- Abdu’l-Baha was the eldest son of Baha’u’llah. When Abdu’l-Baha passed away on 28 November 1921, He was eulogized as One who led humanity to the “Way of Truth,” as a “pillar of peace” and the embodiment of “glory and greatness.”
Conversations on the purpose of life from a Baha’i perspective will touch on the belief that all human beings have been created to know and worship God, and to promote an ever-advancing civilization. Each and every one of us has the capacity to do this.
Frances Mezei is the creator and compiler of A Journey of Courage which explores how the journey of life provides the opportunity to unleash the full potential inherent in each of us regardless of ability or disability.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I became a Baha’i in 1989 and became passionate about developing accessible communities because I was born with a profound hearing loss, learned how to talk and listen with hearing aids, and later with a cochlear implant. I worked as a counsellor at the Canadian Hearing Services, and had various jobs with seniors, children and persons with disabilities. I served as an editor of the international electronic ‘Healing Through Unity’ newsletter (back issues available on Baha’i Library Online, which is an individual initiative). I currently live in Guelph, Ontario (Canada), and am a mother to one daughter.
Can you tell us a little bit about your book?
The Sacred Writings of the Baha’i Faith provided inspiration and guidance on how to cope with disabilities or afflictions and how to support family members and friends who are disabled. The compilation offers an approach to transform our limitations and attitudes when dealing with our disabilities, health conditions and the aging process.
The content found in the Sacred Writings can assist communities to consider many accessibility issues, such as mobility, hearing, visual, mental health, diseases of various kinds, and neuro-diversity when it comes to learning processes.
The book includes “Guidelines for Improving Accessibility”: it shares practical
information to guide individuals and communities when planning public events as well as specific guidelines to assist persons who are deaf and hard of hearing and have visual and mobility difficulties.
What was the impetus for writing this book?
A group of friends – Shirlee Smith, Linda Bishop, Beverley Davis and myself – first got together in 1990 with the goal to explore how we could contribute to the discourse on disability and accessibility issues in society from each individual’s respective professional or personal perspective. Shirlee shared with us that a compilation was needed for the community because there were very few resources compiled on this subject. In going through the Writings, we were inspired by the number of quotes that were mentioned concerning disabilities and the importance of developing spiritual abilities. This search led us to the discovery that many members of the Holy Family also suffered from disabilities and afflictions which are referred to in the compilation. The book went through a number of stages of development before becoming a reality. After the group changed, I put the book in my drawer for five years. Then I felt inspired to start working on the book to bring it to fruition. I added new quotes and stories for the book, and worked closely with the publisher.
The book was published in 2002 by Nine Pines Publishing, Toronto. However, we felt that it would take time before the use of the compilation would be meaningful for the community. This changed quickly in November 2022, when the book became available on Baha’i Library Online. A few weeks later, I received an email from Baha’i Distribution Services of Australia, sharing that it was listed on the website. In order to have it available for print on demand, a revised edition of the book was created.
What was something you learned in the process of writing this book?
I would often refer to the compilation as a guide for self reflection and insights to better cope with my hearing loss in order to engage on a journey towards spiritual ability. It helped me to refocus from dwelling on my physical limitations to the importance of spiritual nurturing and the strength of the soul.
I was curious when Baha’u’llah counsels the ‘deaf to hear’ so I explored the Writings using these words. It intrigued me to expand my spiritual hearing and to better understand what it means to achieve a balance between physical and spiritual healing and abilities. When faced with challenging situations, I’ve strived to evoke a more mature and effective response when dealing with barriers and ignorance. I was fortunate to have many skillful guides to accompany me on the journey of bringing access to my communities since we explored, through consultation, ways to adjust to my communication needs.
Who is its audience? What do you hope your readers will take away with them long after they’ve finished reading?
It’s exciting to have this resource more readily available to help communities to assist with the process of accessibility and inclusion to ensure that everyone feels a sense of belonging in the community. I hope that this compilation will be a helpful and meaningful resource for individuals, families, health care providers, and communities since we all have our own difficulties and struggles to overcome, and to take us a step further in collectively learning about diversity in our community relationships.
Organizations, communities and places of worship need to follow the principles of dignity, independence, integration and equal opportunity when serving persons with disabilities. An effective strategy for managing accessibility efforts is to establish an advisory committee representing a range of disabilities to oversee all phases of the event, from planning to completion. This is especially important for larger events. For smaller events, invite and encourage persons with disabilities to guide and assist with the planning process of the event.
The book has been well received, and people are sharing: ‘This book is so needed in our communities.’
Thank you so much, Frances, for sharing this with us!
You can purchase a physical copy of A Journey of Courage from a variety of book retailers including Bahaibooks.com.au in Australia where you can also download it as a free PDF or ePub.
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