Personal Reflections on Service, Education, Economy and Sacrifice
By Rachel Perry
Last week I hosted a gathering in my home for five youth between the ages of 11 – 15. My daughter helped prepare the space by cleaning and beautifying the area the night before. She worked so diligently to tidy, sort, clean and create such a warm and welcoming environment and I was so proud of her.
We prepared snacks, made phone calls, and prepared activities for an evening themed on friendship.
When the participants started to arrive it filled my heart with Joy to see them come together with a sense of playfulness and adventure. They filled our home with laughter and I can’t remember the last time I felt so happy.
This JY Group calls themselves “Spirit Wings” and they have been gathering together weekly for nearly a year now. Their time together includes studying thought-provoking stories relevant for their age and discussing important themes with a global message. The exercises and discussion is designed to help develop critical-thinking skills as well as improving capacity for self-expression. In addition, building skills by doing service in the neighbourhood is an important component of the group. Ideas for the service come from within the group and the youth participate fully in the planning and implementation of the service projects.
This week we decided to have a casual get-together to welcome the new members and to build bonds of friendship while playing card games, eating together and watching a movie. Of course, true friendship includes much more than this but this was something the group wanted to do together so we helped them achieve that.
The reason I’m writing this article is not just to highlight the meaningful way that the JY Group is bringing happiness to our family but I also want to acknowledge something that I do which I have come to understand is very different than what others do.
SACRIFICE IS A GIFT WE GIVE OURSELVES
You see, at the moment I am unemployed; I have applied for E.I. but it is not yet certain if my claim will be accepted; I have a small savings from a generous severance package from my former employer but it is not enough to even guarantee that I will have enough for rent in April. I do not qualify for loans at my bank because of $50,000 unpaid student loans which I wanted to pay but couldn’t because of several factors including being associated with someone who made irresponsible financial choices on my behalf and also because of a deep economic recession which severely affected and limited my career beginning in 2007 and lasting until the present.
In reality, it means I don’t know how I will pay my rent in April. It means I am considering the undesirable possibility that my daughter and I will have to move yet once again as a result of forces of opposition against us which we are powerless to control. It means that this radiant JY Group may be dissolved within a month’s time because I have been unable to find suitable employment in this most conservative of Ontario cities.
The work is out there, no doubt. But at the moment I do not know where it is. The effort required in securing employment in this city is quite monumental, despite being educated, experienced and qualified to work in a number of professional fields.
So the thing I did last Thursday is undoubtedly something which very few people can do. Or perhaps they can do it but it is very difficult so they don’t give it a try.
TURNING FEAR INTO COURAGE; ANXIETY INTO CONFIDENCE
What I did was put aside my worry, fears, frustrations and anxieties about possibly losing our home and our treasured JY Group, yes, I put aside all those negative emotions and I just moved forward with Trust. I just trusted and still do trust that things are working out for us and will continue to do so.
In truth, it took monumental effort to prepare for and host the meal and activities for the gathering, as well as picking up the children and dropping them off at their homes afterwards. It stretched my time, energy, skills, capacity and financial resources to the maximum.
Why then did I do it?
First of all, I did it because I knew I could. I’ve done it before so I knew I could do it again. But more importantly, I did it because what I have learned in the past 15 years of volunteering with the Ruhi Institute is that there are a few things which are different about this organization and methodology which does not exist anywhere else in any other program I’ve seen.
The aim of the JY Group is skill-building, not just for the participants but also for the animators. This means that people can take on opportunities to contribute without having the expectation of perfection. No one is in competition with anyone so while learning about excellence is important being perfect or giving the appearance of perfection is not the goal.
This means that I can participate and contribute even though I’m not perfect. It means I can participate and contribute even though I’m unemployed and my net value is something like $200, according to some metrics of the value of human life which is outlandish if you ask me anyways but that is a topic for another day.
SOME PERSONAL BACKGROUND EXPERIENCE WITH RUHI INSTITUTE
I first trained in the Ruhi Institute when I was just 22 years old. I participated in many study circles until I was ready to tutor. Then I tutored many study circles until I was given the opportunity to coordinate all the study circles in a region. I coordinated until I was given the opportunity to serve as an assistant within an Institution which was closely associated with the JY Group and similar children’s classes. Then I worked as children’s class teacher and now, 15 years later I am a co-animator of a JY Group.
The other day I was filling out a resume for a prospective employer and what I realized is that I have 15 years experience as a volunteer for the Ruhi Institute and that is more experience I have with any one employer. The sequence of courses which trained me to do what I now do as a JY Group co-animator has formed the foundational educational base of my experience in my early adulthood.
Why does all this matter?
Because I chose to spend the majority of my time volunteering throughout my 20’s and 30’s now I have found myself without the financial assets which others my age enjoy. So I may not have credit cards, a savings account, a Will, Life Insurance, or even a dresser for for that matter what I do have is something which no one can take away from me.
I have 15 years of amazing memories of working with incredibly loving and dynamic people from all across Canada to raise up the human resources in a generation of youth and accompany them to build capacity to serve in their communities in ways which make their neighbourhoods better and better places to live.
WHY DOES SACRIFICE AND SERVICE LEAD TO HAPPINESS AND GROWTH?
So last Thursday, as I was spending more time, money, energy and resources than what I should spend I still felt very happy. Every sacrifice which I make like this brings me abundant Joy. It has been my life long dream to live in a neighbourhood where my being there made a positive difference and where I could contribute in a meaningful way to empowering a community to increase their conditions to be ever more prosperous.
On days like last Thursday I felt like I was living my dream.
It was a most challenging day to get through. But no less rewarding than the wonderful feeling of having ascended to the top of a mountain.
So now, if we lose our home and we lose our group, still we will have the joy of many memories to add to the growing collection we already have.
As I was going through the day and putting forward my utmost energy to make it happen, even while very much alone, I took note of the fact that I haven’t seen a lot of people do things like what I was doing. I’m sure they are doing it. I’m sure I’m not the only one making these kinds of whole-hearted sacrifices in order to create a group which can last for another 3-5 years until the youth are old enough to go into a study circle of their own.
But I am a writer and while my single most favourite activity is supporting the education, my second favourite activity is promoting education. Therefore, I thought I would take this opportunity to share in writing just how meaningful our neighbourhood JY Group is to us and what we are doing, as a small family, to contribute to an ever-advancing civilization. Fully recognizing that in doing so I am breaking nearly every social norm known to North America but as a freelance journalist I have the right to speak of what I choose. Additionally, I tend to be a bit of an adventure-loving free spirit with a mindset of Carpe Diem or Seize the Day. If I only had today to live, I would want others to know just how much I have given and sacrificed in the hopes that I might contribute in a positive way to one of the most revolutionary educational system operating on the globe today.
In the past, I kept my financial hardships a secret but I have found that what corrupts our social structures more than anything is this false idea that economics are a personal and private matter. I don’t agree. This is a topic for another day and another article in time but for now I share that I wish to live in a divine civilization where everyone has their basic needs met and their physical suffering is minimal. I wish to live in a neighbourhood and society where people are not suffering from extreme conditions of poverty. In my opinion, experience and research, one of the most revolutionary ways to create a prosperous future civilization is to support the sequence of courses and core activities which branch out of the Ruhi Instutite.
It is my wish for others to know the good things the JY Groups are doing so that day by day the positives can grow. In a world fraught with complexity such as it is right now, I receive Hope, Inspiration and Joy when working with these radiant souls.
More information on the Ruhi Institute and JY Groups can be found at this link.