Baha’is try, above all else, to serve humanity. In one small town in Northern California, Baha’is recently served the community by serving lunch.
The Baha’i community of Chico, California recently learned that high school students in their town couldn’t graduate and receive their diplomas if they owed lunch money to the schools—so the Baha’is paid the outstanding tab for all the student’s lunches. One local television station’s news department learned about this issue and the quiet way the Baha’is had stepped in, and decided to cover it. This is the transcript of Channel 12’s June 8, 2017 news report by reporter Hayley Skene:
Food insecurity continues to be a problem for families here in the North State, and if a student owes lunch money, his or her diploma is actually withheld.
So, a group in Chico came together to take care of this difficult burden on this year’s grads.
“I’m listening to national news and they’re talking about lunch shaming … And I started thinking, what can I do in these places?” said Jackie Leser, a Chico resident and member of the Baha’i Church. [Oops—they got that one wrong, since Baha’is don’t have churches…]
As it turns out, food insecurity is a problem right here in Butte County, and this year dozens of Chico high schoolers owed money for lunches … money that some families just don’t have.
The debt for Chico High Seniors? $234.89.
“So I went and paid that bills. And I said, well check PV [the town’s other high school] for me. And it was $428.50.” said Leser.
The seniors that owe money upon graduation? They don’t get a diploma. So Leser kept at it, turning to other members of her Baha’i church community for help.
“There’s a lot of retired people, people on fixed incomes. So we got together and they’re pulling $20’s out of their pocket. One lady pulled out a dollar, that’s all she could afford,” said Leser.
Sure enough, the group scraped together $663.39, enough to cover the lunch debt for all seniors at PV and Chico High.
Leser says, no she probably will never know exactly who the money went to … and that’s just fine.
“I watched on the news last night, the kids that had graduated, and I thought to myself, some of us are there, getting that diploma, because we did this.” beamed Leser.
She hopes that their effort has a “pay-it-forward” effect …
“I do believe it takes a village, and I personally believe we are our brother’s keeper,” said Leser.
[You can watch the full report here]
The Old Testament says that man is his brother’s keeper; and the New Testament says he is his brother’s brother; in this day the Baha’i teachings say:
Charity is beloved and acceptable before God, and is accounted the chief among all good deeds. Consider, and then remember … Blessed is he who prefers his brother before himself. – Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, pp. 184-185.