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Tips for Handling Adversity

“The betterment of the world can be accomplished through pure and goodly deeds and through commendable and seemly conduct….” “Be generous in prosperity, and thankful in adversity…. Be fair in thy judgment, and guarded in thy speech. Be a lamp unto those who walk in darkness, and a home to the stranger.” Bahá’u’ lláh

Dear Nations Community,

There is not a person on earth whose life and perspectives are not being altered by the world-engulfing pandemic. We are in this together, and the more united we remain, the easier it will be to emerge stronger and with renewed optimism for the future. A simple image that comes to my mind is the finger trap—a puzzle in which the harder you try to pull your fingers apart the more your tightly they get stuck, whereas, if you ease your fingers in together, you can easily remove them from the trap. So it is with this unprecedented pandemic. Resistance will make it harder to overcome, but cooperation and collaboration will bring solutions.

The rigors of confinement to our homes take many forms, and it is undeniably a hardship. However, social distancing will save lives and help combat the spread of the virus. In this case, distancing is a form of unity and community because it means sacrificing for the greater good of society.

We understand how hard this period is for parents. In addition to working from home, you are carrying out many simultaneous roles and tasks, among the most important being overseeing your child’s learning. Your homes have necessarily become classrooms, and you are entering more into the field of education than you ever would have wished. We can only do the best we can during this situation. Both parents and teachers are working outside their comfort zones.

This reflection is about a broader educational issue affecting us all—how to face and cope with adversity. No one’s life is ever a garden of roses for long. Inevitably, adversity and difficulties appear, and how we face them influences the quality of our lives and the happiness we experience.

Many parents are worried about their children getting behind in academic subjects, and that is a reasonable concern. However, right now, we must face an even more significant issue. This crisis has quietly redefined normalcy as we know it, disrupted all aspects of our lives, and threatened to shut down entire systems, including health care. It forces us to reflect and redirect our energy. We must assess our priorities to make small and large decisions that will impact the rest of our lives. The top priority right now is not educational subject-matter content, which most of our students are handling well from their homes through distance learning. It is digging deeper into the meaning of life, understanding our purpose, and redefining our values.

Bahá’í Writings speak of trials and tribulations as an opportunity to grow spiritually.

“O Son of Man! My calamity is My providence, outwardly it is fire and vengeance, but inwardly it is light and mercy. Hasten thereunto that thou mayest become an eternal light and an immortal spirit. This is My command unto thee, do thou observe it.” Baha’u’llah

As we advance through this crisis, it is natural we feel sad and frustrated at times and mourn the loss of normalcy and comforts of all kinds. However, crisis brings opportunities for growth and change. It changes our fixed mental models of the world, and it awakens us to new possibilities. These are not ordinary times, nor is this a short-term crisis. It is calling on us to gain new insights about ourselves and the world to develop new capacities. Out of the most profound suffering can come the greatest light, undreamed of discoveries and possibilities.

Your children are learning about your attitudes toward hardship and the skills we need when we face adversity. You will influence them with your outlook more than anything we will teach them. You are in charge of the curricular content that will be imprinted in their minds and hearts! You have an excellent opportunity to form their characters.

I sometimes say that I have an MA degree in educational administration and a Ph.D. in the school of hard knocks. In my blessedly long life, I have had to overcome adversities ranging from living through a civil war for 21 years in Colombia to overcoming cancer. This does not make me an expert, but it does make me a survivor.

Here are some tips that have helped our family and me. I hope they might help you and your families at this time.

  • Perspective — Your greater family—all humanity—is going through the same world-shaking crisis. Most likely, you are better off than the majority. Look around to see how relatively well-off you are! This generates gratitude, which is a close cousin to happiness.

  • Prayer and Appeal to a Higher Power — Most of our families have faith in God and are members of a religious community. Others may believe in universal design and the spirit. Whatever you believe, aligning yourself with a higher source of love and wisdom is comforting and inspiring. Bahá´ís believe prayer is a conversation with God, that anyone can do it any time, and God listens. What better time to pray than when forces beyond our control are sweeping the world? Illumination comes from prayer and meditation, which can bring new solutions to help us cope.

  • Routines — Routines provide children with a sense of safety and security. Organize your family’s weekly schedule in the way that most benefits your family. Many of your children’s lessons can be completed at any time of day. Parents can help organize a schedule that also best works for them. For example, my daughter, a vice president at a bank, gives her four- and seven-year-old children their tablets with tasks ready to go when she has to make important calls.

  • Simplicity — Simplify your life to the degree you can and look again at everyday moments for sources of joy and relaxation. Take five minutes to enjoy a sunset or watch the birds outside. Teach your children to help more with household chores and share responsibility, so no one is overwhelmed with tasks. Cook together. Laugh together. With the closure of so many social settings and places we usually frequent, it is time to create bonding moments within familiar everyday routines.

  • Service — When we serve others, we fulfill our deepest purpose as human beings. “Service to humanity is service to God.” Abdu’l-Bahá. The ‘test’ humankind is undergoing requires us to embrace and act upon our interconnectedness. When we think of, care for, and serve others, we are also uplifted. Service need not be equated with a project or giving material things to others. Small acts of kindness, friendliness, and care have a profound impact. This can be a phone call to someone who is lonely or helping an elderly person shop. Your children can help think about what acts of service they will do each week!

  • Consultation and Conflicts — Conflicts arise among friends and family in daily life, and even more under conditions of prolonged confinement and stress. The important thing is not that disagreements or unpleasant feelings arise, but how we resolve them. It is important for all family members to consult openly and honestly, and for all to seek a consensus on a resolution. Carrying around resentment or unresolved feelings is unhealthy at any time and more so with the external pressures generated by the current situation. In resolving a conflict, it is vital to share what one feels but not use the open consultation to attack, humiliate, or ridicule others and their positions. Practicing the art of caring consultation is essential to achieving well-being in our homes and the world.

  • Faith and Hope for the Brighter Future! All the efforts our community members are making now will lead us out of this crisis. It may take longer than we wish, but our hope and faith in a much brighter future will carry us through and enable us to emerge wiser, more resilient, and ready for the opportunities to come. Brighter days are in store for us!

We are one!

In solidarity and with love,

Lisa Perskie

Executive Director

School of the Nations


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