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December, 2002

A monthly newsletter dedicated to serving the principles of

physical and spiritual health envisioned in the Baha'i Teachings.

Volume 6, Issue #4




- "A Journey of Courage: From Disability to Spiritual Ability": a New Publication
- A Gift from Tim
- The Adult with Learning Disabilities
- Children with Learning Disabilities
- Dealing with Visible and Non-Visible Disabilities
- The Exchange
- Guidance from the Baha'i Writings on Organ Transplants
- A Reader is Requesting Assistance
- Newsletter Seeks Assistance
- Baha'i World Centre Needs Health Care Providers
- Question of the Month
- Website
- Purpose of the Newsletter





Compiled by Linda Bishop, Beverley Davis, Frances Mezei and Shirlee Smith Foreword by Member of the Continental Board of Counsellor, Dr. David Smith and Auxiliary Board Member, Meim Smith

This book is a celebration of life, where disability becomes ability, where struggle becomes strength, and where the effort to fully participate in the building of all that is noble and good is rewarded with victory after victory. As such, it is destined to serve as a wonderful source of insight and comfort to individuals, families and health care providers alike, assisting all who read it to understand what it means to truly embrace, in unity, the diversity of humankind. The compilers of this publication, all of whom are intimately aware of the ways in which society perceives disability, celebrate, in their own lives, the freedom of the human spirit to express itself in service to humanity. This compilation is an example of their devotion to such freedom. Contains many revealing and empowering passages from the Bahá’í Sacred texts as well as touching excerpts from stories and biographies about the Holy family and others. Comes complete with guidelines for creating an accessible environment for those with physical disabilities.

5.5”X8.5”, 160 pages, Unity Arts Inc. - Nine Pines Publishing 
9-945 Middlefield Rd Toronto, ON Canada M1V 5E1
Tel: 416-609-9900 Fax: 416-609-9600
ORDER DESK: 1-800-465-3287
Item No.: B6-290 Suggested Retail: $12.95 USD $16.95 CAD
(You can check your local Baha'i distributor for this book)


Quotation From the Baha'i Writings

The rewards of this life are the virtues and perfections which adorn the reality of man. For example, he was dark and becomes luminous; he was ignorant and becomes wise; he was neglectful and becomes vigilant; he was asleep and becomes awakened; he was dead and becomes living; he was blind and becomes a seer; he was deaf and becomes a hearer; he was earthly and becomes heavenly; he was material and becomes spiritual. Through these rewards he gains spiritual birth and becomes a new creature. (‘Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 223)




By Betty Marmura, Ontario, Canada (This article is submitted by Felicia Sandberg Jervis. Felicia shares that "Tim is Betty Marmura's son. He is a man with autism who does not speak, and who has inspired Betty to write a lot about disability related issues in a spiritual context. Betty herself is a United Church minister......A support circle usually consists of family members and friends of the person with disability. People gather regularly perhaps once a month to discuss the person's life, challenges, as well as the joys and to stay together for the purpose of journeying together with someone very vulnerable who depends on others for his survival.")

A Canadian Catholic theologian writes…..”When people are in communion and help one another, there is always more involved than just these people…..There is a gift dimension in human life that is not reducible to the human.” (G. Baum, Man Becoming) . The gift that friends and the community provide exceeds what they themselves possess. 

This gift dimension of fellowship, this grace-would undoubtedly be a constant source of wonder to every person were he or she sufficiently aware of it. Do we not all notice, from time to time, that people give us more than they really have? If, beneath all the layers of our pre-occupations, we do not notice this; if we do not have such a spirit of discernment, then we are diminished.

Support circles generate, as any true community can, that gift-dimension that transcends the gifts of all the participants combined.... At the center of such a circle, is a person who has invited others to share his/her journey; to dream with him, to build bridges, to share insights, to celebrate, to suffer, to plan, to grow. If, through a handicapping condition, the person is unable to invite others herself, then someone close to her may begin to surround her with people who wish to share in her life. 

Whether it is the handicap itself, or the vulnerability implicit in the condition and the openness of the central figure - either through innocence or necessity - the support circle has at its centre a natural “ground”. Like a lightning rod that attracts the electricity in the air and channels it, a handicapped person who shares his/her life ends up sharing much more than his life. To love and to “go with” such a person is to be alive in a special way. It is to be invited to a feast; to find a pearl at a great price; a treasure hidden in a field. It is to have the source and meaning of one’s life revealed.




