American Neighborhoods

Night Walks

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One of the interesting aspects of our neighborhood has come to light to me only recently. When Soleia was just born, it was so easy to stay confined to our house and entertain her with her toys here. Now she gets bored so quickly and taking walks is essential for her happiness.

These walks have been amazing (though I may be developing some minor back pains due to use of the baby bjorn). I walk to the King Center and around the streets where we have different groups and classes. I talk to lots of people who I have met over the years. And Soleia gets to play in the swing.

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Kevin and I feel like we’re in a bit of a crisis. He and I, as well as a few others, are maintaining a number of activities, but it still feels like we are far from growing them more. We felt invigorated after the walk and running into so many of our friends. It’s a confirmation to see so many people we are connected with so easily. On the way back home we met with a family (father+mother+jy+child) who used to come to the children’s class back when Ruth Breton was assisting the activities here. It turns out the family is Salvdorian from Santa Ana. They invited us to a weekly session they have to share their church’s belief.  I remember when we were doing the classes with their family, the mother felt uncomfortable since she did not know if her husband would approve of our Ruhi Book 3 lessons. I believe their church is up in San Bruno. It was interesting the way this man described his church. He says it’s more “independent” than the other churches in this neighborhood. I can only assume that means smaller.  He told me that my daughter needed more God in her life….  Such casual affronts at people’s life styfles cannot possibly be effective in recruiting people to your belief system.  We said our goodbyes and talked about the different confirmations we have seen over the years and this (2)


The Difference Between American JYG and the Rest of the World

I have a bad habit of only taking pictures of dogs and not of the kids who come to the core activities.  At least I have really cute puppies.

One thing that I have found interesting is how hard it is to have junior youth groups in the United States.  We hear glorious stories around the world about how the Junior Youth Spiritual Empowerment Program has taken off and these young ones have taken off and are arising to serve.  Yet in the United States, we are not seeing the same growth.  At times I have wondered if it is the animators who work with these youth.  Are we the ones incapable of really striking a chord with them? Are we misdirecting their energies so that they do not want to be part of this world-wide movement of change?

I heard a story once from the Southwestern Regional Assistant for Junior Youth Groups about a man from Africa (I think it was Cameroon or some other country in the West). He apparently had groups of 50 or more kids where he was from.  He came to the US and was eager to serve, especially when he heard that groups here were only about 10.  After a few groups meetings he said that he had never managed groups so difficult to manage.

What about our American society makes kids more disruptive and unwilling to grow up and take on more responsibility? It reminds me of this article my friend Amanda shared on her facebook.  Why are American Kids So Spoiled?

Today we had 6 girls over for Junior Youth Group, and of course Amelia was here to help.  When Kevin came home from work today he asked her how it went.  She said “it was interesting…” and I replied they were good today.  Amelia said “Wow, really? They were so crazy!”

Of course, I have seen groups of children in China.  They are so much better behave than groups of kids here.  But why is that?

In our group today once we were all gathered we had an interesting conversation about how certain people in the neighborhood see the Baha’is.  One girl mentioned that there was a woman in the neighborhood who is Chinese and Christian named Miss Big Bird. I checked with the girls that they weren’t making fun of her and that was her actual name.  They said that she has classes at their home every week where they sing songs and learn about virtues for the kids.  Apparently one of the junior youth told her that the  “Baha’i classes are more fun.”  Lupita, the one who was talking about Miss Big Bird, went on to say how many things were bothered by the other woman.  I should point out Lupita is a JY but she has assisted with children’s classes before.

I didn’t want to create disunity with others serving in the neighborhood, and I didn’t want Lupita thinking that the services we are trying to do are different.  I tried to change the subject to focus on our own qualities and how we can improve ourselves using everything we know.  I also wanted to point out that the classes were for everyone no matter what they believe, and we happen to be Baha’i but people who are not are welcome to learn with us.

We know that when the Baha’is are making an impact, people will rise up against what we are doing.  I’ve heard only a few stories of individuals in the neighborhood saying things against us.  It seems that these kids so far are happy to be with us and do not pay attention to what others say about the activities.  I pray for their strength and steadfastness against peer pressure and the pressures of the society around them.