One of the key words we hear in many of the recent letters from the Universal House of Justice is “coherence”, referring to the smooth interaction between the different core activities promoted by the worldwide Baha’i community. I came across a great example of coherence recently in a neighbourhood of Ottawa.
A neighbourhood children’s class had been formed during the previous year, and had continued for a while with gradually decreasing participation until by the end only one child was attending with any regularity (i.e. sometimes). Then, in May of this year, a collective effort began to promote the Junior Youth Empowerment Program, with which many of you are no doubt familiar. This neighbourhood was chosen as a focus for outreach, and through the many conversations that took place, a solid base was gathered for the establishment of a regular junior youth group there. At the same time, several families expressed interest in sending their younger children to attend a program for spiritual and moral education, and a strong base was built up to revitalize the ailing children’s class. The first class during this period saw a surge of interest, as attendance rose from one to nine children. Since then, the class now averages six to seven children each week.
One of the important aims of the Junior Youth Empowerment Program, of course, is to help young people develop the moral strength and ability to serve humanity. One of the ways this is expressed in the program is for the participants to engage in service projects. The junior youth group that was formed in this neighbourhood decided, as part of its first service project, to help organize the upcoming lesson for the local children’s class. The junior youth divided up roles between them, one of them volunteering to read a story, one of them to teach a song, and so on. Each one of them also brought some material contribution, such as a tablecloth, paper plates, carrots, apples, and other snacks. After a brief meeting with the regular children’s class teacher a few days before, the junior youth gathered for the class and carried out their service project—bringing two new children along with them to participate!
This example taught me a few things about how these different community-building activities can work together. For instance, the enthusiasm of the junior youth to participate in that program makes them want to encourage others to join—whether their peers joining the same group, or, as we’ve seen, younger siblings joining in a children’s class. For different ages, different needs, and different programs, driving further growth through their interactions. This should be relevant to those who are teaching children’s classes with decreasing attendance. The question remains, as always: from where should we raise up the necessary human resources to offer these different programs? Perhaps, in the course of time, we need look no further than the very same neighbourhood in which we are serving. As they experience the joy of serving humankind, at least some of these junior youth will be inspired and will arise to the challenge of giving back to their community in the same way others gave to them. Those junior youth will become youth and young adults, and will empower junior youth in the same way they were empowered, and will teach children who will, in time, repeat the cycle. That’s coherence.