Walking with Hope in Sudbury

Helen and JP Mayer have been having devotional gatherings at their home in Sudbury, Ontario for several years. After pioneering in China for seven years, they draw on their experience of communicating through body language: “It’s amazing what a smile can do. Everybody has the potential to be open-hearted if you approach them very attentively and humbly.”

Painting by Nic Battigelli, a friend of Helen and JP’s who has been “painting his way through COVID”.

Helen and JP had been having regular devotionals with an ever-expanding group of friends when the pandemic hit. They joked that sometimes up to twenty-four people would attend and the conversations were so rich that sometimes some would jokingly ask to stay for the night. Helen and JP are intentional in their approach, welcoming each friend and reflecting afterward, both with the group and as a couple, asking what themes would interest them for the next devotional. They would consider each person who had attended and ask themselves, “What does this soul need to advance?” This same thoughtfulness was present in their approach when social distancing regulations came into place with the pandemic. They decided to make a point of remaining in contact with every single friend who had attended and a few others. Helen describes her approach: “Every week, it takes me about 2 hours or more to call or email each person with uplifting reflections and prayers, including inspirational songs and artwork.”

Another approach the couple has taken is suffusing their daily walks with the intention to bring hope to those they meet. They’ve observed how people are really “needing to talk” in these times and how much listening and encouragement touches the hearts. “We say: you’re doing the right thing! Getting out and getting sun on your face!” Helen describes how important the listening aspect has been: “It’s like a child who’s hungry, he won’t hear anything until you first feed him. We find that the conversations on the street are extending longer and longer and that they can be uplifted with spiritual themes when we allow the person to empty themself of cares and anxieties.” 

A simple walk together takes on a completely different meaning, particularly with the preparations made before leaving, drawing on Ruhi Books 1 and 2. Helen describes how relevant the quotations in the first part of Book 1 are to both our personal and collective lives. They’ll say to each other “Okay, today, if we can, let’s mention the idea of unity, of us all looking out for each other, or the importance of truthfulness, or pure and goodly deeds and of course, loving friendships.”

Helen and JP have a number of powerful stories of the friends they are learning with. One such friend works in end-of-life care with nurses and doctors in hospitals and nursing homes. Through initially attending devotionals and then moving through Book 1, she has been drawing on the ideas in Ruhi Book 10.2: Consultation and applying this to her work navigating nuanced conversations with families and health care workers. Helen describes learning with this friend who she sees as a spiritual warrior, and how as we all come to the end of this five-year Plan, “there’s nothing that would give us more hope and joy than to introduce more people to the healing power of the Faith.”

Get in touch with the neighbourhood team in this story, or share your own learning with Ontario Baha’i here.

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