January 25, 2012

being a Baha'i ~ giving and receiving

we have given away whatever we've outgrown or outworn since living here in Africa.  in South Africa we were able to create a system whereby the mamas of Delft would come and pay a small amount for the items -- this money was used for special Baha'i School activities.  after awhile i knew enough women well enough that i could offer whatever we had to them individually without it being in any way an issue for the community.  this is something that is of serious concern when one is new and foreign and wanting to establish trust while serving the community without being viewed as a person who merely provides charity.  our goal as Baha'is who are serving a community is primarily to provide spiritual educational skills whereby the community can be enriched, become self-sufficient and provide creative solutions to existing challenges.  being charitable is an element of service but it does not solve the problems associated with poverty -- it temporarily alleviates the struggle without providing tools by which to make a change..
playing Night Watchman game where statues move when watchman isn't looking

here, in Ghana, where we live right in the neighborhood with all of the families and individuals we are serving, we have relationships that have developed through core Baha'i service activities:  Devotions, children's classes, tutoring, junior youth group and firesides.  as the months passed by it became time to pass on some things that Domani and Ayana have outgrown.  i didn't feel uncomfortable or awkward beginning a sense of charity because the relationships are already established within the context of the activities of service.  children and jr. youth, especially, are benefitting from spiritual and academic education by coming to our home on a regular basis.  in addition, they are receiving the Word of God in classes and Devotions, an association with one's soul that we cannot measure.

this morning one of the older boys stopped by and asked if he could borrow a story book to take to school with him.  when i looked down and saw that his sneakers were Ayana's outworn ones -- the kind that Americans wore in the 1960's -- i saw the beauty of a pure-hearted soul.  here is this 11 year old boy with girls' shoes on and he is so grateful and happy to be wearing them.  he doesn't care about anything else except that they are comfortable and they fit.  he has a long walk to and from school each day..and comfortable shoes are all that matters..

in moments like these, i feel like i'm the one receiving..
pretending to be 'angry' after playing together :)

there are many daily experiences like that in areas of the world where poverty is a life full of struggling to survive.  people's hearts, for the most part, are free of worldliness and ego.  and from what i've seen in South Africa and Ghana, they are simple and pure -- which makes their hearts most beautiful..

i much prefer to be surrounded by people who are not caught up in the worldliness of this life.  i appreciate natural hairstyles and simple fabrics and genuine interactions.  i feel completely uncomfortable amongst those who are formal and have so many layers of self surrounding them that it's difficult knowing who they truly are.  perhaps this is one of the reasons i find myself so happy living in Africa.  it's true that materialism has spread its cancerous disease to many, but it's also easy to find oneself surrounded by the African pure-hearted souls..

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