"Have you ever felt nervous about speaking in front of a large group of people? Have you ever been far away from home for a long time and felt homesick? Imagine traveling to a different country, thousands of miles from your home, and speaking to thousands of people at a time. Imagine that you speak a different language from your audience and wear clothing that looks strange to them. Now imagine talking to groups large and small almost every day, sometimes giving five speeches a day, for eight months. How would you feel?"
So begins Amy Renshaw's highlights of a momentous journey to unite East and West, Voyage of Love: 'Abdu'l-Bahá in North America, Bellwood Press, 2010.
In 1912, the eldest son of Bahá'u'lláh, Prophet/Founder of the Bahá'í Faith, came to North America and spent eight months travelling across the continent and sharing his Father's Message. His purpose was two-fold: to strengthen and educate the small community of Bahá'ís there, and to spread the teaching which they believe will change the world.
As there are already several books about this subject, I did wonder why I would need yet another, but I found this an enormously readable account. The style and content are neither cluttered with encyclopedic facts, nor limited to a chronology of names and places. Rather, each chapter paints a vignette of a historical event which can help young readers to grasp the significance of a specific point or moral. This is not another history book so much as it is theology by example.
The author provides just enough detail to sketch out the people, places and relationships, plus a snippet of quote from one of the many talks and speeches at that time. Thus, each chapter can be a starting point for conversation and consultation on such things as compassion, honor, trustworthiness, love, and other virtues, as well as how one goes about fostering and expressing them in daily life. Each chapter can become a teachable moment between parent and child.
Amy Renshaw is an editor of the award winning children's magazine, Brilliant Star, and her ability to make the abstract tangible and understandable to children really shines in Voyage. But she is first and foremost a good story teller. Her prose is easy to read and makes the ideas accessible.
This is a book I can read aloud to my grandchildren. However, it is not simply a "children's" book, so don't assume it has little of interest for adults. Like all the best literature for young people, it has gifts for all ages. For me, it brings history into present focus--otherwise, why should this generation care about what happened over a hundred years ago?
'Abdu'l-Bahá was appointed by His Father as both the sole interpreter of His teachings, and as the perfect exemplar of what it is to live by them. He gave this small prayer for children (and the rest of us):
"O Lord! Make us brethren in Thy love, and cause us to be loving toward all Thy children. Confirm us in service to the world of humanity so that we may become the servants of Thy servants, that we may love all Thy creatures and become compassionate to all Thy people." - quoted in Voyage of Love, p. 166
**I am not affiliated with the publishers, and the book was my own purchase.