Sacrifice

Mable Ives, after she married Howard Colby Ives (my father) became known to many who loved her as Rizwanea. For very many years, after they were married, my father and Rizwanea traveled and taught the Faith. It was their entire life. They traveled through the New England states, through Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, New York and many many more - always teaching, always leaving an established Assembly behind them. It was a gypsy life. It meant that never once, during all the years, did they really have a home; no place where they might be surrounded by their own things, where they might put down roots. Always they lived surrounded by strange and alien furniture, by the bare wall and arid atmosphere of barren hotels, boarding houses, and cubbyholes where they might sleep while, during their waking hours, they earned their living and taught their beloved Faith. At last, after many years, with her health failing, Rizwanea felt she could endure no more. She had come to the end. She must have a home. She needed it with every atom of her being - needed it as a bird needs to make a nest in the springtime or as anyone, weary and spent, needs to rest in the sun. At this time they – she and my father were living in a particularly difficult situation. It was a furnished room and the landlady was constantly complaining of everything they did. They used too many lights, they took too many showers using up too much water, and the clacking of Father’s typewriter was driving her crazy. So, one morning, Rizwanea told Father how she felt: She had come to the end; she could endure no more; she was unable to go one step farther. They had a long period of consultation, and at the end, Father told her that, of course, he would do as she wished, but would she, in turn, do one thing for him? Would she wait just one more day before making a truly final decision - and would she spend this day in prayer? She agreed. So after Father had left her to go out and attend to his business details, she kept her promise. She began to pray. And as she prayed, it came to her just what, in its depth and beauty, submission, detachment, and servitude really meant. And it came to her that submission - true and complete submission to the Will of God - was the first basic step. So she began to pray for submission - she prayed and prayed, and finally, submission came to her - but with it came the realization
that submission was not enough. Well, then, what was enough? What should she pray for now? And she remembered that Bahá’u’lláh had written that we must be grateful for the circumstances to which we were submitting. Grateful? Grateful for this horrid little room? Grateful for the beastly, complaining landlady? Well, all right - if Bahá’u’lláh said so she, Rizwanea, would be grateful. But it wasn’t easy. She was pacing the room, thinking, praying, fighting and now she went to the window to stare out into the street.
‘Teach me to be grateful! Teach me to be submissive! I will be grateful! I will be submissive! She clenched her small fists. She fought and she suffered. And, finally, the first warm touch and then the warmer flow of submissive gratitude surged over her. But, the next moment, she realized that even this was not enough. Not enough? When she‘d fought so hard and she was so tired. What then was left? What should she pray for next?
And it came to her that now she must pray for love. love for her nerve-wracking circumstances; love for her harsh landlady; love for the whole situation that had led to the crisis - the blessed crisis that had forced her to learn this lesson. So, now, Rizwanea prayed that she might love that she might be filled with love that she might be able to pour out this love. And her prayers were answered. When Father returned to her, it was to meet a radiant woman – a woman filled with the glory of complete submission to the Will of God - a woman rich with the glory of gratitude for tests - a woman overflowing with the clear crystal waters of the love of God. And, for many years more, she poured out these waters for the glory of the Cause she loved so well.
(Reginald Grant Barrow, Mother’s Stories: Stories of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and Early Believers told by Muriel Ives Barrow Newhall to her son, p. 14-15)


All the Bahá’ís in Iran loved and respected Haji Amin, and many wonderful stories are told about his sincerity and devotion. Once, when he was about to set off for the Holy Land, a very poor woman gave him a small coin to take with him. Haji Amin thanked her and put it in his pocket. As soon as he arrived at the home of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, he presented to Him the donations he had collected, as he always did. The Master would usually thank him and praise him for his untiring labours. Haji Amin’s integrity was not to be questioned, and he had never made a mistake in his calculations. Indeed, it was not difficult for him to keep his accounts as he never had any money of his own. This time, however, to his utter astonishment, when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was presented with the money, He looked at Haji Amin kindly and said something was missing from the amount. Haji Amin left the Master’s presences with much sadness, unable to understand what could have happened. He went to his room in tears and prostrated himself in prayer. As he did so, he felt a hard piece of metal under his knee. It was the small coin the poor woman had given him to take to the Holy Land as he was leaving. The coin had slipped through a hole in his pocket into the lining of his long coat. Haji Amin immediately took the coin and went to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The Master showered His praises on him . He kissed the coin and said this was worth more than all the other donations because it had been given with the greatest sacrifice.
(Gloria Faizi, Stories about Bahá’í Funds, p. 47-48)


How could this Prisoner give to the needy of ‘Akká every Friday morning? Had not His exiled family’s wealth and property been almost totally confiscated? One pilgrim found that, ‘All that the Master gives is a real sacrifice, and is saved by the cutting off of what most people would consider necessities.’
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 82)


In ‘Akka the Master’s room often contained not even a bed as He was continually giving His own to those more needy than He. Wrapped in a blanket, He would lie on the floor or even on the roof of His home. It was not possible to buy a bed in the town of ‘Akka; a bed ordered from Haifa took at least thirty-six hours to arrive. Inevitably, when the Master went on His morning round of visitations and found a feverish individual tossing on bare ground, He sent him His bed. Only after His own situation was inadvertently discovered did He receive another bed, thanks to some kind friend.
(Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 66)


A Persian friend arrived who had passed through ‘Ishqabad,. He presented a cotton handkerchief to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Who untied it, and saw therein a piece of dry black bread, and a shriveled apple. The friend exclaimed: “A poor Bahá’í workman came to me: ‘I hear thou goest into the presence of our Beloved. Nothing have I to send, but this my dinner. I pray thee offer it to Him with my loving devotion.” ‘Abdu’l-Bahá spread the poor handkerchief before Him, leaving His own luncheon untasted. He ate of the workman’s dinner, broke pieces off the bread, and handed them to the assembled guests, saying: “Eat with me of this gift of humble love.”
(Lady Blomfield, The Chosen Highway)


One day ‘Abdu’l-Bahá learned that a lady had cut her lovely hair in order to contribute to the building of the House of Worship in Wilmette. He wrote to her with loving appreciation: ‘On the one hand, I was deeply touched, for thou hadst sheared off those fair tresses of thine with the shears of detachment from this world and of self-sacrifice in the path of the Kingdom of God. And on the other, I was greatly pleased, for that dearly-beloved daughter hath evinced so great a spirit of self-sacrifice as to offer up so precious a part of her body in the pathway of the Cause of God. Hadst thou sought my opinion, I would in no wise have consented that thou shouldst shear off even a single thread of thy comely and wavy locks; nay, I myself would have contributed in thy name for the Mashriqu’l-Adhkar. This deed of thine is, however, an eloquent testimony to thy noble spirit of self-sacrifice.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 113)