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Abstract:
Stories from a different point of view - one influenced by the Revelation of Baha'u'llah.
Notes:

Short Stories

by Duane L. Herrmann

published in Institor Gleg: New and Collected Stories
2017
Contents
  1. And The Beginning...
  2. Sunday School Surprise
  3. Darrin and the New Name

And The Beginning

© Duane L. Herrmann

Troy Rubin sat at his desk quietly working in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the office: phones ringing, people carrying papers and files back and forth and computers beeping once in a while. Most of the people who work in the office are unaware he is a superhero; some know of one or two of the things he’s done, but no one knows the whole story; not even Troy himself knows the whole story.

Some of his obvious actions include carrying a woman out of a burning building, rescuing a baby from drowning in a lake and a young woman from downing in her car. Less obvious was the care and nurturing he gave his younger brothers when he himself was a child which resulted in them not developing dyslexia or ADHD as he did, and the attention he continues to give, on his own time, to institutionally handicapped children, and to residents of a nursing home near him.

No one notices that his hand shakes as he reaches for the phone to answer it. He responds to 60 to 80 calls a day, nearly all of them about complex legal or financial matters and he has 30 seconds after the call to decide its basic content and code it into the phone log. During the phone call, he has to enter information about the call and possibly change information in one of a dozen databases. If people are angry, he gets those calls too. The stress of this has already once sent him directly to the hospital emergency room, he fears it may happen again.

On this Monday morning, after a three-day absence, he could not remember which computer password to put into which screen. The computer programs he worked with necessitated six different passwords, some chosen by himself with different replacement cycles, others assigned according to the work areas. Being dyslexic, this was a very frustrating situation for him. The brains of dyslexic people process information as images of things not abstract concepts, that is why reading is difficult for them. The word ‘cow’ represents a concrete thing; the word ‘though’ represents a concept, not a thing. A blank computer screen has no visual clues at all as to what to do next.

It took Troy an hour that day, when he should have been doing paperwork, to finally get into all the programs he needed to access. During that time, he had been on the phone four times with the technical support personnel, the last one of whom yelled at his incompetence. The IT person had no understanding of the difficulties which computers present to dyslexic people. It was not long after the phone calls began coming, and Monday’s are the worst days, that pains began occurring in his chest. Stabbing pains in the center of his chest.

As a child Troy had been forced to work in uncomfortable and difficult, even, (not to also say) dangerous, situations, so he ignored the pains except when they were so sharp, he could not breathe. Only at those moments did he consciously notice the pain, then the phone would ring again, and he would be distracted. Having Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder has its disadvantages.

Suddenly, a massive tight pain returned to his chest, only this time more intense than any of the others and, as he gasped for breath, he felt a new pain shooting down his arm. He could barely register this new pain, and its possible meaning, as he tried to reach for the phone, it was ringing again. Then he stopped thinking and sounds faded away.

He felt very peaceful, embraced by a depth of love and welcome as he had never felt before. While held in this love he began to remember parts of his life….

He was holding the baby bottle up so the baby could be fed. The bottle was thick glass and very heavy for Troy’s little arms. He was only two himself. The necessity of holding the bottle so that there was always milk at the end had been severely impressed on him. When his mind wandered, or his arm grew tired, and he heard the sound of air being sucked, he quickly returned his attention to the task. The bottle was so heavy he figured out to lie on his left side, hold the bottle in his right hand and support that arm with his left. It was work! But the baby listened to him and was grateful for the attention.

The babies changed and new ones came into the family, but somehow it remained his job to feed each of them. He did not know that by his doing this job he was saving his brothers from becoming dyslexic. Unlike their mother, he looked at the babies as he held their bottle. He often talked to them. Both seeing his face and hearing his voice, were crucial to their mental development. Troy was the first baby and his mother had become bored with nursing him, she did not look at him as often as she read a book, and while reading did not talk to him. He was shut off with only her profile to see.

Every baby needs to see a face as much as possible to reassure its existence. By looking away, the baby could only see a profile, therefore the baby is forced to create the face it needs to see from the profile. This teaches the brain to disregard what is actually seen for what it needs to see. The visual image is not sufficient. This is why dyslexics see letters and words backwards, because the brain cannot trust the visual image and changes it in hopes the change makes more sense. At the same time, memory is visual because it is the bits of visual information that are clues to what is needed. By looking at his baby brothers, Troy gave them the visual image they could trust as real and they did not become dyslexic as he was.

As he became older, his jobs at home expanded until, during the summer he was thirteen, he took care of the household in the absence of his mother. That fall his father put him on a tractor to begin farming. In effect, isolated on the farm, he never had a childhood, nor a teenage social life….

Troy was in a new scene, one when he was eighteen, walking alone at the shore of a lake. He heard a splash behind his back. Without seeing, he knew it meant someone had fallen into the water.

“Daddy!!!” screamed a little boy.

Troy turned and saw the boy pointing to the lake, there a little head bobbed and went down. Troy was the closest adult; he didn’t see any others around. He raced down the grassy bank and into the lake, throwing his billfold out of his pocket at the last minute. He splashed into the lake, saw a little body dimly in the dirty water and grabbed for it. His fingers touched cloth and reached further for something more to hold on to. He grabbed and raised it up.

The child was a girl about two years old. Water came out of her mouth and she began to cough. He held her upside down to help the water come out of her lungs. She coughed and began to cry and gasp for breath, all at the same time.

Everything happened so suddenly. The toddler soon realized she did not know who was holding her and began to cry more, in real fright now. Troy rubbed her back to reassure her and spoke softly to her. He stood for a moment trying to calm her down before walking out of the water.

The little boy, probably an older brother, had run off screaming in the direction of some trees where there were tables and clusters of people. Troy watched as adults began to look in his direction, and one young man began to run towards them.

Troy walked out of the water, found his billfold on the ground, and began to walk slowly toward the father. He turned the baby so she could see her father coming and she held out her arms toward him as she continued to cry.

“Daddy!” She cried and began to wriggle to be free of this stranger.

An older woman in the group picked up the little boy and began to walk with him toward Troy. A few other women in the group found towels and came too.

“Sheila! Sheila!! Oh, my God!!” the father exclaimed as he ran toward Troy and the baby with his arms outstretched. “Oh Sheila! Oh baby!”

By the time he reached them, Sheila had begun to shiver through her crying. Her father took her from Troy’s arms and held her tight. He buried his face next to hers and crooned softly to her. One of the women put a towel around the baby and helped the father sit down. Another put a towel around Troy and urged him to sit down too.

