Blogs by Bahais

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Carl Seale – Eulogy

A moving eulogy.

The Trailhead

Carl_Seale

Carl Seale

Eulogy – September 14, 2014

First Presbyterian Church, McAllen, Texas

I’m Avrel, the youngest of Jan and Carl’s three sons, and I want to thank all of you for being here.

Dad enjoyed Bob Newhart, and especially the bit in his show about “Darrell and my other brother Darrell,” so I think he’s especially amused today by “Jessie and my other pastor Jesse.” Thank you, gentlemen, for everything.

Ruth, thank you for that beautiful tribute and all you and Mike have meant to our family through the years.

Dad’s decline was lengthy and difficult. My mother has been nothing less than heroic and inspirational, and I know you all will lift her up as she begins writing the next chapter of her remarkable life.

I also want to say a very heartfelt thanks to the two people who, next to Mom, did the most for Dad over many…

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Growing Hope

Another beautiful blog from Dan, on his experiences teaching children’s classes. First posted September 8th 2013.

For more visit his blog Baha’i children’s Classes

football timeMany of the children in our neighbourhood class come from families who fled conflict in Myanmar (Burma) many years ago, having spent several years of their young lives in refugee camps before arriving in Canada. We tend to forget this sometimes when we teach the class, until they bring out the football with the UNHCR logo and start kicking it around—a symbol of a troubled past that echoes into the present.

That’s why I was shocked the very first time we offered a class on kindness, and heard one of the older children—one who only occasionally attended the class—say that he could never be kind to a Burmese. Why not, I asked? “Because they killed my family,” he replied. He had seen loved ones shot and killed before his eyes. How could he treat their killers with kindness? As I fell into a speechless silence, trying to find a way to respond, it seemed like the entire lesson fell apart in my mind. From my comfortable, sheltered vantage point as one who had never known war, loss and destitution, I had never considered how to respond to the needs of children who had endured that kind of suffering.

Many of our children, thankfully, are too young to have witnessed much of this violence themselves; they were born in the camps, after their families had already fled the conflict. But all of them have older siblings and cousins, some of whom were approaching the age of junior youth. At one point, as we were meeting together to reflect upon the neighbourhood’s progress, it became obvious to us that we should try to engage them by inviting them to form a junior youth empowerment group.

Now, usually we would start a new group with the book Breezes of  confirmation, because its content is most appropriate as an introduction to the program—a lower reading level, and simpler exercises that serve as a stepping stone to more complex ones in further books. But knowing the families we were involved with, and hoping to find ways to address what we saw as an important issue in their lives, we decided to experiment with another book, entitled Glimmerings of Hope.

In Glimmerings of Hope, we read about the story of Kibomi, a young boy who believes he can make a difference. Kibomi lives in a country full of strife, and one day, his parents are killed in front of his eyes by soldiers of another tribe. He runs for his life, and along the way, as he struggles to come to terms with the horrors he has just seen, he meets many people: a terrified child of his own tribe who has been driven to join a rebel army; children of the other tribe whose parents have also been killed; an old man of the other tribe who shows him kindness instead of hatred, sharing his food and shelter with him; and so on. The people he meets help him to see he has a choice: either to sink into despair, rage, violence and revenge, or to turn his suffering into fuel that will help him change the lives of those around him for the better. Doing the latter takes strength of character that he’s not sure he has, but as he meets more and more people who are working hard to build bonds of loving-kindness and unity between the warring tribes, he realizes that he can draw on their strength to build up his own. Eventually his feelings of fear and despair fade away, and he makes his choice—to work actively towards the betterment of the world.

After a few false starts, we ended up getting a group going with two sisters. As they began studying the book, it was clear that they could relate to the content. We asked them: What would you do if a Burmese came through the door right now? “Tell him to get out,” they exclaimed. “Yell at him, saying, ‘Why did you kill my family?’” But as they progressed further through the book in the following months, it was apparent that their attitudes were beginning to change. As their study of the book ended, we asked them the same question—and their answers had completely reversed. “I’d welcome him in, offer him something to drink, and make him feel comfortable,” they said. “I’d say, ‘I know you didn’t kill my family, what happened wasn’t your fault.’”

living together in harmonyEven in our children’s class, we manage to address the subject when it comes up, although in simpler terms. The children do seem to understand when we explain that we have a choice to treat people kindly or unkindly, and that there are consequences to either choice. When we treat others unkindly, they’re more likely to treat us unkindly, and vice-versa. The lessons in Set 4 of Ruhi Book 3′s Grade 2 curriculum, on the topic of living together in harmony and unity, were especially good for addressing this issue. It’s not always easy to tell if they’re really getting it, but their parents have told us that they’ve seen a definite improvement in their behaviour over the past year. One of the fathers said that he noticed his son was getting into fewer fights, and working things out using words instead—a sign that something’s working for sure.

