Nia begins: “We would like to share a song with you.”

“It is a song about prayer,” adds Lily.

Jasmine explains, “These are the words of ‘Abdu’l-Baha.”

I hate when people request for my children or youth to “perform” at a function. They’re not dancing monkeys, and they don’t do tricks. But my girls love to share, which is entirely different. We share, not because we’re polished, but because we’re learning.

“Strive,” we sing, “that your actions day by day may be beautiful prayers.”

“Thank you for listening,” Ianna concludes.

The thanks is not an extra. It’s a part of what we’re learning, too.

It’s so funny to me how they all beg to be the one assigned to say that last sentence, “thank you for listening”. (We rotate.) The auxiliary aspects of sharing with others, like introductions, explanations, and thanks, are so often relegated to the adults who deal with children. It’s such a little thing, but it makes my girls feel so grown up to take on these tasks. It helps them to realize that courtesy is a virtue of action, not just one of keeping quiet and sitting still.

When they are older, I won’t need to put so many words in their mouths anymore. With junior youth, I replace many of my answers with questions.

  • “What would be the best way to introduce ourselves?
  • “What should these people know about what we are doing?”
  • “How should we divide the responsibilities?”
  • “How can we show these people  the greatest possible courtesy, kindness, and love?”

But for now, wading in the shallows of the adult world, my girls like the safety of ritual to help them practice new skills without fear. I think that’s why “thank you for listening” is so popular. It’s the only line that never changes, week to week.

We’re sharing “thank you” because we’ve learned it.

Every. Single. Week.

Realize that we do a lot of thinking too. What kinds of actions might be beautiful prayers? Can Sockie (the cat) pray? How? Can a plant pray? How? But there will always be a special place for rote memorization. After stretching the mind to the edges of understanding, there is real joy in certain mastery. My teaching, like much of my life, is both far too traditional and far too newfangled for the taste of most adults. But my students are curious, courteous, reverent, and happy.

What more could you ask for?

Pedagogical theory? Well, I won’t perform for you, but I’m happy to share what I’ve learned.

I’ve learned that there must be room in the world for knowing and unknowing. That practice, practice, practice makes practical. That you have to start somewhere, but it might as well be nowhere if you don’t know where it is. And that the most important things must be learned, as they say, by heart.

And of course, thank you for listening.

children's artwork with a Baha'i quote about prayer