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In May emotions run high in many families – especially those with graduating high school seniors planning to leave for college in the fall. Some kids get ecstatic and excited, while others need consoling or cheering. Parents rush to the mailbox, just as attached to the outcomes as their aspiring students – or maybe more attached. Blustery emotions all around us testify that the college admissions process has spiraled out of control.
As the first in my family to graduate from a four-year university, my parents didn’t mention much about college. I sent in one college application, thinking, “it’s a big school; I’ll find something I like.” Maybe my cursory research left some options aside, but today’s mania over students who scurry from acrobatics to ballet to expensive tutors has exceeded all the over-parenting records of the past. Just how much can we fit into a single day? Helicopter parents hover over their young, pleading to make every moment shine on college applications. Perhaps we are overdoing it a bit. No wonder my daughter has mono and strep throat right now.
So let’s review the goal at hand: when we subtract the prestige of an Ivy League education, the costs we can’t afford, our tears and our desires for our children; most parents really hope for one simple thing. We want a good match for our darling children; a quality school where they can find their calling and nurture their greatest capacity.
As a Baha’i parent, the tool that helped me scrape away all the dust and return to the clear, single purpose of guiding my children’s educational goals came from the Baha’i Writings. The Guardian of the Baha’i Faith, Shoghi Effendi, recommended a six-step process for solving problems, which speaks to us all about the dynamics of prayer and how we can use it to find solutions:
First Step: Pray and meditate about it. Use the prayers of the Manifestations (Prophets of God) as they have the greatest power. Then remain in the silence of contemplation for a few minutes.
Second Step: Arrive at a decision and hold this. This decision is usually born during the contemplation. It may seem almost impossible of accomplishment but if it seems to be an answer to a prayer or a way of solving the problem, then immediately take the next step.
Third Step: Have determination to carry the decision through. Many fail here. The decision, budding into determination, is blighted and instead becomes a wish or a vague longing. When determination is born, immediately take the next step.
Fourth Step: Have faith and confidence that the power will flow through you, the right way will appear, the door will open, the right thought, the right message, the right principle or the right book will be given you. Have confidence, and the right thing will come to your need. Then, as you rise from prayer, take at once the fifth step.
Fifth Step: Then, lastly, ACT. Act as though it had all been answered.
Then act with tireless, ceaseless energy. And as you act, you, yourself, will become a magnet, which will attract more power to your being, until you become an unobstructed channel for the Divine power to flow through you.
Many pray but do not remain for the last half of the first step. Some who meditate arrive at a decision, but fail to hold it. Few have the determination to carry the decision through, still fewer have the confidence that the right thing will come to their need. But how many remember to act as though it had all been answered?”
How true are those words:
Greater than the prayer is the spirit in which it is uttered, and greater than the way it is uttered is the spirit in which it is carried out. – Shoghi Effendi, Principles of Baha’i Administration, p. 91.
Our family used these problem-solving steps repeatedly in our daughter’s college quest. And yes, we did make some pro and con lists, we compared costs, and we all asked ourselves, “Does a more expensive school mean better education? Do shorter flights home mean a closer family bond? And just what DO I want to do for the rest of my life?”
These steps helped me, helped us, stay focused on the prize. Shockingly, the admission process, along with these six solution-driven steps, helped us know our daughter much more deeply than before. She probably surprised herself a bit, too.
She’ll study songwriting at Belmont University in Nashville in the fall. I’ll miss her very much. But the process must have worked — in one of her songs she sings: “What do you do when you are standing still? …let go, let go, let go.”*
*Song title and lyrics by Lauren Grieve