Prepared by: Learning Disabilities Association of Canada, 323 Chapel Street, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, March 1997

Many adults with learning disabilities are not aware that the difficulties they encountered in school, and the problems in their relationships or their jobs, are due to learning disabilities. It was once believed that learning disabilities was a childhood disorder. We now know that this is not true - learning disabilities are lifelong and can affect friendships, school, work, self-esteem, and daily life.

Many adults with learning disabilities lead very productive and successful lives. But for many, success is not easy. Even though they have average or above average intelligence, some adults with learning disabilities are conditioned to believe that they are stupid and lazy. Their defeated efforts often result in frustrations, disappointment, low self-esteem and failure. 


A learning disability is a disorder that affects people's ability to either interpret what they see and hear or to link information from different parts of the brain. Although the individual with a learning disability has an average or above-average IQ, the disability becomes evident in both academic and social situations. Learning disabilities may be divided into five categories:

1. Visual Problems: poor visual memory, reversals in writing.
2. Auditory Problems: poor auditory memory, speech problems.
3. Motor Problems: poor hand-eye coordination.
4. Organizational Problems: poor ability in organizing time or space.
5. Conceptual Problems: poor social skills and peer relations, difficulty correctly interpreting non-verbal language. 

Learning disabilities need not prevent an individual from leading a productive and happy life. Individuals with learning disabilities can be found in all walks of life. Success may depend on many factors - severity of disability, early identification, remediation, career choice, support from family, friends and employers, etc.


You are not alone! Learning disabilities affect approximately 10 percent of the population.


No individual will manifest all of the difficulties listed below.

- Difficulty reading, writing, spelling. Inability to complete a job application form.
- Cannot follow written direction and/or remember several verbal directions.
- Problems putting thoughts down on paper.
- Feelings of anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.
- Difficulty finding or keeping a job.
- Difficulty budgeting and managing money.
- Time management difficulties.
- Short attention span, restlessness or hyperactivity.
- Difficulty in remembering and following the sequence of instructions.
- Difficulty in understanding social behaviour.
- Poor coordination and spatial disorientation.
- Difficulty with problem solving strategies.

It is important to note that these characteristics are often balanced by the presence of significant strengths and creativity.


Coping strategies are methods, systems, or tricks people use to help themselves accomplish what they want/need to do. 

Examples include:

- Identifying and recognizing strengths and weaknesses.
- Setting realistic goals based on abilities.
- Using technology to compensate for weaknesses (word processor, spell checker, calculator, books on tape, etc.)
- Accepting the disability and knowing that it's quite OK.
- Being flexible - finding other ways of getting information.
- Joining activity-centered groups to make friends.
- Breaking down large tasks into small ones.
- Identifying deadlines for small manageable tasks.
- Making to-do lists rather than procrastinating.


If solid coping skills and compensatory strategies are not developed, the learning disability may continue to interfere with work, education, social relations and basic daily activities. Some suggestions are: 

- Being assessed by a professional trained to assess learning disabilities, a neuro-psychologist, an educational psychologist, etc.
- Finding other adults with learning disabilities for sharing strategies,
information and support.
- Seeking counselling from a professional with knowledge about learning disabilities.


- Having a learning disability is a life-long condition.
- You are not alone.
- Support and information is available.
- Celebrate your uniqueness.
- Remember, it is never too late to ask for help!
- Never give up!




Taken from the website of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at, 1999. This article is printed with permission.

Parents are often worried when their child has learning problems in school. There are many reasons for school failure, but a common one is a specific learning disability. Children with learning disabilities usually have a normal range of intelligence. They try very hard to follow instructions, concentrate, and "be good" at home and in school. Yet, despite this effort, he or she is not mastering school tasks and falls behind. Learning disabilities affect at least 1 in 10 schoolchildren.

It is believed that learning disabilities are caused by a difficulty with the nervous system that affects receiving, processing, or communicating information. They may also run in families. Some children with learning disabilities are also hyperactive; unable to sit still, easily distracted, and have a short attention span.

