Sunday, July 24, 2011

Hózhó Naashá Week

Many Children Learn to Walk in Beauty

With 36 to 55 children in attendance and no less than ten adults assisting at any given time, the Hózhó Naashá children’s camp hosted on the NABI campus proved a success. This four day long children’s day camp provided for the spiritual education of children ages five to ten, using the teachings of the Baha’i Faith and Navajo spiritual traditions, which go hand in hand. In the words of Ellen McAllister-Flack, the coordinator for the camp, “I have been thinking for a long time about the relationship of Navajo spiritual, cultural tradition and how many of them are in line with the Baha’i Faith. This children’s program was an opportunity for exploring that relationship.” The camp was characterized by three Navajo Blessing Way themes: Há áhwiinit’í(be generous), Ahééh jinízin (Be appreciative), and Házhó’ó ajinízin (Be a careful listener). These three values are also celebrated in the Baha’i Faith as attributes of God which humans can reflect in their actions and service to others.

The children participated in an array of activities from learning prayers in Navajo to creating paper cradleboards. Adults supervised activities like beading, weaving, nature walks, drumming, and sports. The group was fortunate to have an elder from Houck, Mr. Chester Kahn, share with the children the importance of the eagle feather and the eagle as a symbol of strength, the one who carries our prayers to the Creator. The children sat attentively before Chester on colorful mats, practicing one of the three Blessing Way themes which the camp emphasized: Házhó’ó ajinízin, be a careful listener.

Among the children were a handful of junior youth between the ages of 11 and 15. Although initially unsure of their role in the program, they quickly found their place as counselors to the younger children. A brief training was offered for them on their role as mentors to the children. They did not hesitate to assume the responsibility of leaders as they guided a group reflection, asking the children which parts of the day went well for them. Counselors supervised the playground and group activities, showing us their true colors as noble beings eager to serve and uplift the children in their community.

Baha’u’llah says “Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom.” Each child is a mine of virtues, such as kindness, love, joy, generosity, and unity. Children who attended the camp were encouraged to see their Navajo culture as one of these many gems which lay within them. In one activity, children were taught basic principles of showing appreciation. As they passed an eagle feather around the room, each person learned to say thank-you in Navajo: Ahéhee'. In another activity they read a story on the equality of all human races, whether black or white, red or tan. Throughout the program they were taught the importance of prayer and the proper attitude when praying: we must sit quietly when we pray, for we are talking to our Creator. Among the prayers learned was a simple Baha’i prayer translated into Navajo:

Diyin Nílíinii, shi Diyin, shi Ayóó o’ni’, shijéí Yínízinii.
(He is God, O God, My God, My Beloved, My heart’s desire.)

Ellen McAllister-Flack, a trained educator with many years experience, says “this is the beginning of letting young people know that who they are and where they come from has valid moral teachings and that if they become Baha’i or recognize Baha’u’llah they bring these with them.” The Hózhó Naashá children’s camp served the greater purpose of bringing the community together through child education. In communities around the world, children are the hope, the ones to whom the future belongs. Hózhó Naashá Week was one of many steps in a process of community building through the spiritual education of children.

The day camp has opened the door to holding children’s class at the neighborhood level. Already, NABI staff and volunteers have held classes at homes in Querino, Houck, and Sanders with children who attended Hózhó Naashá week.

Note: Some of the letters used to write the Navajo words are incorrect and lacking in certain accents. My apologies, I was unable to use the right type of font on this blogging site. I have done my best using the accents available in Times New Roman.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Poem: How "I" Have Come to Understand

When writing, they say
To avoid the word “I”
It is an indication of
Selfish character,

In this verse I will use the word “I”
Too many times
To tell you about the journey I went on
The struggle for detachment
Realizing that to be hurt on account of
Is also a sign of ego
Focusing too much on the “I”
Thinking about
How they should have treated me
How I am frustrated because of them
Me and them

There is no me
There is no them
Something lost
Something found
There is only us
And we
And our Creator