Tell someone you’re a Baha’i and the most likely response is an instant look of puzzlement followed by questions along the lines of, “Ba what?” or “Ba Who?”
Look it up on Wikipedia and you learn: “The Baha’i Faith is a religion founded in the 19th century that teaches the essential worth of all religions and the unity of all people.” How do the faith’s estimated 8 million believers pursue the unity of all people? The answer is simple yet complex: We do it through love.
That was a hard one for me when I became a Baha’i a little over 20 years ago. Simply put, not everyone is lovable. I was thinking about this while out shopping one day.
I’m disabled and tend to move a bit slowly at times. As I approached the checkout counter, another shopper – clearly annoyed that I was in her way – leapt in front of me, slammed her purchases onto the counter, spun around and called me a blankety blank N-word. (She was white. I’m African-American.)
This was someone I was obligated to love! But how? Brand-new Baha’i that I was, I didn’t have the answer. I dropped my head and quickly uttered a silent plea for help via prayer. As I raised my head to look at the woman once more, the answer came to me from above.
It came in two parts: 1) She was behaving as she did because she didn’t recognize that I am a beloved child of God. 2) She was behaving as she did because she didn’t recognize that she, too, is a beloved child of God. With that, I looked her in the face, smiled and lovingly said, “God bless you.”
I don’t know how she had expected me to react. She certainly didn’t expect a loving response. When she got it, shock and horror spread across her face as she turned and fled the store. All of these years later, I still pray that she learns the true meaning of love.