Individual initiatives call on creative approaches in crisis

April 1, 2020
Individual initiatives call on creative approaches in crisis

Updated frequently — latest: April 1, 2020

In her periodic “Spiritually Speaking” column for the Eden Prairie News in Minnesota, Baha’i Nanette Missaghi addressed the coronavirus pandemic March 29 with a piece titled “Facing our deepest fears.” 

An excerpt reads:

We are in a new place as human beings. The action we take now will influence generations to come. What will you do to reduce your fear and figure out how to serve? The best friend of fear is worry. I don’t have the answers but can offer my two cents. What helps me is the Baha’i long obligatory prayer. I have learned that the best time for me to say it is just before bedtime. It takes just 15 minutes of time and takes me from a place of nothingness where my spirit, brain and soul have let go to a place of tranquility. What meditation or prayer do you use?

Read the full story here.

***

A March 26 article in The Daily Northwestern told how Evanston, Illinois, resident Husayn Allmart and neighbors have designed several ways to maintain community cohesion during the pandemic. 

One is a “bear hunt” that Allmart, a Baha’i who works in the Office of the Treasurer at the Baha’i National Center, helped organize. 

“Participants put bears in their windows and listed their address in a Google Sheet,” the article reads. “Families with young children ‘hunt’ for these bears, using the Google Sheet as a guide. The bears ranged from stuffed animals to sketches.”

The article says Allmart wants to organize a similar hunt every week — each time with a different animal or theme.

“It has been really positive,” Allmart is quoted as saying. “It is a simple thing that we can do with our kids that is outside but still (respects) physical distance.”

Allmart has two 4-year-olds and told the newspaper the scavenger hunt is helping to get kids to go outside rather than stay glued to electronic devices.

“It makes us feel like a community,” Allmart says in the article. “It is a sweet thing we can all do.”

***

Lots of Baha’i musicians are sharing videos of their songs to cheer people up during the pandemic. But what about visual artists?

Jacqueline Claire Leal, a Baha’i in New Braunfels, Texas, has launched a podcast, Spiritual Conversation, in which she draws (pun intended) from her artistic process as well as life experiences and her faith for insights.

The first episode of the podcast is titled “Spiritual Resilience in the Time of COVID-19” and runs about 12 minutes. You can listen here — or on any of eight podcast platforms, using the search term “Jacqueline Claire.”

Leal calls the Spiritual Conversation series “a place to explore ideas and inspiration to help us all align with our spiritual purpose and live our best lives, no matter what challenges might be thrown our way.”

She adds, “I hope you will join me in authentic, uplifting discussions to equip us with tools, compassion and insight to help us navigate this life with creativity and grace.”

Leal also is creating a subscription project called 19 Days of Hope. It’s a series of daily emails starting March 30 “to help us be uplifted, happy, connected, ready to serve and full of hope during this uncertain time.”

***

Food distribution arrangements set up by youth in New Rochelle, New York, after schools in the area closed were soon adopted as an official food distribution point staffed by the state’s National Guard. Bahá’í World News Service

From the Baha’i World News Service

NEW ROCHELLE, New York — When the effects of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) began causing disruptions to life in their neighborhood, a group of youth quickly turned their attention to pressing needs arising from school closures. In this suburb of New York City, these youth have been studying and serving together in Baha’i activities that develop their capacities for service to society.

As schools shut two weeks ago, many children were left without an important source of daily meals. While official arrangements for food distribution would soon be in place, the group of youth realized that the friendships and experience they had collectively developed through community-building initiatives, including food distribution efforts, would allow them to organize an immediate response in the interim.

Read the full story: “Youth group distributes food, gains city and National Guard support

***

As in many places, Baha’is in the Rogers Park neighborhood of Chicago experienced a learning curve when a family moved its twice-monthly devotional gathering to videoconferencing.