Child and adolescent psychiatrists point out that learning disabilities are treatable. If not detected and treated early, however, they can have a tragic "snowballing" effect. For instance, a child who does not learn addition in elementary school cannot understand algebra in high school. The child, trying very hard to learn, becomes more and more frustrated, and develops emotional problems such as low self-esteem in the face of repeated failure. Some learning disabled children misbehave in school because they would rather be seen as "bad" than "stupid". 

Parents should be aware of the most frequent signals of learning disabilities, when a child:

- has difficulty understanding and following instructions.
- has trouble remembering what someone just told him or her.
- fails to master reading, spelling, writing, and/or math skills, and thus
fails schoolwork.
- has difficulty distinguishing right from left; difficulty identifying words or a tendency to reverse letters, words, or numbers; (for example, confusing 25 with 52, "b" with "d," or "on" with "no").
- lacks coordination in walking, sports, or small activities such as holding a pencil or tying a shoelace.
- easily loses or misplaces homework, schoolbooks, or other items.
- cannot understand the concept of time; is confused by "yesterday," "today," "tomorrow."

Such problems deserve a comprehensive evaluation by an expert who can assess all of the different issues affecting the child. A child and adolescent psychiatrist can help coordinate the evaluation, and work with school professionals and others to have the evaluation and educational testing done to clarify if a learning disability exists. This includes talking with the child and family, evaluating their situation, reviewing the educational testing, and consulting with the school. The child and adolescent psychiatrist will then make recommendations on appropriate school placement, the need for special help such as special educational services or speech-language therapy and help parents assist their child in maximizing his or her learning potential. Sometimes individual or family psychotherapy will be recommended. Medication may be prescribed for hyperactivity or distractibility. It is important to strengthen the child's self-confidence, so vital for healthy development, and also help parents and other family members better understand and cope with the realities of living with a child with learning disabilities.


If a pupil is told that his intelligence is less than his fellow pupils, it is a very great drawback and handicap to his progress. He must be encouraged to advance by the statement, "You are most capable, and if you endeavor, you will attain the highest degree." (‘Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 76-77)

The child must not be oppressed or censured because it is undeveloped; it must be patiently trained. (‘Abdu'l-Baha, Baha'i Marriage and Family Life, p. 50, #161)




By Foster M. Buckner, California, U.S.A.

When I was a baby of 20 months old (December 1942) I had developed Croup. My parents took me to the hospital and a doctor on duty did not come to see me and ordered a shot of Codeine, which closed me completely up (in other words I almost died). They had to resuscitate me and do a tracheotomy. It took a while for the hole in my throat to heal up. This created a lot of problems for me while I was growing up because it affected my manual dexterity and I developed learning disabilities.

About 9 years ago, I started having breathing problems. It took a while for the doctors and others to get to the root of my problems. Finally one doctor told me that I possibly had a block in my throat. I gagged easily so they had to admit me to the hospital to run camera tubes down my throat. They found that I had a 6 cm scar tissue in my wind pipe. I was diagnosed with "chronic obstructive lung disease with asthmatic bronchitis, also emphysema". The doctors could not remove the scar tissue out because they did not have the technology to go in and guarantee that it would improve my condition. 

Over the years I have had a lot of difficulty working things out. When I would try to explain what was happening, I could not find a way to express myself adequately on what was troubling me. There was a lack of information on what had created my condition which created a lot of problems in dealing with people and situations. I went pioneering to the Central Pacific in Tuvalu and had to return after about 2 years for medical reasons. Shortly after my return I was led to investigate learning disabilities and through my investigation doors started opening up for me. I was able to receive reports from one of the schools I attended and it showed things leading to learning disabilities. When I showed this report to a Baha’i friend who has a masters degree in special education, she told me that she had known that I had learning disabilities and that the time was not right until 1985-6 to tell me about it. By learning more  about learning disabilities has helped me to understand and learn new things. 

In regards to my "chronic obstructive lung disease with asthmatic bronchitis, also emphysema” condition, the doctors put in a tracheotomy tube and my breathing has improved. I need to take medication (pills and aerosols) which has helped a great deal and has allowed me to handle my situation a little bit better. 