As teachers of Bahá’í children’s classes and animators of junior youth groups, we’re engaged in an educational process that spans entire lifetimes. The time we have with these young people is short, but more often than not, it’s enough to make a big difference in their lives. Will these short years remove the trauma of losing loved ones, or erase the memories of violence and conflict? Not likely. All we can really do is offer tools that will help young souls to deal with their reality, and to regain hope and trust. As we do, we forge bonds of friendship with them and their families, getting to know them closely, like members of our own family. We learn from them, coming to understand who they are, what they’ve been through, how to serve them better, and how to help them arise in turn to serve others.

 This blog first appeared on Baha’i Children’s Classes and is kindlly reprinted here by permission.

(c) Dan Jones


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Virtues project workshop

A big welcome to dedicated blogger Dan Jones, a Baha’i from Ottowa, who has been sharing  resources and reflections for Baha’i children’s classes for many years.  I came across his blog when I was first teaching classes in a country area and was geographically isolated from other Baha’i teachers.  His dedication to his blog and his classes is inspirational.  What makes them special is their reflection on the process and constant striving for excellence and empowerment for all involved.

Thanks so much Dan for permission to reblog some of your blogs.  A great one for teachers looking for some extra inspiration no matter where they live.

You can read this  and more on Dan’s excellent blog  Baha’i Children’s Classes

to give and be generousThis past weekend, a bunch of us had the chance to attend a workshop on The Virtues Project. If you haven’t heard of them, they give seminars/courses and produce materials that promote virtues—spiritual values that are independent of any particular religious tradition—in all walks of life. The organizers of a local Bahá’í summer camp arranged the workshop for their camp counsellors, but opened it to the wider community too, so there was a nice mix of all kinds of people in attendance, including plenty of children’s class teachers. I took a few notes from the presentation and thought I’d present them here in point form.

Why are virtues important?

  • Virtues are the building blocks of the spirit. We are at our happiest when we are developing our virtues. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said: “Man is, in reality, a spiritual being, and only when he lives in the spirit is he truly happy.” (Paris Talks, p.72)
  • When we cultivate virtues in ourselves, we’re not the only ones who benefit. To paraphrase the Chinese philosopher Lao Tse, cultivating virtue in ourselves has an effect on our families, our villages, our nations, and the world. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá declared: “Until the moral degree of the nations is advanced and human virtues attain a lofty level, happiness for mankind is impossible.”

How can we help encourage the development of virtues?

How do we speak the language of virtues?

  • When speaking the language of virtues with someone, we avoid: shaming (“Why can’t you be like so-and-so?”), nagging (“Goofing off again? I told you to stop!”), rescuing (…them from their problems), advising (giving advice on what they should do) and labelling. Instead, we: acknowledge (“That was very kind of you to offer her your seat.”), correct (“What will help you be patient until story time is done?”), and guide or instruct (“I need your help to prepare the room for class.”).
  • When we use the language of virtues, we also refrain from complimenting (“You’re so honest!”), choosing to acknowledge virtues instead (“What you just did was very honest!”). The reasoning is that we all have honest moments and not-so-honest moments; no one shows a virtue 100% of the time. Compliments can sound hollow and create guilt (“If only you knew about that time I lied to Mrs. So-and-so…”), but giving a virtue acknowledgement helps others to identify which actions are virtuous and encourages them to develop the virtue in question.

What does the language of virtues look like?

  • The grammar of the language of virtues looks like this:

Opening phrase • virtue • situation.

  • Acknowledgement might look like this:

It was • thoughtful • of you to bring cookies for the rest of the class.

Thank you for your • cooperation • in helping to clear the table.

  • Correction and instruction might look like this:

Remember, we show • respect • and stay silent when someone is speaking.

I’m going to ask for your • self-discipline • as we enter the museum.

Although the workshop was a little too short to fully cover all the material (usually they’re a few days long instead of just an afternoon), It was very thought-provoking. As we went through it, I kept thinking of situations in which I could have used a virtues focus to help address problematic behaviour in our children’s class—or even just encourage the children better by pointing out a particular virtue they’re showing.

Since our duty as children’s class teachers is to mine the gems of virtue from the children’s souls and help mankind to benefit therefrom, it makes sense that we should pay special attention to virtues and spiritual qualities, use language that puts them centre stage.

The facilitator was careful to note that language on its own doesn’t fix every problem, and that other strategies are needed depending on the situation—that’s why The Virtues Project gives five strategies. When we get the hang of them all, we can tell which ones are appropriate at which time. All in all, it was a very helpful and inspiring workshop, and a good complement to our existing Ruhi training. It made me want to attend another, fuller training sometime for sure, to explore how to apply a virtues focus in different, more complex situations.

First Posted on June 9, 2014 by

(c) Dan Jones