“Take the baby’s clothes off, so she can get dry,” one of the women said. “The wet clothes will keep her cold.” She began to help the father take of the clothes and wrap the baby in a fresh towel.

“Thank you so much,” said the older woman with the boy coming to Troy. “We didn’t realize these two had gone so far by themselves. It’s been a hectic day, and now this too!!” She paused. “My name is Lorenza, this is Kendrek,” she pointed to the little boy in her arms, “and their father, Jaron. We are so glad you pulled the baby out. I don’t know what we’d have done if we lost another one.”

“Mommy dead,” said the little boy solemnly.

“Yes,” the woman agreed. “She was killed last week in an accident. Their older sister is in the hospital. We had to pry Jaron away so he could spend some time with these two. We’ve all been too distracted. Maybe the lake was the wrong place to come, we just never imagined this...”

“You need some dry clothes,” a man said as he walked up to Troy. “I brought an extra shirt. Here.” He handed it to Troy.

“I have an extra pair of shorts I think will fit you,” said another. “Here.”

“You ought to change the shirt now before you get a chill,” said one of the women. “The breeze is cool.”

Troy nodded without connecting the words to any action.

“Let me help you,” the woman added. Troy simply raised his arms up so she could pull the tight, wet tee shirt off him. Then she handed him a towel and helped him dry. He put on the dry shirt automatically. She then wrapped a new, dry towel around him.

“We’ll make a wall,” said one of the men. “So, you can change the shorts. There’s no place close.” The two men stood side by side and the women turned away.

“Will you join our picnic?” asked the grandmother when Troy finished changing. “I don’t know if you’re hungry or not, but you can at least sit in a chair.”

Someone reached out to guide Troy to the picnic tables. The father was helped up and they all walked back to the picnic. The baby was calmer now, not crying just gulping in huge sobs, feeling safer and warm.

“There is no way I can thank you enough,” the father said to Troy. “I heard Mom telling you about what we’ve been through. We just couldn’t handle another one. I don’t...”

“I understand,” said Troy. There wasn’t much more to say.

“Would you like a chair you can recline in and rest a bit?” someone asked Troy as they arrived at the picnic area. He nodded, yes.

“We’re about to eat,” said another. “Would you like to join us?” Troy nodded again. Someone brought him a plate of food as he sat down.

“If you don’t think you’ll like something, don’t worry about eating it, we won’t mind,” the girl with the plate said.

“Thanks.”

“Would you like water, tea or a soft drink?” Another person asked. She was holding two cups and nodded to the boy beside her with several cans in his hands. Troy selected one of the cans.

“Thanks,” he said.

“Don’t even think about it,” she replied. “We can’t begin to thank you enough.”

As he ate, Troy looked around the family and began to notice that it was different from other families he had known. No one raised their voice, no one was contentious or dominated the outing. And, they weren’t all the same color. Some were black, some were white, many were different shades of brown or tan. The adults were easier to distinguish than the children. The children were more difficult to tell where they might be from. They were various shades of brown, most with curly or wavy hair, some not. The father of the baby and their grandmother were white, but the baby and her brother were tan. Their skin was a warm golden color. Troy was amazed. He’d never seen such a serene family or such a colorful one. He was silently impressed. Not wanting to appear rude, he kept his observation to himself; if they didn’t think it was odd, he certainly wasn’t going to mention it.

He visited with different members of the family as they came to thank him for pulling the baby from the lake. They were all embarrassed and ashamed that they hadn’t watched the children more closely.

“You were an angel today,” said one young boy. “Did you know that?”

Troy shook his head, no.

“Yes,” the boy said earnestly. “People can be angels when they sacrifice themselves for someone else. And you did that. You could have drownded out there.”

“Well, it wasn’t really very deep,” Troy answered.

“But you didn’t know that. You could have stepped off a water cliff.”

“Oh.”

“Being an angel doesn’t mean you’re dead,” the boy clarified solemnly. “It just means that you’ve given more of yourself than expected,” he added seriously, nodding to himself. “More than thinking of any benefit to yourself,” he paused. “Bahá’u’lláh said so,” he concluded, satisfied that he had said everything he knew.

“You’re right, Jakeem,” said a young man coming up behind the boy. “But maybe our new friend doesn’t know who Bahá’u’lláh is.”

“You don’t?” the boy asked in astonishment.

“Well, now I do,” replied Troy. “You just told me.”

“Oh.” The boy had a slightly puzzled look on his face, not understanding the comment.

“Jakeem!” A girl on the nearby swing set called, and the boy ran off in her direction.

“My son thinks everyone knows about Bahá’u’lláh,” said the young man said. “He’s still surprised when people don’t. I hope he didn’t bother you.”

“No,” answered Troy. “He told me that I am an angel, that was a bit of a surprise.”

“Yes, most people are surprised to hear that. But, humans are spiritual beings and we can be angels when we rise above ourselves.”

“That’s what he said,” Troy agreed….

The scene faded and another appeared before Troy.

This time he was driving on a dark and winding country road late at night. As Troy rounded a curve, he saw a beam of light shining oddly into the trees by the side of the road. The light seemed to be coming from the creek which ran along beside the road. As he approached the light, he slowed his car: something had to be wrong for the light to shine like that.

When he stopped the car and looked over the edge of the road, he saw a car – upside down, partially submerged in the water. Troy let himself down the side of the creek. It was steep but there were tree roots and saplings to hold on to so he would not slip or roll down.

“Is anyone here?” he called loudly. “Can you hear me?”

“Oh, help,” he heard a faint female reply. “I can’t move, it’s hard to breathe.”

Troy hurried down to the car and looked inside. The window was open so he could easily look in. The interior was only faintly lit from the reflection of the headlights. He could see the driver hanging upside down from her seat belt. The top of the car had been crushed as it landed, so there was less headroom than normal, and the water of the creek was high enough to get her wet.

“The water…” the driver sputtered. “I can’t breathe, I can’t hold my head up. It hurts.”

“Let me see what I can do,” said Troy as he tried to open the front passenger side door, the one closest to him. He struggled with it, the top, which was in the water, was bent, but he was eventually able to open the door enough to crawl in the water into the car. He raised the driver’s head above the water; that solved the first, most immediate problem. Together they tried to unbuckle her seat belt. She said she was glad to have it on. She was sure she would have been killed without it; but it was jammed or broke. She was stuck.