However dealing with this condition has been a big concern to whom I come in contact with because I can talk near normal by plugging the tracheotomy tube. This surprises a lot of people because they relate the tube to cancer of the throat. Also I have a lot of coughing spells, which are sometimes dry, but mostly are helping me get mucus out of my throat. This creates problems in relating to people because they don’t understand my situation. Also employers don’t want to hire me because I might be a liability and so they shy away from employing me.

No matter where I go and with whom I deal with I have learned to expect surprises in dealing with people. It used to surprise me with their reactions, but as time passes it gets easier to deal with what other people do in regards to my condition. It takes a lot of courage, patience and understanding on my part to be able to deal with people with my visible disability. It is something one can not hide. It takes a lot of fortitude to be able to stand up and work with a visible disability.

How I cope and try to keep going is difficult but being a Baha’i makes it easier because we have wonderful prayers and writings to help us through our difficulties. In addition in being active in community events, I have found that being in a smaller community (membership of 15 to 20) helps because one has to become involved with the activities of the community. Also finding a way to be of service to your community or a neighboring community. Some examples are: if there is a fireside where they need help in setting up refreshments, books, etc; serving a Baha’i school with their book store, as well as many other ways to be of service to your own Baha’i Community or neighboring community. We all have things that we can do. By doing this we can keep feeling that we are of some use and not getting caught up in our own frailties, shortcomings, etc.




Here are comments from the readers on various subjects:

1) I found the section on coping with hearing loss benefited me since my hearing is failing. I remember my mother's responses to hearing loss and see it in others so it's good to get good information on adapting to a prevailing loss in abilities. 

I would like to continue into ways to accommodate our older Baha'is who give up on attending events. For example we use a conference phone to include one grateful servant here whose eyesight doesn't allow night driving... macular degeneration seems rampant! Hearing her appreciation expressed makes the Feast dearer to all present.

Please remember an item I'm considering in case you expand your features on coping - finding microphones that can pick up from a group of readers - a very inexpensive short range FM broadcast unit, so anyone can use a walkman radio to pickup what's being said. You often see this technique at conferences for translations. 

I manage the center here on St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, and we have an echo in the room that soon tires everyone's hearing at social events, so there are many facets. 

- Bill Thompson, Virgin Islands


2) I have severe asthma which is triggered by allergens. When people have indoor animals I am unable to attend Baha'i functions in their homes. I recognize and appreciate why they have animals, but for me and others with that kind of allergies it is a major problem.

- Pat Jacobsen, Oregon, U.S.


3) I know that it has been difficult in the past for diabetic individuals to find suitable food choices at most of our Baha'i events. I think we've come a long way to ensure that, most of the time, there are healthy choices on the tables.

At the same time, why do we so often insist on providing mostly unhealthy choices at feasts, holy days, study circles, etc.? Is it necessary that we focus on cakes, pies, candy, and other items that are detrimental to our health? Perhaps when we learn to eat for better health, as 'Abdu'l Baha recommended, we'll also be more kind and compassionate to the friends struggling with eating disorders, such as compulsive eating, and demonstrate more respect for our own "Thrones of the Inner Temples." I know it's been a struggle for me to try to eat better when faced with the choice of fresh apples vs. apple pie, for example. I've sabotaged my own best efforts by attending Baha'i events where my will power won't hold up. I hope for a world where we'll have only the healthy offerings for each other. 
Now--that's love.

J. Sandler


4) Bill, my husband and I, lived in Ukraine and Belarus. I had a heart defect; two openings to aortic valve, not three; wasn't discovered until I was in late 50s. Before that someone recommended the herb Hawthorne and COQ10 which helped immensely. I had surgery in 1995 and am doing well. I find service to the Cause of God the most healing and strengthening thing! 

Esther Bradley-DeTally, U.S.





