The spirit of giving
Three Baha’i families in our community hold regular devotional meetings including a monthly “Tranquillity Zone”, which my wife and I hold in our home.
All three consist of readings, mostly from sacred texts of the world’s religions but also some quotations by contemporary figures, combined with some meditative recorded music. The aim is to uplift and inspire — to refresh the soul.
We always hold our Tranquillity Zone on a Friday night. We find that the end of the working week is a good time to pause and reflect rather than to go out on the town. Or maybe that’s giving away our age.
Being close to Christmas, we adopted as the theme for our final one of the year, “Giving and the Spirit of Christmas”.
A program called Ocean enables us to explore the length and breadth of the Baha’i writings for Baha’i quotations and there are also numerous quotation websites for the others.
We searched for quotations with the words “give”, “generosity” and “gift” — all synonymous with the spirit of Christmas. What struck me was how so many of the quotations reminded us that giving and generosity are not allied to wealth.
“Be not troubled in poverty nor confident in riches, for poverty is followed by riches, and riches are followed by poverty. Yet to be poor in all save God is a wondrous gift,” said one quotation of Baha’u’llah.
“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” — Kahlil Gibran.
But the quotation which received most reaction on the night was one from Baha’u’llah which starts: “Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity. Be worthy of the trust of thy neighbour, and look upon him with a bright and friendly face. Be a treasure to the poor, an admonisher to the rich, an answerer to the cry of the needy, a preserver of the sanctity of thy pledge.”
The full quotation contained 35 exhortations about how we should conduct ourselves, concluding with “Be a fruit upon the tree of humility.”
As for music, we again resorted to the internet, starting off by searching for ideas on YouTube. That led us to an album, “Songs of Joy and Peace”, featuring guest artists performing songs of their choosing with cellist Yo Yo Ma that reflected the album’s theme. Preferring old-fashioned CDs to downloads off the internet, we spent two mornings searching record shops before eventually finding one that had it in stock.
We ended up using four tracks between readings and some pieces by Bach as background during the readings. The album’s “Wexford Carol” and “Touch the Hand of Love”, combined with the readings, was, for me, what Christmas should be about.