notes from counsellor scott’s talk

these are informal notes from Counsellor Scott’s talk and should not be construed as being 100% accurate by anybody—especially given the way I take notes! take ’em with a few grains of salt.

so Counsellor Scott graciously took time out of his busy schedule to visit with us in Ottawa tonight, and share with us progress happening in the Baha’i community. He started out by reminding us that “being” and “doing” are inseparable—you cannot change your own self or change your community in a vacuum; both will always change in tandem, and in order for our own hearts to change, we must teach and serve humanity. The image reminded me of the “two movements” we sometimes hear about: the movement of people from one course in the institute process to the next, and the movement of communities (“clusters” maybe—or even neighbourhoods?) from one stage of development to the next. The two must happen simultaneously, no?

He peppered his talk with colourful stories of amazing strides that have come about in places like Toronto, with its “Pebbles to Pearls” program, in which individuals arose to offer junior youth groups (studying books like Breezes of Confirmation, which is Bahá’í-inspired and seeks to build capacity and raise consciousness in 12-year-olds); how a children’s class grew naturally out of the first junior youth group; how a prayer meeting with the parents soon followed; and how more and more of the participants, as their capacity increased, became trained to offer these kinds of service to others. We’re talking about people who met their first Baha’is maybe a few months ago, and are now being trained to help teach Baha’i children’s classes. Uhhhh cool?

He stressed the notion that these “core activities”—be they children’s classes, junior youth groups, study circles, and prayer meetings—are not just fun little activities or “get-togethers” or “events” as we may think of them. They’re civilization-building activities, activities that create communities. He emphasized the fact that every human being has the inalienable right to participate in the process of building civilization. (consider how many people waive that right throughout the world every day.) that being said, he challenged us to involve more and more people in that process by committing to long-term action with receptive communities—committing to offering these “core activities” to people around us who might really need them. With respect to children’s classes, he cited the cases of families throughout the country who’ve been left behind by an educational system that fails to respond to their needs—who’s going to offer spiritual education to a child whose parents work 12 hours a day and barely make enough to make ends meet? Whose teachers can’t use the word “God” because it’s been legislated out of existence?

So much meat in that short span of time—so exciting to feel that we’re able to contribute to the building of a new civilization! I only hope that we can rise to the occasion and be fully ready for our talk. Please feel free to share thoughts as comments to this post—there’s far more to tell, but it’s late and I need sleep.

naw-rúz (take 2)

Today’s lesson: naw-rúz.

March 24, 2007: 2 hours, 7 children, average age 7. We had a blast with this class—and it was mainly thanks to the help of certain blessed souls who were ready and willing to give up a day or more’s worth of time and effort in preparation to help make it a reality. The day started with prayers; like last year, we sang “Blessed is the Spot”. The kids’ conduct during prayers has greatly improved since we started focusing our efforts on that part of the class. Our main activity for the day was baking cookies—what better way to make Naw-ruz a special event? The children could scarcely believe their ears when we told them; they thought we were joking. But it was not so!

I asked my mom (of course) to come help us bake cookies. She prepared individual bags of three kinds of dough for each of the children, brought cookie cutters, rollers, trays, flour, decorations (i.e. sprinkles, different colours of icing, etc.) and so on. The children spent over an hour rolling the dough, cutting out different shapes (sometimes making up their own), and, once they were fully baked and cooled, decorating their munchable masterpieces. They took home bags of cookies to share with their parents, cousins and siblings. No joke—they were genuinely proud to have made their own cookies and were looking forward to sharing with their families. Some of the children had been so industrious in making the cookies, and had amassed such a stack of them, that they started sharing their cookies with anybody they could find. Here are some photos of the whole process:

naw-ruz cookiesnaw-ruz cookiesnaw-ruz cookiesnaw-ruz cookiesnaw-ruz cookiesnaw-ruz cookies

Room for improvement? Well, we were actually expecting some parents to show up and share the afternoon with the children; lack of logistical coordination meant that didn’t happen. We didn’t spend nearly enough time reminding the parents that they were invited to stay; written invitations (instead of the verbal invites) would have helped tremendously. I had expected to give a more adult-centred presentation of Naw-Ruz, which subsequently bombed—meaning we didn’t have much of a “lesson” per se; once I noticed that the kids were getting bored of my waffling, we jumped right into washing our hands and getting ready for the cookies (which was the right thing to do, I suppose).

Kudos? Obviously, to Mom for basically planning the entire thing in about a day; she had even planned more (including making decorative bags) but we ran out of time! Many thanks go to Dad for taking photos. Also, big ups are owed to those who helped keep the class under control during transition time. One thing that was pulled off remarkably well this time was discipline. We’ve had some discipline problems with one child in particular, and it’s really taken all of us to handle him and run the rest of the class smoothly… This time around, it really seemed to work well. Not only did we avoid a tantrum (which had happened the previous week, when there were only two teachers available), we actually applied some of the lessons of Ruhi Book 3 and gave preference to the children who were showing patience and politeness. We had to do it several times, but it worked! I’m sure we’ll have to repeat the exercise in coming weeks, but it was a genuine thrill to know that yes, when you put your heads together, the lessons we’ve learned in our training actually do bear fruit!