Signs of human
The cigarette butts in the corner of the stairwell are nestled together. These are the signs of human life. A group of us were trying to meet neighbours in an apartment building in Parkdale, Toronto, in order to converse with them about Baha’u’llah, about the state of their community and about the nature of us. A small group of us had been doing this for two weeks to gain experience in having conversations of spiritual import. On this particular evening, unexpectedly, a new group of Baha’is joined us. I felt very nervous about outreaching with a new partner. It was almost the end of the night and usually at this point, especially if I am not coming into contact with very many people, I begin to eye the time, hoping it will leak on by so I can go home. The building we were in was quite bare. No one seemed to be home. Many of the lights in the hallways had burnt out. My partner was older than me but admitted he had not done anything like this before. It was decided that we would engage with those who lived on the sixth and seventh floors. He was hesitant and I was beginning to feel desperate to meet people. I prayed to God that that he would be confirmed. We knocked on door after door but there was no sign of life. No one answered on the sixth floor, so we went to the seventh.
We stopped to say a few prayers. I said one by Abdu’l-Baha that read, “These souls are Thy heavenly army. Assist them and, with the cohorts of the Supreme Concourse, make them victorious …”. Abdu’l-Baha constantly desired to serve humanity. While knocking on doors that night, I imagined him waiting behind every one. I wanted to see anyone who emerged as a divine being, rather than as as a potential threat to the experience of my friend.
On the seventh floor a woman answered her door. She had tangled blond hair and some missing teeth. She yanked the door open and told us we could come in. We accepted without hesitation. I was so happy that someone had finally answered their door. Her name was Theresa. She had been homeless for long periods of her life and still spent most of her time pan handling. She said that the government paid for her current apartment so that she could have a place to stay. Her apartment had only one couch and table as furniture. Her bed was a blanket on the floor. Alcohol had caused many problems in her life. She could not go without drinking it. She cared deeply for children and for homeless people who were mentally ill, because they lived in the worst conditions and were often mistreated by others. We shared several Baha’i prayers with her, especially for healing. One read, “Thy name is my healing, O my God, and remembrance of Thee is my remedy.” She loved these prayers and said that we visited her at just the right time, as she needed a friend. The same was true for us. My partner and I were very moved by this woman’s receptiveness to hear about Baha’u’llah, Who came to unite all the peoples and races of the world. I thought about what it meant to be a Baha’i that night and advanced in my understanding about Abdu’l-Baha, who visited those of every walk of life.