable amount of time performing the tasks she had requested, and had a rather lovely discussion about people, world events and how each should be improved when it dawned on me that this person was not arguing with me. Normally my participation created considerable—and usually hostile—rebuttals. When I enquired as to why there were no disagreements she said, "what would you say if I told you that there are thousands of people who think like you do?". My reply was, "there cannot be or I would have met them before now". She said, "you just did". To say I was flabbergasted is mild. This lady was Helen Kelly, who with her husband Dan, ran a local pharmacy. Helen explained that the people she was talking about were Bahá'is. That triggered a memory of an article from two weeks before in the Hamilton Spectator, a local daily newspaper, about a Bahá'i wedding which described that although there was no clergy, the Bahá'is had received by the provincial law the right to conduct and sanctify weddings. This was interesting to me because it seemed so radical. My contact with the Kelly's continued for a further two years or so during which time I crashed a Feast and met what became many new friends, and was provided with various pieces of literature and a book called, Bahá'u'llah and the New Era, which I devoured. As I read, my excitement grew and then suddenly my contact was gone. The Kelly's pioneered to Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada.
My interest in the Bahá'i Faith stayed on but, because of lack of physical contact, began to wane somewhat.
Approximately two years later, on a very hot Saturday afternoon, I was working on a part-time job selling vacuum cleaners door-to-door. Since it was summer and hot most people were out so I gave up door knocking and returned to the office where I was asked to go to a house and repair a vacuum hose. A simple job, so I went. As I was doing the repair, I noticed a beautifully framed photograph on a small corner table. This photo seemed so out of place in this house, which was very Canadian in decor. The photo was of a middle eastern man who was wearing a beard. The lady of the house kindly made some tea and we chatted about different things as I worked. After a while, a man arrived whom I recognized but it took a few minutes for me to recall where I had seen him before, the it all came together: we had met at my first introduction to the Bahá'i community at the Feast I crashed at the Kelly's home. It was then that I remembered the picture was of `Abdu'l-Bahá. My words of recognition exploded out of my mouth as I rushed to explain to my hosts, George and Hazel Cuttriss, who I was and how I knew them. George placed me on his monthly newsletter mailing list. I was able to stay informed as to when any firesides were being held.
I also learned that two Bahá'i families lived close to a house we rented on Fench Ave., Hamilton. They are Esme and Sid Tukemans and Dr. and Aqdas Javid.
The Javid's, new immigrants to Canada, were holding children's classes in their apartment, where I decided to take my daughters, Carol and Lesley, ages 9 and 5, respectively. The class was held every Sunday. While the classes were going on, the adults joined a fireside and had refreshments. I often joked about where I learned about the Faith: in Aqdas' bedroom.
I developed a friendship with Sid and occasionally I met him for coffee in Dundas, a town next to Hamilton. I asked a lot of questions.
In the spring of 1969, I had an intimation. It was time to "put my money where my mouth is." I called Sid and asked what I had to do to become a Bahá'i. He invited me to his house, where I signed a declaration card.