contemplating today

shrine of the Báb from afar. photo: Maurice & Marcelle TurgeonToday is (or was) Sunday, the 24th of September, 2006. Just a month plus a couple of days until Ottawa’s Baha’i community begins a new cycle of its program of growth; the same amount of time will pass before I leave for pilgrimage to the Baha’i World Centre in Haifa. Both of these are preoccupying me at the moment. Before I leave for pilgrimage, I need to get quite a whack of documentation done up: renew my health card, renew my driver’s license (which will entail taking my G-level exam), get passport photos taken and signed by garantors, to name a few. I need to read up on safe travel guidelines for pilgrims coming to the World Centre, so that I’m not taken by surprise during my visit. Oh yeah: most people are surprised when I tell them that I’ve never been on an airplane. Never meaning “once, when I was one and a half years old and I don’t remember a thing about it”. So that’ll be an interesting experience. And beyond all the material preparations, there are the spiritual preparations for pilgrimage. I’m not sure that I’m fully ready to sit and pray in the Shrines and be able to take it all in. I’m afraid I’ll just be so overwhelmed, or worse, be left unaware of the full magnitude of the experience. I suppose everybody goes through that sort of self-questioning… like ‘Abdu’l-Baha said, when in doubt, pray for strength. It will be given to you, no matter how difficult the circumstances. More about this later.

And then there’s life in Ottawa, and my service goals for the year. I just came back from a tutor meeting tonight (Sunday night—had to skip choir 🙁 ). We went over the latest guidance from the Universal House of Justice, looking at it from the perspective of our roles as tutors.

Note: In this case, for those who may not know, “tutor” is just shorthand for someone who facilitates the sequence of courses offered by the Ruhi Institute, a community development program that focuses on the development of skills of service through the application of spiritual insights that are gained through profound study of the Baha’i Writings. Anyone who has completed said sequence of courses can act as a tutor; most commonly, we say that such a person “acts as a tutor” rather than bestowing a title of “Tutor” upon them. —dj

Much of our discussion focused on how we could be more effective in our service as tutors; for example, focusing on implementing the practice component of institute courses—which transforms the course from a mere academic exercise to a skill-building experience. Lots of food for thought. It should help me a lot in planning how I want to serve in the near future. So far, I plan to put a sizable chunk of my effort into our neighbourhood francophone children’s class. That’s going well so far; I already have an outline of the curriculum done up for the entire school year, up to August, all based on the modified Furutan curriculum provided by the Canadian Spiritual Assembly. That’s mental! And it’s already way past what we were able to do last year. I really feel like I’ve gained a lot of confidence and know-how from the past year’s experience of co-teaching this class—and that makes me feel quite optimistic about the challenge of the new year ahead.

One last note, relating to my own personal development: Certain things have been happening lately that have made me look back at the past few years of my life. Right now, I see how far my life has come in the past ten years and I’m almost brought to tears, tears of joy and of gratitude. Fact is, I barely recognize myself now. I feel like my life has done a complete volte-face, or about-face. When I was 16, I never would have thought that one day I would be confidently teaching children’s classes, establishing a successful career doing something I really enjoy, developing healthy, nourishing friendships and relationships with people I love and care about. Whereas I was quietly depressed as a teenager, now I feel like bursting with joy at the prospect of really living a rich and fulfilling life. There’s so much to tell about this that I don’t have the time to share right now, but God willing, I’ll be able to share some of these things with you. Have a good day at work or at school and keep the comments (and emails) coming.

Photo: Maurice & Marcelle Turgeon.

this is the august update

youth triohey all you wonderful people. it’s been a long week and an even longer month, filled with lots of busymaking, vacationing, and picture-taking – and even some singing. you’ve probably noticed, but just in case, do pop by my flickr site to check out the latest photos and leave a comment or two. Along with updated vacation photos – mostly landscapes so far, more people shots coming soon – I’ve also posted some photos of the Super Ex, taken on the day I performed at the Joy of Faith concert with a musical group of Baha’i youth (well, mostly youth, with one youthful gentleman along for the ride).

It’s that time again. What time, you ask? Why, the time to get children’s classes in gear for the upcoming year. Our local coordinators have been kind enough to forward me copies of a pilot curriculum for Baha’i children’s classes, developed by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha’is of Canada, based on the “Baha’i Education for Children” series by A. A. Furutan. I’ll be using the pilot curriculum as a framework for our children’s class (“our” because I’m not the only teacher, and because the class is starting to feel a little like a family to me), which will entail translating it into French and finding corresponding French-language activities to replace those that don’t survive translation. See baha’i children’s class ideas to follow the progress of the class this year.

Those of you who have been following the situation in the Middle East and who have wondered about the state and condition of the Baha’i World Centre and Holy Places in Haifa and surroundings will be pleased to know that, according to the most recent communication from the Universal House of Justice, “no damage was done to the Holy Places and that the friends here remained in safety, pursuing their tasks with steadiness of purpose and exemplary perseverance”. Of course, as has been noted by many people since this most recent outbreak of violence began, we must remember to keep in our prayers not only our friends at the World Centre, but also our many fellow human beings who find themselves innocent victims of this conflict. Perhaps now, more than ever, is the time to rededicate ourselves to championing the Cause of world unity and to teach peace all the world around (to borrow a turn of phrase from Red Grammer). Part of my efforts in this wise include my participation in the core activities of the Baha’i Faith, most notably the above-mentioned children’s classes. I’ve also had a strong desire to start a study circle that would allow friends, family and acquaintances to get together and exchange on some of these topics. If you’re in the Ottawa area and you’d like to get involved, please do let me know.