Troy helped her get as comfortable as possible and they talked about different ways to get help. Among this conversation, they introduced themselves to each other. Her name was Lurleen. She had been rushing to a friend’s house and forgot the road curved abruptly along the creek. The road was not well-traveled, so it was not likely anyone else would drive by. Using the car horn to get attention would not be effective. Then she thought of her cell phone. She couldn’t reach for her purse and assumed it was under water, but with Troy to help, maybe he could find it. He didn’t have a cell phone.

Troy began to feel around in the dark among her things that had landed on the ceiling, not all of which was under water. There were quite a few papers, books and clothes that had been thrown around. Troy began to feel through the stuff that was dry in hopes her phone was there. If it was wet, it would do no good.

He had to change his position, sticking his legs and feet into the water below Lurleen’s head so she could rest her head on the top of his legs which were above the water. This freed his arms to reach and feel through the stuff on the ceiling.

As he felt each item, he described it to Lurleen. If it wasn’t her purse, he pushed it out of the way, but higher away from the water. It was slow going in the dark.

They had almost given up hope that it was above the water, when he found her purse at the edge of the water. Inside was her cell phone. The dial lit up and Troy was easily able to dial 911 and describe the situation. When that call was finished, he also called her family. Lurleen was able to talk to her parents who scrambled out of bed to come. Eventually Troy and Lurleen heard sirens in the distance and all kinds of commotion commenced.

Then that memory, too, faded….

The sound of the sirens was replaced by another alarm going off. It didn’t take a genius to know that the blaring in the hall was a fire alarm. Troy woke in his apartment with the alarm screaming outside his door. The smell of smoke in the air was also evidence that this was a serious situation. As he pulled some shorts on, Troy reviewed the residents on his floor of this small apartment building. They all knew each other to some degree. Two of the units were empty, that left Dennis, next door, on his side of the hall, who was now heard yelling, “Fire! Fire! Get OUT!!” And, three women on the other side of the hall.

A door slammed shut just before Troy opened his door. Going out he saw the head of Alice Simpson, from across the hall, going down the back stairs as black smoke rolled upwards on the ceiling above her. He pounded on the middle door, that of Mrs. Watkins. She was older and able-bodied, but a bit standoffish. She wouldn’t even exchange greetings as they would pass in the hall. Troy didn’t wait for a response, but went on to the last door, that of the frail Mrs. Jones. He knew she couldn’t get down the stairs as quickly as she needed to. The smoke on the ceiling was now thicker and lower, very close to the top of his head. She might not even comprehend the situation.

He was right.

Troy pounded on her door and called her name. They were on friendly terms and he had done little favors for her from time to time, so he knew she felt she could trust him even at this hideous hour of the night.

He started to pound on the door again.

“What...?” the small, frail woman looked at him with sleep and bewilderment through the door which she had opened just a slight ways, not comprehending the possibility of an emergency…

“The building’s on fire, we’ve got to get out!”

She stared at him not comprehending. There was no time.

“I’ll carry you!” Troy announced as he scooped her up in his arms.

“OH!” she exclaimed as she grabbed her arms around his neck. “My slipper!”

“There’s no time.” Troy was nearly to the stairway when it registered that she had lost a slipper. He glanced back and saw it on the floor in front of her open door, but the smoke was his main concern. It was in his face now.

He focused his eyes on each step as he carefully, deliberately stepped down one from another. If he missed a step and fell it could be fatal to his frail burden. Not only would her bones break on impact, but he was likely to crush her just by his weight alone. And the smoke was getting in his eyes.

At the landing between the two floors of the building Troy began to see smoke around his waist and smell it more strongly. It was odd to see the smoke at waist level rolling towards him in little black clouds. Soon the smoke rose to his eyes and became darker to see through and painful to breathe. In the far distance Troy began to hear sirens, but kept his concentration on his stepping down and breathing carefully. He didn’t want to drop her.

At the main hallway level, he turned to descend the last short flight of steps. Here the smoke was billowing thickly and directly up from the lower level. The air was black! He took a breath and held it then began the last steps down. He could just barely see the edge of the steps: step down, step down, step down, step down. All of his concentration was focused on stepping carefully down...down....down. And two more steps to the door! By now, he could see nothing. All was black. Door. Push!

In the closed entry, hot, stale air filled his lungs. He staggered through the door and let Mrs. Jones down to her feet. Both of them stumbled over to the wall to breathe a bit. They were not completely out of the building, but in the vestibule, separated from the rest of the interior. At least they were separated from the smoke and could breathe!

As Troy went to the exterior door to hold it open for Mrs. Jones, he could see the sweeping red and white lights of the fire trucks and other emergency vehicles. He opened the door just as they arrived; cold, moist, fresh air rushed at him like a shock. The sirens screamed until the vehicles pulled up to the building then were abruptly shut off. He helped Mrs. Jones out of the building and out of the way of the emergency personnel.

“Oxygen,” he said and pointed to her….

Now, this memory too, faded. Troy found himself in a space that was placeless.

He understood that his acts of patience, resignation, selflessness and self-sacrifice far outweighed any lapses of kindness that occasional occurred. He had constantly, time and again, set aside his own desires and wishes in order to be of assistance to other people. The consequence, some would say “reward,” was now to be evident, and would be eternal. The suffering and pain of his life fell away as if they were nothing, because they, in truth, were nothing – not even worth a memory.

Suddenly Troy felt the urge to stretch and stretch, so he did. As he stretched, he began to unfold. After he had stretched, as if in a good, satisfying yawn, he stretched some more. He felt like he was exercising muscles that he’d never known existed – they truly hadn’t. He stretched his arms to impossible lengths. He took great gasps of air and felt his body expanding with every inhalation. He felt he was expanding like a balloon! He stretched his legs and they seemed to lengthen forever. His whole body felt different; he felt energized and revitalized as never before in his life. He felt electric! And he felt joy. Such joy as he had never known; more joy than he could contain. Joy and energy seemed to be rushing through him and radiate from him. It was the most exhilarating sensation of his life! He felt as if he could do anything!!

As he began to feel less need to stretch, Troy became more curious about his surroundings. There was his office and a figure slumped over his desk with the phone blinking. Troy recognized his body, but it didn’t concern him. He was not that body. It was an old, used thing, that he had no more use for. In a moment, it seemed a very long moment, a supervisor came around the corner of the cubicle to see why the phone wasn’t being answered. She moved in slow motion, as if underwater. She had a scowl on her face and opened her mouth to speak, but Troy paid no attention to the words. He didn’t even hear them. He knew her anger.

She approached the Troy’s body, then tentatively shook it. The chair rolled back from the desk and the figure fell to the floor. Troy could not hear a sound but he knew the pain and distress that came from his supervisor; so many things had been painful in her life and the shock of seeing one of her staff dead on the floor was too much to contain. As she gave herself over to the pain that had been building for decades, she staggered and grabbed for support, then collapsed. Others in the office heard, and there was more commotion.

