Better Four Minutes Listening Than 52 Of Exposition

"It should not be overlooked, however, that the most powerful and effective teaching medium that has been found so far is the fireside meeting, because in the fireside meeting, intimate personal questions can be answered, and the student find the spirit of the Faith more abundant there."

— Shoghi Effendi1 , GT_86.12, p318

I've seen this principle in action. I invited a man to my home, for my Thursday night fireside. He joined my wife, son-in-law and myself at the dinner table. He invited them to tell their story of finding Baha'ullah.

Then he and I adjourned the living room. He sat on my couch, I on an easy chair at right angle to him. The couch was blue. Blue like the bench where the Blessed Beauty3 would sit. It was my reminder: listen to the one seated there as if …

He wanted to talk about a real estate investment he was considering. He was not bragging.4 He had a difficult decision to make. He needed someone to listen while he spoke, so he could get his thoughts clear in his own mind. When we finished with that topic, it was time for him to leave.

He came back the next week. Dinner, couch. He wanted to talk about whether or not to break up with his girlfriend. He explained to me the reasons, the pros and the cons. I just listened. I didn't have advice to offer. I had nothing to say.

He came back the next week. Dinner, couch. He talked about visiting the Holy Land, and being among his own people. He was pressured to 'come back into the fold'. He escaped toward the coast. He ended up in a small room, off to the side of an old mansion, about an hour's walk north-east of Akka.5 When he returned to his home country he looked up the Baha'is. That is what he told me on the third visit. We still had some time before he had to leave. Not much, he was an early riser. I said, well, perhaps we could use this booklet to go over the some of the main points about the Faith of Baha'u'llah. It was a copy of the red teaching booklet. It had been on the coffee table from the first evening. We went through about the first half, up to the picture of the eagle atop the grave of Shoghi Effendi.

He came back the next week. Dinner, couch. We started on the second half. We got to a certain principle and he said stop! That can't be right! I've always believed the opposite! I said, well maybe you are right. But this is what Baha'u'llah taught. Here is a booklet with the actual Writings about this particular point. I can loan it to you, and you can investigate this matter for yourself. He accepted the booklet.

The following Tuesday I was sitting in the lobby of my gym. It was late afternoon. I usually went in the early morning. I usually would go straight to the locker room to change and work out. I never sat in the lobby. But there I was.

He came in. We had never seen each other in the gym. We didn't know we belonged to the same gym. He was surprised. He smiled and came over to me. He said, it's so good to see you here. I needed to tell you something: "I declared this morning."

Later, he told me that he had accepted Baha'u'llah in his heart at the Sacred Threshhold, in Bahji. He had set for himself the following plan: to do his due diligence for no less than one year. He had his reasons to not rush into anything. But, he decided that it was OK to declare his investigation complete after four weeks rather than complete the fifty two weeks of investigation.

Perhaps there should be an old saying this story could illustrate: "Better four minutes of listening, than 52 of exposition."

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