From 23 to 25 August, the city of Houston, United States, welcomed a group of 370 enthusiastic youth from Louisiana and Texas who gathered to explore the unique contribution their generation can make to assist in the material and spiritual advancement of their communities.
On the first day of the conference, after devotions were offered in English and Spanish, including beautiful renditions of the Bahá’í Writings set to music, those gathered broke into workshop groups. During one of the first sessions, they discussed how they could assist those younger than themselves in their moral and spiritual development. One participant reflected on the words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, who said that during adolescence our intellectual capacities “are trained and awakened”: “I think ‘awakened’ is a beautiful and important word. At this time of life we learn how to make decisions and to see with our own eyes.” Another participant commented that older youth had the unique opportunity to assist younger generations: “They are created noble and their ability to serve others will grow as we help them in their endeavours.”
“The work feels lighter when you realize that there are so many other youth working for the same purpose and overcoming similar challenges.”
A participant at the conference
In one workshop session, participants discussed how they could support and encourage each other as they make efforts to serve their communities. “Everyone has things they can do to contribute to society,” said a participant. Another commented on how negative habits such as criticism can be replaced by more constructive ones: “Rather than judging each other, we should make an effort to show our friendship and support.”
The youth also discussed how the skills and attitudes required for some specific acts of service, such as working with children, can be developed through a process in which study and action are combined: “We don’t just learn through study, we also learn by going out there and making an effort,” said one youth. “This in turn helps build our capacity,” he said.
Throughout the weekend the youth shared music and other artistic expressions and the venue was often filled with the sounds of uplifting music and song. Arts were central to the learning process, as many of the participants based their presentations on the themes they were studying. One group shared a drawing that represented consciousness that there are many others who share a longing to serve humanity. This concept was also reflected in the words of a young person, who said, “It is a tremendous bounty for us to be a part of this community-building process. The work feels lighter when you realize that there are other youth working for the same purpose and overcoming similar challenges.”
Youth consult together in a small workshop group
Study was enhanced by artistic representations of the concepts that were discussed
One of the workshop sessions discussed the role of youth in assisting those younger than themselves
Groups explored themes and strengthened friendships through games and other activities
Participants used a variety of approaches to enhance their understanding of the concepts in the study materials
In the plenary sessions groups shared the fruits of their consultations
Devotionals at the beginning of each session set the tone for enlightened consultations
Youth were encouraged to share the insights from their workshops in the plenary gatherings
A group photo of the youth at the conference