Troy felt sorry for them all. They shouldn’t care so much for the body that was on the floor, he was fine, but they could help the supervisor. He wished them all peace and comfort and brought his hands together as if to push a wave of peace over them. As he did so, he saw his new arms for the first time.

He was startled. His “arms” were no longer really arms. They were different, somewhat like wings, but not like wings either – or at least not like bird’s wings. They were more beautiful than anything he had ever seen before.

His arms, and all the rest of what he’d thought of as his “body,” were lights and colors. Lights radiated out from himself. Troy was now composed of Light.

Lights and colors radiated from him in all directions. Bits of light, energy and peace sparkled out from him as if joy visualized. And music. He could hear music as part of the light and color. He was amazed at this transformation.

‘Is this what the little boy meant about angels?’ Troy wondered.

“At the time of death, you will be given the form best suited to your immortality.”

Troy did not exactly hear the words, but the knowledge flooded through him that his self-sacrificing actions in life had earned him this form of beauty and glory. Here was an unknown reward for the efforts and actions of his life. There was justice after all.

Troy looked down to see more of his amazing new form and noticed far below him – he seemed to be suspended in air – tiny black forms moving with apparent intensity and purpose.

‘What...?’ he thought.

“Those are souls, too,” came the answer. “They are people who lived differently than you. They could not see past their own self-interest. They did not reach out to others. They did not help anyone. Their souls did not grow through their actions. They are content and at peace, but they cannot imagine you, just as you cannot comprehend my reality. Do not feel regret for them, they earned their condition. They have a peace now that they lacked on earth. There are some souls even less developed than they.”

Troy was astonished. There seemed to be levels of life here, just as in the earthly world. Plant life on earth could not comprehend animal life. Animals were aware of but could not comprehend humans. It was amazing to find the same relationships between souls after death, only the separation now was by degrees of spiritual development. It was a new concept to Troy, but so reasonable and obvious.

It proved out some of the teachings of many very different religions: as if they all had a vision of the future reality, but not a comprehensive view. Yet, if people had followed the spiritual teachings of their religions, they would advance in this new reality, but few apparently did. Most got caught up in details that had nothing to do with becoming a more selfless, spiritually advanced person.

Troy simply marveled at this new situation. It was beyond his conception. Gratitude flooded through him for such a balance in the universe. He understood that not only his self-sacrifice had resulted in this new, unimaginable form, but the fact that he had not allowed himself to become bitter because of the ignorant treatment of others towards him. While he had suffered in life, his soul had been growing and his new condition was the natural, inevitable consequence. Even if he had hoped for such a result as this, it would not have happened so spectacularly. He had thought of no reward, no vengeance or retribution. He just did the best he could do – and this was the mind-boggling result!

He had never imagined this possibility.

In life, he had assumed he was insignificant. Now his true essence was clearly manifest. It could no longer be hidden. He was a tremendously powerful spiritual being. Conditions governing life on earth had prevented anyone there from knowing this truth. His form was now magnificent.

He was astonished and laughed in the pure joy of it.

As he laughed, he could see joy pulsing away from him like waves of water rushing outward. He could see those waves go out to touch every person who had intersected his life. Unaware of the cause, each of those people paused and remembered him for a moment and smiled at the memory. Troy now sent special, focused waves of love to his family, his brothers and sisters, their wives and husbands and children, and all his other relatives he had ever seen or known; and then to those who had come before him, whose lives and led to his. Then he sent a wave of joy to his friends that he’d shared in his life’s journey. This message of joy was his farewell to his earthly life and connections.

“Now I’m ready,” he said to whatever forces in the universe that were responsible for his transformation. In an instant he was transcending the limitations of the physical realm and entering into a new dimension of reality – without pain, suffering or other physical limitations.

Troy’s true journey, his real life and purpose, had just begun.

Sunday School Surprise

© Duane L. Herrmann

"Good morning, everyone."

"Good morning, Pastor," most of the people in the room replied in response or nodded their heads in respect.

"How are you all today?" Pastor Arbiter asked. This received various responses in return.

"How was your week?" He continued.

"I'm looking forward toward your sermon." One answered.

"I was surprised at the news…" and other comments were made around the room in response. This was the adult Sunday School class which the preacher himself taught. It was a more personal aspect of his ministry which gave him more feedback and interchange than his sermons. Class size ranged from six to thirty, sometimes with guests. A dozen were present today.

"As most of you know," the Reverend began. "Last Sunday we finished the lesson, but a while back we decided not to start the new one until the beginning of the next month so people could join our class then if they want to. We have this Sunday and next, so I've brought an activity for today that I think you'll enjoy.'

Everyone in the class shifted eagerly in their seats. Their preacher was known for unusual and interesting subjects and conversations. What had he prepared for them now?

"Each one of you take one of these folded papers and keep them folded," he began as he looked around the room. His arms were raised and each hand held several small, folded pieces of paper. He wanted their attention and now he had it. "Do not unfold these as you take one, everyone will get one. When everyone has a paper, we will go one at a time and each person will read the quotation on their paper. We will discuss each quotation as we go along and its relationship to the others."

"Oh," said one or two involuntarily in surprise.

"I will pass them out now, and no peeking." He handed each handful to the person beside him who took one and passed them on. "And, one other little thing," he added as he saw that nearly everyone now had a piece of paper. "The scriptural sources aren't all Christian." As gasps of surprise began to emerge from several people, and others opened their mouths to speak, he quickly asked, "Blythe-Ann, would you begin reading your quote?"

"And if there is a party among you," she began with surprise. She had been thinking of a comment the little son of her nephew had made the day before. He had earnestly assured her that, since her hair had more color than that of his father, which was turning grey, his father must be older that she was. They were close in age, and had played together as children, but she was older by ten years. Her mind quickly focused as she continued. "Who believes in the Message with which I have been sent, and a party which does not believe, hold your-selves in patience until God doth decide between us, for He is the best to decide."

"So," the preacher said as he surveyed the room. "What is the source of that statement?"

"It sounds like Christ would have said it," Galvin offered. "But I can't place which Gospel…" Galvin fancied himself a scholar, but this was not based so much on his own studies as it was on what he had heard from others.

"Didn't Paul say something like that to the Thessalonians?" Zyra asked. She was a thoughtful woman who seriously listened to other people, but never held an opinion of her own for very long. In fact, she preferred to agree with whoever she was listening to so, on many issues, she didn't really know what she thought.

