Accompaniment: A Personal Reflection

Good Friends

Image by Juliana Coutinho via Flickr

I remember stepping off the airplane into my new home, my pioneering post, thousands of miles away from all that was easy and familiar to me and from all that was loved and precious in my life. It was exciting. It was also scary.

The sun stayed hidden for days, the heat was heavy, and the air was thick with smog and exhaust. I had never seen the apartment where I would be living for the next year (part of my package with the university that had hired me) and when I arrived, the first thing I noticed was the stench of cigarettes. The second was the half bathroom. The third was that there was no kitchen.

It should have been a long, scary night full of questions and doubt. Actually, it was a long, scary night full of questions and doubt.

But it was surmountable because I was being accompanied.

A few weeks before I had arrived at my pioneering post, two of my friends, who were now married to each other, had also moved to the same city and, as it turned out, were only a 20-minute bicycle ride away from my new home.  They asked if they could come see me that very first night. Feeling tired and overwhelmed, I said no.

They insisted.

They rode over on their bicycles and upon seeing my apartment, they also insisted I spend the night with them. (They did this, however, with such tact and grace, assuring me that my apartment was run of the mill and I could probably get rid of the cigarette smell with the right chemicals. It wasn’t until months later that the wife confessed that the second she walked in the bathroom, she knew I should not be alone that night and that she would not be taking no for an answer.)

There was also the matter of getting to their place. I didn’t have a bicycle yet and for some reason we decided it would be a good idea for me to ride on the back of the husband’s, rather than just have me catch a cab to their apartment. So memories of my first night include riding on the back of a bicycle, giggling about how slowly we were moving, how absurd this whole scene was, and yet considering deep in my heart how sweet and beautiful it was too.

In the weeks that followed, they showed me where to buy my groceries, helped me buy a bicycle, taught me how to ride my new bicycle (which was another absurd and sweet scene) and they constantly checked in on me to offer their help and support.

In the months that have transpired since, we have reflected together, planned together, cried together, learned together, prayed together, and supported each other’s efforts. On days when I wanted so badly to give up, they urged me forward.

I had known the wife for ten years, and the husband for three. I had loved and admired them both from the very beginning of our frienships, but the friendship we had before cannot compare in even one measure to the one we have now—one that has been strengthened by service, support, hardship and accompaniment.

In its Ridvan 2010 message, the Universal House of Justice discusses the concept of accompaniment and its role within the Baha’i community. The Universal House of Justice describes accompaniment in these words:

It signals the significant strengthening of a culture in which learning is the mode of operation, a mode that fosters the informed participation of more and more people in a united effort to apply Bahá’u’lláh’s teachings to the construction of a divine civilization.

The process of accompanying an individual in his or her efforts to serve the Faith is of paramount importance for both the individual in their path of service, as well as to the Baha’i community as a whole.

For the friends to accompany one another does not simply mean for us to have kind words at the ready whenever we see each other. It means that we support one another’s efforts—we pray for each other, we reflect together, we stand shoulder to shoulder when that human support is crucial; we assist each other to start that devotional meeting, contact that parent, engage in that conversation directly and fearlessly.
When we do these things together, when we know that someone else is right there with us – maybe someone with more experience, fewer inhibitions, or even equally as shy and novice-like as we are – an experience that can be daunting and intimidating becomes a shared one, an opportunity for learning and growth, and certainly, for deepened friendship.

 

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Discussion 13 Comments

  1. I love this article. Beautiful! 🙂 Accompaniment is an excellent way of building unity because in its very nature it promotes unity. I love your story Nava.

  2. My autobiography or memoir is about a Bahai over his six decades of teaching and international travel. It is certainly a story about accompaniment. It is one of the few extensive personal accounts of the experience of a Western Bahai beginning in the second epoch (1944-1963) of the Formative Age. This autobiographical study begins at the start of the three teaching Plans in: 1937, 1946, and 1953 respectively and integrates a lifespan, 1943 to 2013, a life-narrative, into the context of the history of the Bahai community back to 1753, the year of the birth of this Faith’s chief precursor Shaykh Ahmad. I include over 2000 references from the humanities and social sciences within the western intellectual tradition. My account goes through to the early years of this new millennium, the first 60 years from the inception of the Kingdom of God on earth, 1953-2013.

    This work draws on many disciplines, on studies of autobiography and biography as well as a broad range of experience, to analyse my society, my Faith, my community and myself in those critical first eight decades of organized and systematic teaching Plans, 1937 to 2013. Readers will find my account at Bahai Library Online(BLO). The introductory sections, Parts 1, 2 and 3 of this epic 2600 page five volume 7th edition are available at: http://bahai-library.com/author ….This is an abridged, truncated and necessarily provisional edition for BLO.

    The Office of Review of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahais of the United States has given me permission to post my work in this form on the internet. The 3rd edition of this document was originally posted at BLO in 2003 and it has been edited and revised many times. A copy of this work at 800+ pages is now in the Baha’i library in Haifa at the Baha’i World Centre. The 7th edition of my work was posted at BLO in celebration of the 50th anniversary in April 2013 of the election of the Universal House of Justice in 1963. An 8th edition is envisaged to be published on the internet in 2021 at the end of the first century of the Formative Age if I last that long.

  3. Readers wanting to access this autobiography, my memoir, at BLO above, they have to type the work “Price” into the search box at the access page of http://bahai-library.com/author They will then need to scroll-down to the relevant posts from the long list of autobiogrpahical pieces at that page of my writings. If all this is too extensive a post here at Baha’i Blog, I have no problems if moderators and administrators at Baha’i Blog delete this post. I leave all this with you and wish you a happy Ridvan coming-up in less than 3 weeks.

  4. I always wanted to foreign pioneer, leave the US and go to a distand land for the Faith, but it never worked out for me. I never left the US and many times felt a failure that I was unable to carry out the Guardians directives to pioneer. So, being me, i though- I could open new areas here in the US, and I did. i woun’t say how many, or where they were, but I left my family, sold all my possessions, packed a few bags and boxes of books and set off to a new community. No job waiting, no place to live, just absolute trust in Baha’u’llah and his promise to assist those who assisted Him. I can honestly say I found housing with no trouble, a job took a bit longer but I was paid enough to live comfortably ,and my teaching began. When I read this Blog it was like I was coming home, for everyplace I went Baha’is from nearby town, or rural areas, came to see me all bringing furniture, food, love and fellowship. My lifeline, my joy. When I needed or wanted it support was there – in the most outlandish places – and I wasn’t alone as all my neighbors wanted to know how I knew so many people when I had just moved in, and they in turn became friends. What a beautiful Blog I thank you for sharing it.

  5. Nava thank you for this brilliant article!
    Not only you touched on the core of accompaniment through service but you also highlighted how this theme is at the core of every day life, in all we do!
    thank you <3

  6. Thank you so much, Corinne and Shamim, for the encouragement. Accompaniment has been absolutely crucially in sustaining efforts, and really has just made life so much more beautiful. Ron, how wonderful that you have such a rich life history to share. I wish you the best!

  7. Farida and Hip Hop, thanks as well! Jean, your thoughts are so inspiring to read. Certainly, one does not have to pioneer internationally to serve the Cause. In fact, in the light of the 23 May 2011 letter from the beloved House of Justice, it seems that work in our countries and continents is crucial to the forward movement of the Cause. Homefront pioneering is a very special service to offer!

    1. Hi Mary Rose! I tried to track down this link but the website for the US Baha’is has changed and it’s no longer available. I modified the article so it no longer contains the link but I’m sorry I wasn’t able to find it for you.

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