In the November, 2002 issue, a person requested guidance on the spiritual and ethical considerations regarding organ transplants. Here are a few Baha'i quotes on this subject:

Heart/Kidney Transplant:

"We have your letter of September 13, 1968, making inquiry about instructions which may apply to organ transplants such as the heart or kidney. On September 18, 1968, we wrote to the National Spiritual Assembly of Argentina as follows:

We have not come across anything specific in the writings on transplants of hearts and other organs or regarding the time of death, and the Universal House of Justice does not wish to make any statements on these points at this time." (Letter from the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States, September 23,1968, Lights of Guidance, p. 280)

Organ Donor for Parts of the Body Including the Eyes

"In reply to your letter of October 1st inquiring about organ transplants and Baha'is acting as donors for parts of the body we refer you first of all to our letter of March 3rd 1967 in which we quoted to you a passage from one of the beloved Guardian's letters on this subject. We are also able to give you the following from a letter of the beloved Guardian's secretary: "There is nothing in the teachings which would forbid a Baha'i to bequeath his eyes to another person or for a hospital; on the contrary it seems a noble thing to do." (From letter of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles, October 16, 1969)




"Can anyone help me find approaches to treating kidney dysfunction, in particular extremely high protein leakage in the urine? My mother has had this condition for several years and it's worsening. She does not have access to much holistic or alternative approaches from where she lives, a rather conservative town. The Western doctors she has seen have not helped, in neither the diagnosis nor any treatment. They only suggest a biopsy. If anyone can direct me to practioners, methods, websites, etc. that specifically deals with this health condition, I would be very grateful." Please send your responses to the newsletter at: and I will pass them on to the writer requesting assistance.




Dear Friends:

I am looking for one person to help out with the mailouts and updating of the mailing list of the newsletter. This person would be responsible to send the newsletter to the readers each month (10 issues per year; it is not published during July or August), updating email addresses and adding/deleting subscribers. Presently, I use Microsoft Outlook 2000 which works well for this purpose. It would be helpful if this person has good computer skills and is well-organized, orderly, and efficient. This assistance would help me greatly to make it more manageable to work on the newsletter. If you are interested to serve in this voluntary position for the newsletter, please contact me at Thank you!

Frances Mezei






The Health Care Provider provides daily patient care including: First Aid; immunizations; individual consultation (in person and via email); and preventative counselling. Accompanies staff to emergency rooms and hospitals; makes referral to health care providers; schedules tests; maintains patient records and dispenses over-the-counter drugs. Needs to be qualified as a Physician's Assistant, Nurse Practitioner or Registered Nurse. Requires outpatient skills with at least 10 years' experience in nursing. This position requires good computer skills. Good health and a high level of energy are essential. You can reply directly on-line with an application for the positions in Haifa, Israel.




The focus for the upcoming issues will be on how to improve accessibility in the Baha'i and surrounding communities for persons with disabilities, illnesses and diseases of various kinds. This may include removing physical barriers, changing our attitudes and providing relevant support or available technology to ensure that everyone is a part of community life. Working together to provide basic information and accommodations as well as typical solutions will hopefully enable those struggling with a disability or illness to be involved in the community. After all, we all have disabilities/struggles of various forms. This information may also apply to the workplace. We will continue this consultative process. 

Some of the disabilities/illnesses we will consult about are (if there are others missing, please let us  know):

1) Hearing Impairment
2) Visual Impairment
3) Mobility/Physical disability
4) Learning Disabilities /Attention Deficit Disorder
5) Developmental Disabilities
6) Brain Injuries
7) Physical Illnesses such as cancer, arthritis, heart condition, back impairment, alzheimer's, etc.
8) Psychiatric Disabilities/Mental Illness
9) Emotional

For the January issue, we will focus on exploring coping strategies in dealing with brain injuries and physical illnesses such as cancer, arthritis, heart condition, alzheimers, etc. We may only be able to cover a few illnesses. Please share your experiences, stories and comments on this subject. We look  forward to learning from you!




You can visit the website, obtain back issues and the Healing Through Unity Course at:




"Healing Through Unity" is published for the purpose of sharing thoughts, comments and experiences on how the teachings of the Baha'i Faith are being applied to physical and spiritual health. Other than the quoted Holy Writings, the material in this newsletter represents the thoughts and opinions of the writers and has no authority. You are free to copy articles, provided you indicate the source of the article. There are 10 issues per year; it is not published during July and August. The newsletter is produced in Ontario, Canada.

Please send your stories, comments, suggestions or "Question for the Month" ideas to Frances Mezei by e-mail:


Many thanks to all of you who send such wonderful contributions for "Healing Through Unity" Newsletter. The decision to select and edit material submitted for publication is determined by the editor.

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