"No." Edson said with finality. "One of the apostles said it in Acts." Edson was sure of himself, as long as something felt right. If it didn't feel right, he didn't know.

"Let's put that down," said Pastor Arbiter, as he turned to the writing board on the wall behind him. "Hold yourselves in patience," he wrote on the board. Then beside it he wrote: 'Gospel, Thessalonians, Acts.' "Any other suggestions?" He asked the group. Their response was silence.

"Joella," he said next. "Will you read your verse?"

"… and he that hath no sword," she began. "Let him sell his garment, and buy one." She looked around the room, puzzled. She didn't know what statements about swords would be doing in scripture. Scripture should be about love and peace and nice things like that – not swords and fighting.

"You said other scriptures?" Helmer asked. When the pastor nodded, he continued. "Even heathen ones?"

"Heathens?" Florie asked in astonishment. "Heathens don't have scriptures."

"Well…" Helmer tried to sort out his thoughts. "You know who I mean, those…, those Islams."

"You mean, Muslims?" Zyra asked.

"Them," Helmer nodded. "They're always wanted to kill someone. It's got to be them." He was confident. But then, Helmer was never short on confidence. Even when confronted with facts that were opposite from his statements, he was confident he was right. How could something be wrong as long as he said it?

"Any other ideas?" Pastor Arbiter asked before he turned and wrote on the board, "Buy a sword." And beside it, "Islam."

"Kira," he said as he finished, "will you read yours?"

"Those who believe," she began. "And those who follow the Jewish scriptures, and the Christians and the Sabians – Any who believe in God and the Last Day and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve."

"That has to be Paul," Kira said. "His letters are full of encouragement."

"But, maybe not…" Zyra said hesitantly.

"Well," said Edson thoughtfully. "Jesus didn't use the word Christian, but it certainly is one of the apostles. They were the first Christians."

"It could be in one of the Gospels, though." Blythe-Ann added.

Here Pastor Arbiter turned and wrote, "Those who believe," and beside it, "Paul, Apostles, Gospel."

"Lathan," the pastor then asked. "Will you read next?"

"And to the others he said in mine hearing," Lathan began. "Go ye after him through the city, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity: Slay utterly old and young, both maids, and little children, and women."

"That's got to be those Islams!" Helmer burst out definitely, then demanded. "Why did you even include them in this class?"

"It's good to learn other points of view," Kira said to placate him. "Even if you don't agree."

"Well, I certainly don't agree with killing women and children." Helmer declared. "It's barbaric and certainly unchristian!"

"Any other thoughts?" Pastor Arbiter asked before turning to the board and writing, "kill women and children," followed by, "Islam."

"Edson, would you read yours?" He asked when he finished writing.

"Let there be no compulsion in religion…" Edson read, then sat looking at the statement for a moment as if he was bewildered. 'Who would force anyone on anything about religion?' He wondered to himself.

"That's more like it," Helmer said with a satisfied expression on his face as he looked around the room at the others. "We're getting back to Jesus, where we've belonged all the time."

"Jesus?" Asked Kira, "Or, Paul?"

"I don't care which," Helmer replied. "As long as we're back to the Good Book." Helmer brought his hand down hard on his Bible startling the people beside him.

"Any other suggestions?" The pastor asked as he surveyed the class. "Okay," he said as he wrote, "No compulsion," and beside it, "Jesus, Paul."

"Galvin?' He asked. "Would you read yours?"

"And if any one of the idolaters ask thee for aid," Galvin began. "Then aid him, in order that he may hear the word of God; then let him reach his place of safety, that is, because they are a folk who do not know."

"Definitely Jesus," said Edson.

"Absolutely." Agreed Helmer, who with his arms folded across his chest looked triumphantly around the room in satisfaction.

"Yes," added Kira and some others simultaneously. "Unless it was Paul."

"That was quick," Pastor Arbiter stated. "You all agree?" He saw all the heads in the room nod. So, he wrote on the board, "Idolater asks for aid," followed by, "Jesus."

"Zyra, would you read next?"

"Think not," she began. "That I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword."

"Definitely another one of those bloody Islams," Helmer gruffly stated with disgust.

"I would have to agree," Zyra concurred. "It's Muslim."

"Didn't Jesus say something like that?" Joella asked in a puzzled voice not wanting to contradict anyone, but a dim recollection rang in the back of her mind.

"Not Jesus." Helmer stated, sure of himself. "Not Jesus. Definitely not."

"He's the Prince of Peace," Florie asserted. "Jesus couldn't have said that!"

"All agree?" asked the pastor. Heads around the room nodded, so he wrote, "Not to send peace." And beside it, "Muslim." No one noticed the slight smile on his face as he did so.

"Helmer, it looks like you're next," Pastor Arbiter said as he looked at him sitting next to Zyra, his wife.

"That city," Helmer began. "Is none other than the Word of God revealed in every age and dispensation. In the days of Moses it was the Pentateuch; in the days of Jesus the Gospel; in the days of Muhammad the Messenger of God the Qur'an."

This statement caused blank stares around the room. How could anyone write about such opposites as Jesus and Muhammad in the same sentence? What scripture could that possibly come from? They were clueless. It certainly wasn't from the Bible, but where…?

"No takers?" The pastor asked. Most people in the room silently shook their heads, no, while the few others just had a blank stare. "No idea, Helmer?"

"Well…I…umm…." Clearly, he was flustered. The preacher had not singled out anyone else in the class and he was caught off guard. He usually had an instant opinion, but this time he was totally lost. "No, I don't," he finally and carefully said.

"Well," said the preacher and he turned and wrote, "Word of God," then, "no idea."

"Florie, would you read?"

"Now go and smite Amalek," she read. "And utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass."

"That's them Islams again." Helmer asserted, his confidence returning again. "They're nasty buggers!"

"Weren't the Israelites instructed to kill their enemies in the Old Testament?" Galvin asked, not quite sure of himself.

"I think so," agreed Blythe-Ann. "But, surely not the children and animals too. That's just too much."

"We seem to have a quandary here," the pastor noted, looking around the room.

"Why kill the children and animals?" Asked Kira. "What would be the point of that?"

"Killing children is barbaric and reprehensive," Florie interjected. "And, killing animals is just cruel and pointless. This can't be any religion, at least no real religion." She was totally upset by the content of this quotation.

"And other ideas?" The pastor finally asked. When there was no response, he turned and wrote, "Kill children and animals," then, "Islam, Old Testament, undecided."

"Florie?" He asked.

