cooperation and reciprocity

Some things in this world can live alone, and some cannot. A tree, for example, can live and grow on its own without depending on other trees. Human beings, on the other hand, need to help and cooperate with each other in order to thrive and progress. When we work together for a common goal, we are able to accomplish much more than we would be able to do on our own.

prayer/reading for study

“The supreme need of humanity is cooperation and reciprocity.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá)



  • The story of Nettie Tobin, who contributed the cornerstone to the Bahá’í House of Worship in Wilmette. (See the drama section, below.)


  • Any cooperative game, where children work together for the achievement of a common goal, would be great for this class.


  • Walking in Someone Else’s Shoes: Ask the children to walk around the classroom, without bumping into the walls or each other. At the teacher’s instruction, they should walk as if they were in someone else’s shoes (i.e. imitating someone). For example, the teacher could ask them to walk like:
    • A baby that has just learned to walk
    • Someone who’s late for an appointment
    • Someone who’s walking a dog on a leash
    • Someone who’s looking for their lost watch
    • Someone who’s walking on hot pavement
    • Someone with their two legs in one pant leg
    • …and so on
  • Ask the children to name some large, heavy objects. Ask the children, one at a time, to act out moving one of those heavy objects themselves from one end of the classroom to the other. Then, ask the children to move one of the objects together, as a group, from one end of the classroom to the other. When finished, ask them to reflect on the exercise: Was it easy to move these heavy objects alone? What happened when they came together to move it as a group?

standing tall

  • Act out the story of Nettie Tobin, from the moment she receives the summons to contribute to building the House of Worship, up to the moment she arrives at the site of the future House of Worship. Key moments include:
    • Nettie receives the summons to contribute to building the House of Worship.
    • She goes to the construction site next door asking for a suitable piece of stone, and the foreman tells her she can pick any one she wants out of the rejected stone pile.
    • Nettie realizes the stone is too heavy for her to carry, so she gets an old baby carriage to put it into and wheels it all the way home herself with great difficulty.
    • Nettie calls a friend to come help her bring the stone to the site of the future House of Worship.
    • Together, Nettie and her friend travel to the site, loading and unloading the carriage carrying the stone onto three different trolleys.
    • After they have stepped off of the third trolley, the baby carriage breaks and they are unable to push it any further.
    • Suddenly, two boys with a wagon walk by, and Nettie asks them for their help in carrying the stone the remaining distance, to which they agree.
    • All four friends carry the cornerstone to the site.


  • Print out black-and-white copies of a photograph of the Bahá’í House of Worship in Wilmette, USA. The children can use markers, coloured pencils or crayons to colour over it.


The website of the Bahá’ís of the United States has an adaptation of Nettie Tobin’s story.

“The supreme need of humanity is cooperation and reciprocity. The stronger the ties of fellowship and solidarity amongst men, the greater will be the power of constructiveness and accomplishment in all the planes of human activity. Without cooperation and reciprocal attitude the individual member of human society remains self-centered, uninspired by altruistic purposes, limited and solitary in development like the animal and plant organisms of the lower kingdoms. The lower creatures are not in need of cooperation and reciprocity. A tree can live solitary and alone, but this is impossible for man without retrogression. Therefore, every cooperative attitude and activity of human life is praiseworthy and foreintended by the will of God. The first expression of cooperation is family relationship, which is unreliable and uncertain in its potency, for it is subject to separation and does not permanently cement together the individual members of humanity. There is also a cooperation and oneness in nativity or race which is likewise not efficient, for although its members may agree in general, they differ radically in personal and particular points of view. Racial association, therefore, will not ensure the requirements of divine relationship. There are other means in the human world by which physical association is established, but these fail to weld together the hearts and spirits of men and are correspondingly inefficient. Therefore, it is evident that God has destined and intended religion to be the cause and means of cooperative effort and accomplishment among mankind. To this end He has sent the Prophets of God, the holy Manifestations of the Word, in order that the fundamental reality and religion of God may prove to be the bond of human unity, for the divine religions revealed by these holy Messengers have one and the same foundation. All will admit, therefore, that the divine religions are intended to be the means of true human cooperation, that they are united in the purpose of making humanity one family, for they rest upon the universal foundation of love, and love is the first effulgence of Divinity.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p.338)

“It seems as though all creatures can exist singly and alone. For example, a tree can exist solitary and alone on a given prairie or in a valley or on the mountainside. An animal upon a mountain or a bird soaring in the air might live a solitary life. They are not in need of cooperation or solidarity. Such animated beings enjoy the greatest comfort and happiness in their respective solitary lives.

“On the contrary, man cannot live singly and alone. He is in need of continuous cooperation and mutual help. For example, a man living alone in the wilderness will eventually starve. He can never, singly and alone, provide himself with all the necessities of existence. Therefore, he is in need of cooperation and reciprocity.

“The mystery of this phenomenon, the cause thereof is this, that mankind has been created from one single origin, has branched off from one family. Thus in reality all mankind represents one family. God has not created any difference. He has created all as one that thus this family might live in perfect happiness and well-being.

“Regarding reciprocity and cooperation: each member of the body politic should live in the utmost comfort and welfare because each individual member of humanity is a member of the body politic and if one member of the members be in distress or be afflicted with some disease all the other members must necessarily suffer. For example, a member of the human organism is the eye. If the eye should be affected that affliction would affect the whole nervous system. Hence, if a member of the body politic becomes afflicted, in reality, from the standpoint of sympathetic connection, all will share that affliction since this (one afflicted) is a member of the group of members, a part of the whole. Is it possible for one member or part to be in distress and the other members to be at ease? It is impossible! Hence God has desired that in the body politic of humanity each one shall enjoy perfect welfare and comfort.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p.38)


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