“We discovered that group singing does not, unfortunately, work well over Zoom due to lag, but that individual songs come through beautifully,” the hosts relate. 

“We also found that funny moments can happen when someone forgets to mute themselves. Everyone was very gracious and understanding with figuring out the technology.”

The change to videoconferencing using the Zoom application was posted on personal and Chicago Baha’i Facebook pages, and attendees included Baha’is in several states and an elderly friend of the Faith.

“We chatted about how everyone is doing, then spent about 45 minutes in prayer,” say the hosts.

“After prayers, we each shared ways in which we’re serving our communities, and read a few sentences from the recent National Spiritual Assembly letter guiding us to focus on service at this time.”

Some of the Baha’is in Rogers Park “are preparing extra fresh food for their neighbors, some are checking in via phone with or picking up groceries for the elderly Baha’is in their areas,” the family reports.

“And others were inspired by the experience and were so excited to host Zoom devotionals for their friends. We’re definitely going to do it again!”

***

Anuscè Sanai and Eric Solatka, Baha’is in Alexandria, Virginia, have begun reading bedtime stories via Facebook Live every evening at 7:30 EDT.

They wanted to show their daughters, ages 8 and 5, “what it means to find opportunities to serve under all circumstances,” says Sanai. “This one felt very easily doable.” 

“We read children’s books that have a positive message,” she says. “Different characters, to be mindful of diversity and inclusion.” 

Each week starts with the reading of a virtue card to give inspiration for the days ahead. 

The couple hopes the initiative will help to “maintain a sense of community and also connect to others,” says Sanai.

***

Staying linked to one another also is on the minds of Emily Price and other Baha’i artists who are reaching out with songs of inspiration during the coronavirus pandemic.

“As I and so many musicians have been having all of our music gigs canceled and finding ourselves shut up at home, I was feeling the need to do the one thing that connects me with others the most,” says Price, an opera and choral singer in Chicago.

Her sister Rachael, lead singer for the band Lake Street Dive, “was supposed to perform on the [public radio] show Live From Here, and with that canceled they started a movement of musicians sharing music #livefromhome,” relates Price. 

“Following their lead I wanted to share a song from my now postponed Chicago A Cappella swing music program, hence the classic ‘We’ll Meet Again!’ 

“It was also a reminder to reach out to your friends and check up on each other,” says Price. “It definitely worked, as I’ve caught up with Baha’i friends all over the world who reached out after watching the song.

“It’s a helpful, calming reminder of the souls’ connection to each other.”

***

Stephanie Jaczko Robinson and daughters Clovy (left) and Cassia enjoy a noontime online concert by Red Grammer. Photo by Frank Robinson Jr.

Acclaimed children’s performer Red Grammer, a Baha’i in Upland, California, is taking to the Internet with a weekly concert. 

“I want to help bring some lightness and fun into your home, so during this wacky time I will be live-streaming a weekly concert from my Red Grammer Fan Page on Facebook Live,” reads Grammer’s announcement. 

His concert series was scheduled to kick off at noon EDT on March 19.

“Let your friends and neighbors know! Let’s do this!” says Grammer.

***

From the Baha’i World News Service

MANTUA, Italy — In a time when many parts of the world are grappling with the global coronavirus disease (COVID-19) crisis, Baha’is in some of the most affected areas are finding ways to be of service to their societies. Years of experience with community-building activities have equipped them to respond with creativity and resourcefulness to the current circumstances.

In Italy, where preventive measures have now confined most people to their homes, communities continue activities that bring hope. Many such initiatives have temporarily moved online, with people holding video conference calls to provide support to one another, to pray together, and to advance the educational endeavors of the Baha’i community that build bonds of friendship and capacity for service to society.

Read the full story, “Hope and support in Italy during a global health crisis,” at https://news.bahai.org/story/1401/.

***

Reflections on the Coronavirus and the Oneness of Humanity (Personal reflection originally posted on bahaiteachings.org)


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