Baha’i Week 2: A Culture of Service

One aspect of religion and faith that is at the core of many institutions is that of service. The Baha’i Faith is no exception. In fact, service and community involvement rests at the core of Baha’i values–not as a front for the propagation of their religion–but as a form of worship of God.

Therefore strive that your actions day by day may be beautiful prayers. Turn towards God, and seek always to do that which is right and noble. Enrich the poor, raise the fallen, comfort the sorrowful, bring healing to the sick, reassure the fearful, rescue the oppressed, bring hope to the hopeless, shelter the destitute. This is the work of a true Baha’i.

–Abdu’l'Baha in Paris Talks

Abdu’l'Baha seems to have left no stone unturned regarding our options to serve humanity. Baha’u'llah, who was born into a rich and noble family, cast off his birthright to serve God and Man–even though it meant spending much of his life in prison or exile. Indeed, he was called “Father of the poor.”

To honor my adopted Baha’i family, I’m now exploring different ways in which to serve my community. I happen to live in a high poverty/crime area, so one way I thought I could help was to organize a small-scale food and resources drive. Right now I’m using a “wish list” template from several non-profits in the area in order to gather the most needed materials for people in this area. This includes non-perishable food, blankets and clothing for the homeless, as well as books and pencils/craft materials for children who are victims of domestic violence. I’m also looking into volunteering my time at a local non-profit or service organization.

These are just some ideas I’m hammering out as of…15 minutes ago. I only have two weeks left in the month so I have to hit the ground running. That isn’t to say this will be the last time I participate in a service capacity, but you’ve got to start somewhere.

So here’s my challenge to all of you. The readership of Project Conversion represents people from all over the world. It’s really amazing to see the list of places. What can you do in your community to serve others–with no motivation other than to bring a spark of light to a life who, at the moment, is in darkness? It doesn’t have to be huge, just give your time, your resources, your compassion. Start a movement, and remember, an avalanche is achieved one snowflake at time. Be a snowflake.

I’d like to hear some of your ideas, your plans…maybe you’ve had some great service experiences in the past. Send those along too. Be sure to post them in the comment section below so that all can see and be inspired by your work.

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  • squarie

    Hello, I have been enjoying reading your project! One of the things I do, is bake for a local Cake charity. We bake birthday cakes for both children and adults in the Milwaukee area. Sometimes it’s for a young boy who is in a transitional living situation due to child abuse, sometimes a disabled adult in a group home or a woman in a domestic abuse shelter. It has given me a great opportunity to discuss these issues with my children, and a way to channel my baking energies for good!

  • guest813

    I am a photographer. I volunteer at a local teaching hospital to take professional pictures of beloved children who never get to go home with their families because of medical issues that are incompatible with life. It is a great comfort to these families to be able to have a nice picture of their baby, even though the child will not live.

  • Tmennillo

    Hey, Andrew! Great post. Hope your challenge sparks a rousing response. Baha’is, as you know, have a spirit of service instilled in them from an early age and they practice service in ways great and small every day. But the ultimate goal is not to do for others. It’s to empower others to do for themselves. They help people gain a vision, the tools (such as the core activities and consultation) and the will to take charge of their own development. It goes beyond “teaching a man or woman to fish.” That model presumes the person needs fish. Instead, the path to true transformation, both personal and societal, is for people to decide themselves what they need and how to get there, and then go about achieving it.

  • Janna

    My family and I have been getting to know our neighbours in our building recently. As we have a large number of children around, we gathering twice a month to share a meal, read inspirational quotes and sing songs and prayers with the children. It’s been a blessing to get to know the souls that physically surround us and an opportunity to be of service in their lives. What I’m realizing through this process is that everyone needs friends to rely on and offer support when life gets challenging. If I consider them my family, I simply can’t be “too busy” anymore. Thanks~

  • Lynne

    Baha’i's also believe that work done in the spirit of service is equivalent to worship. So, what you bring to your daily occupation is elevated to the station of prayer if it is done with the intent to serve our fellow human beings. Many people serve in their occupation, and if we think about it, whatever we do for a living impacts others, so do your job with a ray of light!

  • Anonymous

    Allah-u-Abha! Thank you for inviting me to contribute thoughts to this post. I don’t have the original text of my other post, so please feel free to repost it (or post it, and I’ll copy it over). But I will share the gist of my original thoughts here.

    At this time in the Baha’i community, we are working to put principles of consultation together with principles of service, and to avoid seeing service as a “top-down” activity. SO often, when we think of service to the poor, we think of the rich giving to the poor, the haves, to the have-nots. The Baha’i concept, as we are learning now, is a little different. Our goal is to actuate the human potential and nobility of every one, and to partner with them to bring about meaningful change. It is a slower, more painstaking approach, but I believe it is a more lasting one, because it doesn’t depend on outside charity, but internal clarity and integrity.

    In my own community, I started a choir – just out of the sheer joy of singing. The fellowship is itself a service, and our choir is now looking for ways to engage the wider community – not just with the gift of song, but with the gift of fellowship. That involves figuring out who in the community might appreciate/need such a gift, what it would mean to be a choir rendering that service (how different from just showing up to the hospital and singing, for instance?), etc. And the important part will be – engaging those who we hope to serve in the process of identifying what that service will be – and engaging them to participate in it. Whole new challenge, whole new way of thinking about things…..


  • Dianeb27

    I have the pleasure of being on the list of those who will make a dinner for a Baha’i family in my community who just had their second baby today! This started a few years ago – someone organizes who will bring dinners to the family for a week or more. And usually we get to bring the dinners to them, and see the new baby…. such a treat, to be of direct service, in a very simple and small way, and weave our lives together with that service. (I also volunteer time on various community projects, from year round involvement on a peace award committee to doing web content management for this environmental sustainability project and I’m a member of the Interfaith Sustainability Team listed there. There are so many ways to build community and increase the good energy in the world!)

  • Steve Marshall

    We’ve just moved to a new property and we’ve got a lot of time, but very little money. Our land is in a trust that is designed to keep most of it in as natural a state as possible, and we’re busy removing pests from it – which makes for a nicer environment for nearby residents, and for visitors. We’re also putting in a large garden and donating our excess to acquaintances and to the local food bank.

    All this gets us off the treadmill of spending “money we don’t have, on things we don’t need, [to create]
    impressions that won’t last, on people we don’t care about.”

  • susan

    Just have been reading more deeply your posts here, Andrew. I knew very little about this religious group but like how community-minded it is. I’ve served as volunteer on the local ambulance service for a few years in the past, but I’ve been looking for something to do again. I believe the library may be my path.

    • Anonymous

      Libraries are wonderful maps to knowledge we have too often forgotten in
      our world of Google searches. Happy hunting.

  • http://AddaURLtothiscomment kim

    to spend time with elderly is always a good one,they love it.