"God," she began to read. "Answers those who believe with the sure word in this world's life and in the next; but God leads the wrong-doers astray; for God does what He will."

"Well," said Edson. "That's certainly true. It has to be in the Bible, it can't be from any other book, but I don't know where in the Bible."

"It doesn't sound like Jesus, though." Zyra nodded her head in agreement. "Maybe one of the Apostles?"

"Yes, I agree," added Galvin.

"So, you agree it's in the Bible, but you don't know where?" Asked the pastor. Heads nodded in agreement, so he turned and wrote, "God answers," and, "Bible – somewhere."

"Is that everyone?" The pastor asked. "Well, are those all the quotations?" He saw people nod their heads in agreement around the room. "I can see that we need to revamp our Biblical studies, and we need to add a world religions class."

"Well, how did we do?" Asked Helmer looking around the room in proud satisfaction.

"Actually…" the pastor paused. "You have a perfect score."

Helmer nodded with great satisfaction and beamed his smile around the room, while the others in the room broke out in their own grins and nods of congratulations to each other.

"I didn't say what kind of perfect score." The pastor held up his hand for attention. This caught people in surprise, and they quieted, waiting to hear more. "All the answers, every one, were exactly and perfectly…" He paused for effect. "Wrong. No exceptions."

"What…?" Stunned looks surrounded him around the room. Jaws even dropped open in stupefied surprise while some sputtered in indignation. This was not the assessment they had expected. What was wrong?

"This was a good lesson." The pastor went on. "I learned a lot. I learned what we need to study in this class, and I learned that you answered from popular myths and imagination instead of factual knowledge." Voices began to rise in objection, but he raised both hands for silence and attention. "This is how we learn, by first finding out what we don't know, or by finding out what we think we know is inaccurate." He looked around the room to gauge how they were taking this perspective – that ignorance was not a crime, but an opportunity to determine what more you needed to learn. Then he added, "These scriptural passages are from four religions, four sets of scripture."

"Four?" Came the stunned question from more than one surprised person. None of them had considered this possibility. He had said the quotations weren't all from Christian scripture, but they hadn't considered the number of possible other religions.

"Yes." The preacher answered. "They are from the Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Bahá'í religions."

"Bah…what?" More than one person asked.

"I've heard of that," Zyra offered. "It's…well, I don't know how to describe it, but they believe in God and Jesus, but not quite the same way we do."

"All four have the same common roots," the pastor continued to the surprise of his class. "All four are Abrahamic religions. They share that same history of Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses. Each has a slightly different perspective on those people and their history, but they share that common history." Surprise looks continued around the room and some jaws dropped. This was astonishing news. Their Adam? Their Noah? Their Abraham? How could anyone else claim them?

"Let's look at the verses you read, in their historical sequence," Pastor Arbiter continued. "The first ones are: "Now go and smite Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and ass." He paused, then continued. "And to the others he said in my hearing: 'Go ye through the city after him, and smite: let not your eye spare, neither have ye pity; slay utterly old man, the young man and the maiden, and little children and women."

He looked around the room at the blank faces in the class. "Those were from I Samuel 15:3 in the Jewish Bible, but in our Bible, it is considered I Kings, with the same chapter and verse. The other is Ezekiel 9:5-6, respectfully." He paused to let them consider this aspect of Jewish history.

"I knew God was stern in the Old Testament," ventured Galvin. "But I didn't realize it was this extreme."

"Not as bad as those damned Islams," muttered Helmer under his breath.

"Jews aren't violent now," Kira offered.

"They are in the West Bank," Edson countered.

"That's just to protect their country." Florie interjected. "If the others would stop fighting them, the violence would end."

"I…" Helmer began loudly, but couldn't find words to continue.

"We're not here today to settle the problems in the Middle East," Pastor Arbiter raised both hands to obtain silence. "Kira has a good point. The Jews, or the Israelites, were once violent, but stopped. Why did they stop?"

"Did it have something to do with the Babylonian exile?" Joella asked while others looked at each other in bewilderment.

"Yes," the pastor answered. "They were conquered, taken to Babylon as slaves so when they were allowed to return, they were grateful simply to be able to rebuild their country."

"That's a lot of suffering to end up being peaceful," Blyth-Ann commented.

"God works in mysterious ways," Joella observed.

"These next two were spoken by the same person," the pastor continued. "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword." He paused to look round the room. He had their full attention. … "and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one." He looked at the expectant faces. He had their total and complete attention. "Both of those attributed to Christ, in Matthew 10:34 and in Luke 22:36."

"What…?" Several exclaimed at once.

"But he's the Prince of Peace," Zyra objected. "I don't understand."

"Nowhere in any of the Gospels, nor anywhere else in the New Testament, is Christ called the Prince of Peace," the pastor explained. Several people gasped at this revelation. "That title was given him long afterwards."

"Afterwards?" Florie repeated. "Long afterwards?"

Pastor Arbiter nodded solemnly. He had expected this to be difficult to hear.

"So, he's not the Prince of Peace?" Zyra asked, shocked and puzzled.

"That's one of the titles that the Church gave him," Pastor Arbiter repeated. "He did not use it for himself. Nor is it used in the New Testament to refer to Him." He paused a moment, as several people gasped in surprise, then continued. "We need to move on, we'll soon be out of time. The next five quotations are all from the same source, the Qur'án, the Holy Book of the Islamic faith whose followers are Muslims." He looked up at Helmer and pointedly said, "There is no such thing as, 'an Islam.' Islam is the name of the religion, those who follow Islam are Muslims."

"These verses are, 'Let there be no compulsion in religion…,' 'And if there is a party among you who believes in the Message with which I have been sent, and a party which does not believe, hold yourselves in patience until God doth decide between us, for He is the best to decide,' 'And if any one of the idolaters ask thee for aid, then aid him, in order that he may hear the word of God; then let him reach his place of safety,- that is, because they are a folk who do not know,' 'God answers those who believe with the sure word in this world's life and in the next; but God leads the wrong-doers astray; for God does what He will.' And 'Those who believe (in the Qur'än), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians – Any who believe in God and the Last Day and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.'" He looked around the room to see amazement on all the faces.

"Don't that just beat all!" Helmer exclaimed. He looked as if he could be pushed over with a feather. He had not been this surprised in a long, long time.

"The sources," Pastor Arbiter continued. "Are: Al Baqarah (The Cow / Heifer) 2:256, Al A'räf (The Heights) 7:87, ~ Barä'ah / Al Tawbah (Repentance or Immunity, that chapter has two names) 9:6, Ibrähím (Abraham) 14:27, and Al Baqarah (The Cow) 2:62, which is repeated exactly the same in Al Mä'idah (The Repast) 5:69, so it must be important." He looked around at his small flock, satisfied that he could tell they were being challenged.

