“Travel in the Way of God”: An Integrative Writing Project for a Social Action and Public Discourse Course That Is Going ‘Round the World
Back in the summer of 2013, Cindy Savage was one of some twelve learners (from Canada, China, Hong Kong, Tunisia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) in the course on Social Action and Public Discourse (faculty: Sherna Deamer, Betty J. Fisher, Barney Leith). When she was uploading her final artistic project, which she called “Artistic Project—My Gift to You,” she wrote: “I’ve really enjoyed the course, and, though it was tough to post from many of the remote places I was traveling in China and Mongolia, I was inspired by reading the posts by others and followed the threads with interest. I am so impressed with all of the ways that the students in this class are participating in their communities and working toward the betterment of humanity through social action. I have learned so much along the way and hope to stay in touch with many of you.”
Recently a chance meeting with Cindy brought to light the fact that she has turned her final project for the course into a small book called Travel in the Way of God. Cindy is a mother of six and the grandmother of eleven. She loves to travel, do handcrafts, garden, and learn new languages. For more than thirty-five years she has been a teacher, a principal, and an administrator of schools in the United States, South America, and China. She has published more than forty novels for young people and more than one hundred textbooks. She teaches workshops worldwide and is now splitting her time between Shanghai, China; Panchgani, India; and the United States with her husband Trip Barthel. In China she created the World Ambassador Program that teaches global awareness through a unique blend of stories, songs, games, art, and biographies of people who are making the world a better place. More than forty thousand students in grades one through eleven have participated in her program with more World Ambassador schools being added each year. Read what Cindy has to say about her integrative project in the Social Action and Public Discourse course that became a book that has made its way around the globe.—THE EDITORS
Blessed is he who has inhaled from the fragrance of God in this day which is the dawningpoint of manifestation and the dayspring of My Name, the Forgiver, and in which the fragrance wafted, the spirit moved, the attraction raised up those who were in their graves, and Mount Sinai cried out: “the Kingdom belongeth to God, the Wise!” and in which every seeker obtained his desire, every man, knowing God, attained blessings, and every traveler in the way of God found the divine Right Path.
Bahá’u’lláh, in Bahá’í Scriptures 251 (emphasis added)
Therefore I say that man must travel in the way of God. Day by day he must endeavor to become better, his belief must increase and become firmer, his good qualities and his turning to God must be greater, the fire of his love must flame more brightly; then day by day he will make progress, for to stop advancing is the means of going back. The bird when he flies soars ever higher and higher, for as soon as he stops flying he will come down. Every day, in the morning when arising you should compare today with yesterday and see in what condition you are. If you see your belief is stronger and your heart more occupied with God and your love increased and your freedom from the world greater then thank God and ask for the increase of these qualities. You must begin to pray and repent for all that you have done which is wrong and you must implore and ask for help and assistance that you may become better than yesterday so that you may continue to make progress.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in Compilation of Compilation, 1:795: 376 (emphasis added)
Taking the Social Action and Public Discourse online course was very valuable to me, as I had been living in China for several years as a pioneer/teacher/writer. At the time of the course, my husband and I were on a one-month trip around China by train. Though I love the country and the people, I was getting very frustrated with the noise levels, the rudeness, and the jostling. My Chinese is passable, but I cannot speak well enough to really have conversations that might be called public discourse. I strive to show by my facial expressions and body language that all is well, that I love everyone and am comfortable with my surroundings. Let’s just say that I wasn’t doing a very good job. The audio on one bus tour was so loud that I could feel it hurting my ears, and it sent me into a fetal position with tears pouring from my eyes. Nothing we said or did made the guide turn the sound down; I had to jump off the bus somewhere in the middle of the tour. I got knocked over into a fence and broke a rib getting on the subway. By the time we reached the train to Mongolia, I was feeling battered, bruised, and angry. I figured that I could be resentful for thirty hours on the train, or I could write a book.
Travel in the Way of God flowed from my fingertips. My social action came from my own lesson about Traveling in the Way of God, using a quotation from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá about bringing ourselves to account each day. I really like taking the Bahá’í writings and creating fictional characters and activities that allow the reader to grow. In this case, the first “reader” was me, and I needed the lesson before I could share it with the world. Since then, Travel in the Way of God has been approved for publication, and it has made its way around the world with both individuals and small groups incorporating the activities into their daily lives. It has even been translated into Chinese. The book never would have happened if I hadn’t been taking the Social Action and Public Discourse course and listening to the insights of the other students about taking little steps toward transformation and change.