Tom and Harry

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Incapable as yet, in view of the restricted size of their community and the limited influence it now wields, of producing any marked effect on the great mass of their countrymen, let them focus their attention, for the present, on their own selves, their own individual needs, their own personal deficiencies and weaknesses, ever mindful that every intensification of effort on their part will better equip them for the time when they will be called upon to eradicate in their turn such evil tendencies from the lives and the hearts of the entire body of their fellow-citizens.

      (Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 20, 21)

In order to achieve this cordial unity one of the first essentials insisted on by Bahá'u'lláh and 'Abdu'l-Bahá is that we resist the natural tendency to let our attention dwell on the faults and failings of others rather than on our own. Each of us is responsible for one life only, and that is our own. Each of us is immeasurably far from being "perfect as our heavenly father is perfect" and the task of perfecting our own life and character is one that requires all our attention, our will-power and energy. If we allow our attention and energy to be taken up in efforts to keep others right and remedy their faults, we are wasting precious time. We are like ploughmen each of whom has his team to manage and his plough to direct, and in order to keep his furrow straight he must keep his eye on his goal and concentrate on his own task. If he looks to this side and that to see how Tom and Harry are getting on and to criticize their ploughing, then his own furrow will assuredly become crooked.

      (From a letter dated 12 May 1925 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer)

            (The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 3, 4)


I don't worry about Tom and Harry.
I have my own furrow to plough.
I must concentrate on my task
If I want to do it right.
Though I may be tempted to advise,
Teach a better way or criticise,
My furrow will be crooked
If I don't keep my goal in sight.

But if you ask for a helping hand,
I'll unhitch my horse and go,
You might be bogged down
And need help to get free.
I know I can count on you
To be there, right on cue,
If the same predicament
Should happen to me.

When the job is done,
We will learn the results.
A finer looking field
You'll never see.
There will be pride in my heart
For the team of which I was part.
There are no better ploughmen
Than Tom and Harry
And me.

Copyright 2012 by George McNeish
If you want permission to use this poem please contact the poet at

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