"Then why are they so violent?" Joella asked. "Those statements encourage tolerance and acceptance."

"Many millions of Muslims are not violent," the pastor stated softly.

"I really thought they were said by Jesus…"

"With such instructions for peace and acceptance, why the violence?"

"The crusades and the inquisition were also violent," the pastor answered. "And those bloodbaths, where uncounted thousands were killed, were carried out by Christians."

"Oh."

"Every religion has violent followers," Edson remarked. "They're fanatics."

"Except one," Pastor Arbiter amended. To their surprised looks, he explained. "The last quote: 'That city is none other than the Word of God revealed in every age and dispensation. In the days of Moses it was the Pentateuch; in the days of Jesus the Gospel; in the days of Muhammad the Messenger of God the Qur'an.' That is from the Book of Certitude, a central scripture of the Bahá'í Faith."

"You did mention them some time back."

"I've heard of them…"

"It's a young religion" Pastor Arbiter explained. "But in its short life, of two centuries, it has spread around the globe to possibly be the most wide-spread religion on the planet."

"Two hundred years isn't much time," Lathan remarked. "Not to become violent, anyway."

"But they've had ample opportunity," the pastor responded. "They've been persecuted since their beginnings in Iran, as well as in other Muslim countries. They've had plenty of time to be violent, but physical retaliation, even in self-defense, is forbidden to them. They're obligated to obey the government, wherever they live, and have disbanded at different times in different countries, when the government has so ordered. Right now, they are struggling in Iran, Indonesia in the 1970s, Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, and other places. They've had many reasons and opportunities to resist with violence, but they have not done so. Can we say the same thing of Christians?" He paused. "I don't think so." He shook his head sadly.

"But how can they consider all those books to be the word of God?" Blythe-Ann asked.

"One of the Bahá'í teachings," the pastor answered. "Which the Church can't completely agree with, is that God has progressively revealed His will to mankind through different Prophets: Moses, Jesus, Muhammad and, now their own, Bahá'u'lláh. We can agree up to Jesus."

"How can it be possible to consider Jesus AND Muhammad, AND this new one?" Florie asked. She was beginning to think – this was a startling proposition. "They contradict each other…" then she realized the implication of the lesson: maybe it was the followers who created the contradictions.

"That's what the Church can't agree with." Pastor Arbiter said. Before he could continue, he heard voices and commotion in the hall outside the room. "It sounds as if class time is over for today. I hope you all learned a little more about some of the other religions whose followers we share this planet with. Stereotypes and assumptions are not good basis for opinions."

"We need to talk about this more," Lathan told his pastor as he headed for the door.

"I'm glad you said that," Pastor Arbiter responded. "That's my plan for next week."

"You've given me a lot to think about," Joella commented as she headed for the door.

"Thinking is good for the soul," the pastor replied. He was satisfied. He'd seen more thinking and more awakening today in his class than any regular lesson they'd followed in years. This was very good for building bridges and breaking down barriers.

"There's this guy at work," Helmer began rather hesitantly. "He's an Is… a Muslim," he corrected himself. "He's a nice guy, but I never could trust him. Now, maybe, I'll ask him about this verse," he held up one of the papers. "See what he thinks about it."

"That's a great idea," the pastor agreed and patted him on the shoulder as he went out of the room. "Talking with someone, and asking questions, is the best way to learn." He turned off the light and walked out of the room satisfied with his results.

'Thinking is good for the soul,' he repeated to himself. 'It sure is.'

Darrin and the New Name

© Duane L. Herrmann

‘What am I going to do?’ Darrin thought. ‘Either these people are crazy, or the world is. Around the world you can see wars and destruction: parents killing their children, companies firing employees simply to increase their profits, governments attacking their own citizens – it’s a crazy world, so these people must be sane.’

‘They say the human race is just one race, that there is no essential difference between people, no matter how different we may look. Scientists are saying the same things.’

‘They say that the human race has developed to the point where we are a mature species – and now we need to learn to act mature. And having wars is not mature behavior.’

‘I can agree with that, but it will be hard to do.’

‘They say that the basic core or impulse behind every revealed religion is the same cosmic truth, it’s just gotten distorted and added to over the centuries and millennia, so the religions look very different now.’

‘I can see that makes sense,’ Darrin pondered this idea. He marveled at how many different rituals and ceremonies and, just stuff, had grown up in each religion over the centuries. ‘What would the religions be like if they were stripped down to their basic meaning? Without rituals or ceremonies?

‘They say that the core message of each religion is to respect and love God, the Creator of the Universe, and to be better human beings.’

‘Who can disagree with that? If we can all agree on just those two points, we would have some agreement and could build from there. Maybe then we could find ways to solve our other problems. We keep putting obstacles in our way – and nothing is accomplished! That is so stupid.’

‘And they don’t deny Jesus. They affirm He is the Son of God who sacrificed His life for the salvation of mankind. He was the manifestation of the Christ Spirit two thousand years ago and that spirit has never left us.’

These teachings did not contradict anything Darrin held to be true, they just expand them or applied them in ways he’d never thought of before.

‘They say that human beings are, essentially, spiritual beings. We have physical bodies in order to overcome physical limitations.’

‘That makes sense,’ he agreed. ‘The physical world is a testing place. A place to learn to see beyond the surface. The world is full of more than we can see.’

‘They say that the purpose of our life on earth is to develop our spiritual qualities so that we may be able to function in our life after this one, when we won’t have our bodies. All we will have then will be our spiritual qualities, and if we haven’t developed many of them – we won’t be able to function very well in that level of existence.’

‘It’s a very different view of Heaven, but it makes sense – a lot more than those harps floating around!’

‘They say that our life here on earth is just like a child developing in its mother’s womb. In the womb the child develops the necessary physical organs to function in this physical world: eyes, ears, arms, legs, etc. And if those aren’t developed fully – that person will be handicapped in the physical world.’

‘And just the same way, if we don’t develop our spiritual qualities, such as mercy, compassion, forgive-ness, generosity, etc., we will be handicapped in the next world where those attributes are far more necessary than here. They are necessary here, but not so obviously necessary. If you can steal something in this world, and not get caught, there is no obvious reason not to steal. In fact, oftentimes stealing and lying would seem to be highly rewarded here especially for those who figure out ways not to get caught; or slip through loopholes in the system. But doing so damages our soul and retards our spiritual development; that’s what these people say.’

