The Sacred Writings of the Bahá'í Faith provided inspiration and guidance to the compilers on how to cope with their own disabilities or afflictions and to support family members and friends who are disabled. Thus the idea was born to produce a compilation from the Writings entitled, "A Journey of Courage: From Disability to Spiritual Ability", to share with others who may benefit from discovering the beauty, simplicity and pearls of wisdom found in the Divine Teachings on this theme. Our purpose is to offer an approach to transform our limitations and attitudes when dealing with our disabilities, with loved ones who are disabled or suffering from a health condition, and with caregivers. This search led us to the discovery that many members of the Holy Family also suffered from disabilities and afflictions who are referred to in the compilation. It is hoped that this compilation will expand the reader's understanding and attitude toward persons with disabilities.
(revised — first published 2002, updated 2022)
Coping with a disability from birth or with one acquired due to an accident, health condition, or the aging process requires enormous effort and determination to function effectively with daily activities and to feel positive about ourselves. This includes deafness, blindness, mental, emotional, mobility, neurodiversity when it comes to the learning processes, and diseases of various kinds. The Universal House of Justice, in a letter dated 11 September 1995 to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States, stresses that "All of us suffer from imperfections which we must struggle to overcome and we all need one another's understanding and patience." Also, in the same letter they state "Whether deficiencies are inborn or acquired, our purpose in this life is to overcome them and to train ourselves in accordance with the pattern that is revealed to us in the divine Teachings." This statement provided a focus for the compilers in selecting which writings and stories to include in the compilation.
Our disabilities and struggles are given to us as gifts from God for our moral and spiritual development. Using the guidance, comfort and hope drawn from the Bahá'í Writings, we can recreate and train ourselves in new skills, attitudes and approaches to cope with our daily lives. By rising above our limitations and imperfections, the real essence of our spirit will become liberated and purified, our eyes will 'see', our ears will 'hear', our hearts will 'know' and our tongues will 'speak'. As Bahá'u'lláh states in Gleanings CXXV; "Then will the manifold favors and outpouring grace of the holy and everlasting Spirit confer such new life upon the seeker that he will find himself endowed with a new eye, a new ear, a new heart, and a new mind."
We gain hope and inspiration when families, parents, caregivers, service and healthcare providers and institutions demonstrate care, love, patience and compassion in the training and support of persons with disabilities in their families and communities, undeterred by seemingly insurmountable obstacles. This quotation confirms the responsibility of the community, "...and other members who for valid reasons are incapacitated - the blind, the old, the deaf - their comfort must be looked after. In the village no one will remain in need or in want. All will live in the utmost comfort and welfare" ('Abdu'l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 40). Specific examples of service include training a child who is deaf or hard of hearing to learn communication skills, assisting a person who is permanently disabled from an accident to readjust to their new physical limitations; helping a senior who is frail and has low vision to attend community functions; and living with a family member who suffers from a crippling and long-lasting degenerative disease, etc.
Since the book was published in 2002, there have been great development in science, medicine, technology and resources which have transformed the lives of many to live as productive members of society. There has been advancement in our communities as we learn to apply the knowledge from the experiences and perspectives of persons with disabilities, which can take us a step further in collectively learning about diversity and inclusion in our community relationships.
The compilers hope that reading this compilation will be as much of a joyful discovery for you as it has been for us, in seeking out the physical and spiritual truths leading "From Disability to Spiritual Ability." By the study and application of the teachings included in the compilation, it is our belief and hope that the lives of people with disabilities, their families and communities will be enriched and illumined. — Frances Mezei (2022)
"This is a really precious book and a truly generous gift to the community and beyond. I'm really grateful for the work you put into this...I was talking yesterday with the kids about how disability of the body has no impact on the soul, reinforcing that our soul is our reality. Your work helps reinforce that from the Bahá'í teachings."
"This book gave me confidence to address my needs in the community so I could fully participate."
"A friend sent me the compilation, and I'm so grateful to find out that your book exists and hold it in my hands. I've only read a few chapters, and it's already helping me. I would love to study these writings and stories you've collected in the book with friends who are neurodivergent."
"Studying the writings in the book helped to shift the way I perceived and approached my hearing loss. It helped me refocus from dwelling on my physical limitations to the importance of spiritual nurturing and the strength of the soul. I became aware of the importance of expanding my spiritual hearing, and in removing barriers in order to enhance living. The book also provided knowledge and insights on how to better function with the community, as well as to encourage conversations with individuals and communities about accessibility."
"The compilation addressed my uncertainty that I could make a worthy contribution towards the material and spiritual empowerment of others because I have a physical disability. The compilation has been a stepping stone for self reflection since I've engaged in a journey towards spiritual ability. I focus more on the nature of my existence, and feel optimistic that my physical condition is temporary and will not remain through all the worlds of God. I'm able to see beyond my physical limitations with more consciousness of my attitudes that might have induced impatience and anger when facing barriers and ignorance. By reassessing my situation with enhanced knowledge of my spiritual purpose, I can evoke a more mature effective response to injustices. I've served with many projects and have had conversations with others on this subject."