On a side note, I’m seriously considering returning to my earlier vegetarian diet, after a hiatus of a few years (induced by a knock on the head). I was originally a pesco-ovo-lacto vegetarian, which means I would eat fish, eggs and dairy products – I’m thinking I may become pesco-pollo-ovo vegetarian, adding chicken but cutting out dairy (since I definitely have lactose intolerance issues). Basically, that would make me semi-vegetarian, or “wishy-washy” as some might put it. Any feedback, comments, and encouragement you may have would be greatly appreciated – via email or comment on this post. And Martin, I already know what you think.

chillin’ day

yeah, it was a cold day today, especially for June. Oddly enough, I prefer cold weather. I said that to the guy behind the counter at Bridgehead and he thought I was nuts. Apparently people came to him all day to complain about the weather (along with buying coffee).

So anyway, besides being cold, today was a pretty quiet day. I got up at about 8:00 (on Saturday?!? ya I know.) to go participate in the devotional program for People and the Planet, a biannual conference sponsored by the Sierra Club. One of my neighbours, Diana, is part of an organization called Faith and the Common Good – which gathers representatives from many religions and faith groups and gets them focused on environmental issues – and they were asked to prepare devotions for the conference, which is how I got involved. I guess someone heard I could chant prayers well. It was cool, although I didn’t stay there too long. I saw a few people I recognized – Tazz‘s friend Rhetta was there, for instance.

I needed breakfast, so, after pausing briefly at a local natural food store for a few groceries, I went walking down Elgin and stopped at The Lieutenant’s Pump for Saturday brunch. It was pretty good (read my review on Yahoo) – I got to sit around eating my omelette and watching England and Paraguay beat up on each other at World Cup soccer (sorry… football).

Once I got back home, I started preparing materials for this week’s children’s class. That took me until about one o’clock, when I jumped on my bike and rode off to Julie and Fanfan’s place for the class. Oddly enough, there were no children. We waited until 2:00, still no children. Oops. We chalked it up to a logistical blip and kept the lesson plan ready for a future class. Fanfan came by at around 2:30, and we all watched some more World Cup soccer together as Argentina and Côte d’Ivoire battled it out. Fanfan roots for Argentina and (to be fair) I rooted for Côte d’Ivoire. It was a more interesting game than the England-Paraguay game.

Now? Well, now I’m blogging, hanging around with the cat, and getting ready for bed. I’ll probably take some time to make phone calls tomorrow, and get settled and ready for next week. This past week has been a bit of a trial, with lots of working late and pushing my limits. I think milk and cookies are definitely in order.

chat room ambience

<dragfyre> bleargh
<Bucher> moof
* dragfyre dies over and over
<katster> DF
<katster> 🙂
<Salinnatwork> df: bad day?
<dragfyre> tires
<dragfyre> tired, even
* dragfyre just came back from children's classes %)
<Salinnatwork> df - how old of a children are you, exactly?
<Zibblsnrt> df: As instructor or pupil?
<dragfyre> instructor 😛
<Zibblsnrt> hehe
<dragfyre> grrrr
<dragfyre> 6 and 7 yr olds
<Salinnatwork> yay! I love them
<Salinnatwork> (sorry.)
* dragfyre loves them too 🙂
<dragfyre> but they do have a lot of energy
<dragfyre> which is good!
<dragfyre> but it is tiring to deal with many of them at a time
<dragfyre> on the other hand, it is an interesting challenge and teaches one many useful parenting skills
<dragfyre> I'm trying to be positive here instead of dying all over the place and/or sticking forks in my eyes

children’s classes talk wrap-up and thoughts to ponder for the week

Counsellor Scott’s talk went off quite well. About sixty people showed up, a mix of parents, teachers, members of institutions, children and youth. Part of the talk reprised points and ideas that were discussed at the meeting with the youth on the 5th, and that formed the conceptual framework necessary to understand the lines of action in the newest Five Year Plan. The focus at this meeting being the education of children and junior youth, we spent time discussing concepts related to the state of our education system and the state of children’s education in our community.

The talk made all of us question the sort of education we provide to our children—is it really enough to talk about virtues we “should be” manifesting, and go straight on without teaching related skills and developing in children the will to manifest those skills, or without practicing them in a safe, loving and encouraging environment? Is it enough to teach our children to be “relatively” excellent, whereas Shoghi Effendi exhorts the Bahá’ís not to “content themselves merely with relative distinction and excellence”? Are we teaching our children to be merely good citizens, or are we teaching them to be agents of change that will transform the society around them?

I’ll definitely be doing some thinking, particularly since I’m involved in a Bahá’í children’s class (recently featured on Baha’i Views. cool, huh?). Sometimes I really feel like I’m learning everything from the ground up. These questions have profound implications for the way I serve, the importance I place on these weekly classes, and the attitude I cultivate about my role in the process. Food for thought from the Writings:

Blessed is that teacher who shall arise to instruct the children…

Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í Education—A Compilation, p. 9

Among the greatest of all services that can possibly be rendered by man to Almighty God is the education and training of children…

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections From The
Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, #106, p. 133

According to the explicit divine Text, teaching the children is indispensable and obligatory. It followeth that teachers are servants of the Lord God, since they have arisen to perform this task, which is the same as worship. You must therefore offer praise with each breath, for you are educating your spiritual children.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Education—A Compilation, p. 33

children’s classes blog

hey. I’ve started up a little experimental blog called baha’i children’s class ideas. reason is: I co-teach a neighbourhood children’s class, having had little prior experience in the field except Ruhi Book 3. I need a place to write down lesson plan ideas so that I can plan them out in advance, try them out, and then go back and reflect on how the ideas worked when put into practice. check it out, leave comments and ideas, whatever. it’s a very informal project (that will probably get updated far less often than this blog), but it’s worth a try.