by Anita Cleven
Children live in a society where their moral character is constantly tested with worldly desires, selfish thoughts, and vain imaginings. According to the US Surgeon General, almost one out of every three (sixteen to seventeen year olds) in the United States reports that he or she has participated in acts of serious violence. It would be beneficial to overcome these tests by instilling virtues in these youth. A virtue by definition is moral excellence, a character trait or quality valued as being always good in and in itself.
The Baha’i writings emphasize the importance of these virtues. During the summer, children have an opportunity to attend a Spiritual Virtues Camp. This year the camp took place during August 2 – 5 at the Beaverton Baha’i Center and consisted of children with ages ranging from 4 – 12 years. The goal of the camp is to serve humanity by supporting the moral and spiritual development among people of all cultures. The mission is to provide empowering strategies that inspire the practice of virtues in everyday life. Children were able to learn a range of virtues through creative workshops consisting of art work, music, and writing, just to name a few.
Several children were interviewed during the camp about their experiences. Children were asked what they enjoyed most about the camp. Camron replied, “How much fun we have and how many people we meet.” Saba responded by stating, “We get to have a lot of fun, while doing and learning a lot of things.”
When asked what is the most important virtue to you and why, Natash answered, “Helpfulness because it makes me happy to be able to help complete tasks.” Sanam, a youth volunteering at the camp stated, “I enjoy helping little kids learn new stuff.” For Sanam, sacrifice and patience were two of the most important virtues, because of her role as an older sister. She also enjoys volunteering her time to help. Among the youth interviewed, the most common virtue displayed by all of them was that of courtesy. Some quotes from the writings of Baha’u’llah were utilized to emphasize the importance of treating each other with courtesy:
“O people of God! I admonish you to observe courtesy, for above all it is the prince of virtues…Who is illumined with the light of courtesy…hath indeed attained a sublime station.”
-Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 214
Assertiveness, Caring, Cleanliness, Compassion, Confidence, Consideration, Courage, Courtesy, Creativity, Detachment, Determination, Enthusiasm, Excellence, Faithfulness, Flexibility, Forgiveness, Friendliness, Generosity, Gentleness, Helpfulness, Honesty, Honor, Humility, Idealism, Joyfulness, Justice, Kindness, Love, Loyalty, Mercy, Moderation, Modesty, Obedience, Orderliness, Patience, Peacefulness, Prayerfulness, Purposefulness, Reliability, Respect, Responsibility, Reverence, Self-Discipline, Service, Steadfastness, Tact, Thankfulness, Tolerance, Trust, Trustworthiness, Truthfulness, Unity
Courtesy means to be polite and to have good manners. It is being considerate of others. It is a way of speaking and acting with people which gives people a feeling of being valued and respected. “Please,” “Thank you,” “Excuse me” and “You’re welcome” are courteous expressions which let people know you appreciate them and care about their feelings. Courtesy brightens people’s lives. It helps to make life graceful.
Another wonderful virtue demonstrated by the children was that of joyfulness. According to Susan, the Virtues Camp Teacher for five to six year olds, and a long-time teacher of spiritual education classes, “Joy is what gives us wings! Joy makes us alive! Joy heightens all our senses and faculties! Joy is contagious! Children express joy so much more completely than adults…I love it!”
The virtues camp allows children to learn and practice virtues, such as joyfulness and courtesy, which helps build moral character. These virtues ultimately impact the citizens of a society. This in turn will help shape the future of children, as well as the rest of society. After attending the Virtues Camp, numerous children stated they want to continue practicing virtues by volunteering and doing community service projects. These types of positive activities promote harmonious relationships and keep children from being caught up in negative behaviors which affect so many children and youth today. It is necessary, therefore, to try to get as many children and youth as possible involved in the camp. In fact, there is always a need for volunteers who wish to offer their time and talent. Please feel free to contact the Beaverton Baha’i Center at (503) 646-1652 for more information.