‘I can see how that makes sense. I’ve just never thought of seeing life in that way. If this is true, then everything we do, or nearly everything, has some impact on ourselves, on our souls. That’s very “Eastern,” so to speak, a kind of karma; I guess Christian too, since you reap what you sow.’

Darrin pondered these thoughts for some time. As he was walking or driving, he would come back to them again and again. He’d never encountered such a…well, practical view of death. It wasn’t scary or dreadful at all. Such a belief would indicate that our actions in this life had a meaning and value beyond this life, it would cause people to be a little more thoughtful about what they did.

‘They say that part of the maturity of the human race means that it’s no longer practical or useful to have enemies – personally, or even on a national or global scale. At one time, having an enemy promoted the survival of the group you belonged to, but that is no longer true. Now we can see that the group we belong to is the whole human race, and it’s self-defeating to have an enemy.’

‘An enemy, even just one person, can acquire or build a bomb that can destroy half a country, or more. With that capability, enemies are no longer useful. People are beginning to realize that somewhat, but no one has taken the next step of learning how to develop friendly relationship with those who could otherwise be enemies.’

‘It’s much more practical and beneficial to be friends than enemies, even on a global scale. Friends can be trading partners, enemies won’t be. The more trade and cooperation increases between nations, the better off we all are; and to promote relationships between nations, a federation of some sort will be useful.’

Darrin found it difficult to think that a religion would concern itself with such practical, worldly matters. It was so different than what he had learned earlier that religions were like.

‘Boy! This doesn’t sound like any other religion I’ve heard of! Some groups will talk about their social programs, but none have ideas as practical as this that embrace the whole planet! These people do have some earth-shaking ideas!’

‘And some people don’t like them, have tried to repress them. The Nazis didn’t like them – banned their activities and burned their books. The Soviets suppressed them for seventy years. Idi Amin, in Uganda, tried to put them down. And fundamentalists, especially Muslim fundamentalists, hate them. Yet they have survived all those attempts and continue to gently share their vision of a bright future for the whole world, for all the human race. Their opponents have eventually faded from sight. That is amazing!’

‘I don’t think they’re crazy at all!’

‘Why shouldn’t women have equal value in society along side men? They’re no less human than men! And they are really more necessary to the human race than men. Women give birth to and train and nurture the babies of each new generation. Men don’t generally do that.’

‘Science and religion can complement each other. Religion explains the purpose for the world and our life, science tells the details of how the world and we are put together. What’s the conflict?’

‘These ideas aren’t weird, they’ve just not been carried to this point. I don’t know of any other religious scriptures that address the need for international arbitration and collective security, or finding God in space, or the role of mass media. Such things would not have made any sense in the past! Empowering disenfranchised populations of the planet, radioactive contamination, care of the earth’s resources and environment – this is an amazing religion indeed!!’

‘These are all problems that we have to deal with today, and these people have answers, solutions that ought to be tried before we really mess things up.’

‘I can’t help but agree with them. Does that mean I’m one of them?’ This was a new thought for Darren.

‘I don’t know... It seems kind of odd – I mean, I’m not a “joiner.” I don’t like to belong to groups, but I guess this is different. I mean, they’re the only people who really make sense. If I don’t let them know I agree with them, I’d be some sort of liar, or at least lying to myself. Could I live with that? Do I want to?’

Darrin pondered this for some time. He’d never encountered a group quite like these people, and he couldn’t let their ideas go.

‘It’s odd to find another group of people, people all over the world, actually, who see things so much like I do. So, maybe I don’t agree with them about absolutely everything, but, still, what I do agree with is greater than any other group I’ve met. This is some kind of strange thing.’

‘I’m not sure what to do.’

‘Maybe, I don’t need to do anything...’

“I don’t know what to do!!” Darrin shouted in frustration. After a few moments he decided, ‘I won’t think about it. I’ve got other things to do. Besides, I can’t even say the name. It rhymes with “Hawai’i,” I think someone said.’

“Bah-high-ee,” he said out loud experimentally, then shrugged and dismissed it all. He went on about his life.

In the next few days and weeks, at odd moments, words and phrases would come to his mind, without prior thought by him: “Possess a pure, kindly and radiant heart.”

‘I can do that,’ he thought in response, ‘but what difference would it make? Oh, the state of my soul in the next world.’

“The best beloved of all things in my sight is Justice.”

‘The world could certainly use more fairness and justice – and more equitable relationship between people,’ he responded. ‘But I could never have any part of that.’ Then he remembered the councils of consultation these people were forming all over the planet to help people solve the problems in their lives. ‘I could be part of that...maybe.’

“Breathe not the sins of others.”

‘That would certainly improve the quality of society, if people would pay attention to it.

“I knew My love for thee, therefore I created thee.”

‘That’s comforting to know - that my existence was intentional,’ he thought. As a child he had wondered if his parents had wanted him around. They’d never said. The idea that God had intended for him to be created was comforting. Maybe his life wasn’t a mistake or just an accident. There was a deliberate intention to his existence. That was reassuring.

“Within thee I have placed the essence of My light.”

“God’s light is in me...” ‘What a thought!’ He turned this over in his mind for some time. ‘There is a connection, a personal, intimate connection between myself and God. Hmmmm….’

“The essence of faith is fewness of words and abundance of deeds.”

‘That would certainly transform the planet, if every religious person would pay attention to it! This all makes so much sense! Why can’t more people pay attention? With this guidance, we could change the planet in no time! Why don’t people wake up?!’

He struggled with the name, it was so odd to him, then he remembered a verse from the Bible that said, “I will write upon him my new name.” ‘This is a new name, hmmm…’

One day Darrin walked into the breakroom at his office and overheard two people he did not know well talking to each other over the newspaper.

“Did you see that article about the Bee-Ha’s?” One asked. “I can’t believe someone would think like that!” He burst out in anger.

“Well, there’s all kinds of cranks in this world,” absently answered the other.

“And what a stupid name: Bee-Ha’s!” the first said derisively.

“It’s ‘Bahá’í,’” Darrin said automatically. "Rhymes with Hawai’i."

“Bahá’í?” The second one asked. “Are you one of them?”

“No.” answered Darrin. “I’m not,” he mumbled as he left the room. Suddenly he felt ashamed, then he became confused. ‘Why would I feel ashamed for saying, ‘no’? I’m not.’

He wasn’t Bahá’í... then why did he feel as if he had betrayed something very precious? He walked back to his desk feeling very unsettled.

‘What have I just done?’

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