Lessons and experiences from the long weekend

The long weekend provided many opportunities to reflect on what an identity I want — for myself and for my children. I will write more on the identity question but for now few reflections on the Labor Day weekend… We went to the Shenandoah Baha’i Summer School and it was wonderful for many reasons:

Being among true friends

First of all was of course the joy of being among true friends. It is always nurturing — and inspiring — to be among people who are clear on the priorities of their lives, and to follow their example. Among true friends even tests are easier to handle: within seconds of being overwhelmed by petty and self-pity feelings, I received a call from an old friend who himself needed help, and sure enough, God’s medicine worked — I offered my friend a  prayer, sharing which helped both him and me:

O God! Refresh and gladden my spirit. Purify my heart. Illumine my powers. I lay all my affairs in Thy hand. Thou art my Guide and my Refuge. I will no longer be sorrowful and grieved; I will be a happy and joyful being. O God! I will no longer be full of anxiety, nor will I let trouble harass me. I will not dwell on the unpleasant things of life.

O God! Thou art more friend to me than I am to myself. I dedicate myself to Thee, O Lord.
– ‘Abdu’l-Bahá

Music, Ladder for the Soul

The Saturday night concert was truly outstanding. The performance of the Washington Metropolitan Baha’i Chorale was great and it was wonderful to be able to join them for an improvised reunion and sing together once again — they were so generous to let me sing even though being in blue jeans certainly did not fit with the all black outfit. It was wonderful to have Van Gilmer once again as a soloist, but Dori and Roya are doing great job directing the chorale. All soloists were stellar — from Van, through Roya, George and Mike, to a refreshingly confident Kim whose voice shined! The personal highlight for me was seeing my 4 year old daughter Sofia jump and sway as an experienced groopie the moment she saw me with the chorale. Her smile was so happy, I could not stop beaming while singing. When the time came for me to start the intro to the closing song, “We have come to sing praises”, Sofia ran onto the stage and jumped on my neck! Singing with her hanging on my neck was so heartwarming even if challenging but it apparently sounded well enough, so I contribute the success of this exercise to her sweet and innocent love.

I was very much looking forward to seeing Ali Youssefi perform and was more than pleased. Ali performed with his sister and a violin player. They were outstanding! I bought Ali’s CD and look forward to his next one. I had the pleasure of meeting Ali’s father and when I congratulated him on raising two wonderful kids, he humble suggested that it was all Baha’u’llah’s work. What a marvel it is to observe the beautiful results produced when one is submissive to God’s guidance!

Teaching, the Greatest Gift

We also participated in a teaching project where we offered that same “Refresh and Gladden My Spirit” prayer to those interested. Justin apparently did a stellar job by offering the visual presentation, first by translating for one Spanish-speaking family and then sharing the message to another family with the help of a flip-chart. The focus on offering a prayer made the whole process very natural and once again reminded me of what the spirit needs the most — a prayer and patient encouragement to grow strong despite the consumerism and materialism permeating society.

Of all the gifts of God the greatest is the gift of Teaching. It draweth unto us the Grace of God and is our first obligation. Of such a gift how can we deprive ourselves? Nay, our lives, our goods, our comforts, our rest, we offer them all as a sacrifice for the Abha Beauty and teach the Cause of God.
(Abdu’l-Baha, The Will and Testament, p. 25)

Children classes

As soon as we came back to Arlington, we explored three places where children classes could be offered and found one that felt just right. We had visited that place on several occasions and now emboldened by a sense of the importance of the work on sharing spiritual education with the kids playing on the grass square between several apartment buildings, asked the parents of a group of kids for permission and once given their thumbs-up . Justin is doing great work in engaging the kids; I help with our kids and the sing along, so it works out into a good team work. The kids asked us when we are coming back — what better reward to ask for!

Children are the most precious treasure a community can possess, for in them are the promise and guarantee of the future. They bear the seeds of the character of future society which is largely shaped by what the adults constituting the community do or fail to do with respect to children. They are a trust no community can neglect with impunity. An all-embracing love of children, the manner of treating them, the quality of the attention shown them, the spirit of adult behaviour toward them — these are all among the vital aspects of the requisite attitude. Love demands discipline, the courage to accustom children to hardship, not to indulge their whims or leave them entirely to their own devices. An atmosphere needs to be maintained in which children feel that they belong to the community and share in its purpose. They must lovingly but insistently be guided to live up to Bahá’í standards, to study and teach the Cause in ways that are suited to their circumstances.
(The Universal House of Justice, Ridvan 157, 2000)

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