In middle school, I was a social nerd, to put it simply. My life revolved around school, homework, occasional hangouts with friends, and Baha’i activities.
At that time, I never really felt too consumed with anyone else’s problems—instead, I simply focused on getting through the days.
Then, my final year of middle school transformed my life.
I had the opportunity to enroll in a community service class. The structure of the class was very basic. My teacher Amy Bainbridge told our class of 15 on the first day to do three things: one, find a social issue in our community; two, research the issue, and finally, get involved.
Fast-forward six months from that date—I helped to co-found a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to helping homeless people. Inspired by the teachings of the Baha’i Faith and the support of my teacher, I helped create a foundation while still in middle school. My life began to take shape with an imperative purpose, and I finally started to apply everything that I had learned in school to help others.
Since then, my work in the new organization Helping the Homeless Colorado has impacted my mindset and outlook on the world. In addition, it has completely changed the way that I view what young people can potentially accomplish.
The organization has helped thousands of individuals in Colorado who are experiencing homelessness. Anywhere from distributing over 30,000 basic necessities, the creation of a Scholarship Program, to challenging the stereotypes surrounding homelessness, I am proud of the work that this youth-led charity has accomplished.
The teachings of the Baha’i faith emphasize that “… service to others and to society is a hallmark of the Baha’i life.” – The Universal House of Justice, April 27, 2017. The Baha’i writings urge all of us to do whatever we can to lift the burdens of poor and homeless people—in fact, to consider all people members of one human family, and to extend our kindness to them:
Is it possible for one member of a family to be subjected to the utmost misery and to abject poverty and for the rest of the family to be comfortable? It is impossible unless those members of the family be senseless, atrophied, inhospitable, unkind. Then they would say, “Though these members do belong to our family, let them alone. Let us look after ourselves. Let them die. So long as I am comfortable, I am honored, I am happy—this, my brother—let him die. If he be in misery, let him remain in misery, so long as I am comfortable. If he is hungry, let him remain so; I am satisfied. If he is without clothes, so long as I am clothed, let him remain as he is. If he is shelterless, homeless, so long as I have a home, let him remain in the wilderness.”
Such utter indifference in the human family is due to lack of control, to lack of a working law, to lack of kindness in its midst. If kindness had been shown to the members of this family, surely all the members thereof would have enjoyed comfort and happiness. – Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, pp. 38.
The world we live in is challenged by various forms of injustice. Economically, America is still one of the richest nations in the world, yet we have a large number of fellow human beings without basic shelter. You can either view facts like these as discouraging, or understand them as a calling to our society to work together to change the world.
So, to all the youth reading this article: if anything, I want my message to reach you. Please understand this: it is our future, and society is calling for your support. Your voice matters. Your opinions matter. Your efforts matter.
You do not need a formal education to create change. You do not need to wait until adulthood to become an active participant in society. When you watch the news and see something that upsets you, find out what you can do to help. We all have something to contribute to our world, and your contribution is needed now more than ever.
Our future asks of us, as young people, to take part in social action. Seek opportunities to make a difference, big or small. In this manner, the Baha’i teachings also recognize that “A generation of youth is being galvanized into action by a compelling vision of how they can contribute to building a new world.” – The Universal House of Justice, December 29, 2015.
Let’s create a movement, together, to change the world and help our human family.