For the second time this year, my heart is breaking for someone I barely knew, for someone who passed through my life for just an instant and passed on to the next life too soon. And again, it is a pain I struggle to comprehend, and almost feel guilty to feel – for having only met someone once, what right do I have to feel this sadness for their absence, or to want to give my condolences to the family who I also barely know, or to share my praises of someone who barely knew me? Such words from a practical stranger would simply seem insincere. But this person clearly has made an impact on me – more than I even realized until now. And I really just want to express it somewhere, if not to them, than at least here.
For while I only really had a conversation with this woman on one occasion and witnessed her incredible faith and warmth in person on this one day, the beauty of her soul shines through so brightly through the words and deeds of her entire family – the brightness of which I’ve rarely come across. Never have I witnessed a family so selfless, so cohesive, so loving, so fully and completely devoted to constant service to mankind – so much of which is clearly due to the exemplary example of the parents. Just having the opportunity to be a part of the same Baha’i community as them this year and to see the love they have for their community has been a blessing to me – to see the effects of their children’s classes, junior youth groups, firesides, and devotionals on the spiritual growth of so many other souls. Or to see the amount of love and respect that children can show towards their parents – the kind of love that manifests itself in action, and is reflected in the love they so generously pass on to others. These small and indirect glimpses I’ve had into the huge effect that a few individuals can have on so many people and to be reminded of how much positive change can be achieved in the world through selfless service, trust in God, and ceaseless efforts to lead lives wholly devoted to the happiness of others is truly inspiring.
While a part of me is sad for the missed opportunity to have gotten to better know an admirable human being while in this world, and while my heart is sore in thinking of what the family is going through now – to whom all my thoughts and prayers go out to at this time, another part of me feels driven to make something more of these feelings – to strive more sincerely and deeply to re-align all the elements of my life to its ultimate purpose: serving mankind. What better way to express my appreciation and remembrance of a person whose life example has touched me than to work towards the achievement of everything that their life represented?
Beneath these confused mix of emotions, I also can’t help but feel reminded of my own mortality and of the shortness of life. I feel as though the cliche ‘life is short’ has never held so much weight in my mind as it does now. From the passing of another beautiful and inspiring person earlier this year – one who was even younger than me and who I had the incredible privilege of teaching some children’s classes with – the fleeting nature of life resonates even louder in my mind. And I don’t feel the weight of this reminder in a morbid, depressing sort of way, but more so as a call to action. It is a reminder that each and every day and each and every moment truly matters – that our every thought and action is an opportunity to progress or regress, to work towards something good or allow our situation to remain stagnant.
It has also awaken me to the mindset I have fallen into lately – having been in the ‘adult world’ for a year now and achieved more than I could have ever wished for in my career thus far, I had allowed myself to believe that it was enough; that working for an organization whose primary objective is to improve people’s lives somehow meant that I was achieving everything I needed to be achieving, and that as long as I continued to devote everything to staying in this career path, I was doing my part to help the world. It was a mindset that had largely dominated my thoughts and actions throughout college as well – a mindset which centred around the underlying concept of a ‘future,’ of some undefinable yet certain endpoint/life circumstance that I was continually working to attain. Under this delusion, I felt complacent as long as my actions were leading towards this ‘future’, knowing that it all was for the purpose of placing myself in the best position to do something good for the world.
But it was just that: a delusion. I’ve found that it is possible to be selfish even in a career centered around selfless motives, or to lose focus of what my ultimate spiritual purpose in life is by focusing too much on the self-defined goals and objectives for my material life that I deem as ‘good enough’ by way of serving others. It is in the shortness of life and the shining example of those who have ascended to the spiritual realm (as well as the countless living examples I see each day) that I am reminded of how necessary it is to make each day count – not simply by going to work each day at a place that helps to improve the material well being of others, but by striving to make sure that whatever work I am doing, it is done with a heart full of love, a joyful and prayerful spirit, and a mind always centered on the well-being of others. And to never allow myself to feel complacent in any single action, but to strive towards a life in which all my thoughts and actions become manifestations of love and selflessness. While I have an extremely long way to go, I think it is important to at least articulate, and remind myself that a career goal should never become a life goal in itself.
“Assist the world of humanity as much as possible. Be the source of consolation to every sad one, assist every weak one, be helpful to every indigent one, care for every sick one, be the cause of glorification to every lowly one, and shelter those who are overshadowed by fear.
In brief, let each one of you be as a lamp shining forth with the light of the virtues of the world of humanity. Be trustworthy, sincere, affectionate and replete with chastity. Be illumined, be spiritual, be divine, be glorious, be quickened of God, be a Bahá’í.”
And in working towards this ultimate goal, I hope that my actions can convey the gratitude that I feel towards those who have touched my lives so deeply through their radiant spirits, not so much through our minimal interactions, but simply through the beautiful examples of love they showed in the world.