Articles From the April 1994 Unification News
Growing to Our Fullest Potentials (Reflections of RYS Atlanta)
Another RYS, another site. Again I had been very fortunate to have the opportunity to participate in a Religious Youth Service project. The first time was in my home country Malaysia. That project was only for five days, but that five-day experience had been life changing. I had become a different person. My perspective widen, my vision cleared, my soul revived and my heart touched. For the first time, I fell in love with RYS.
My heart was joyful to reach Atlanta, to be in another RYS. It was rather uneasy at first, with me and every other participant, being in a different place and among different people. But very quickly, with the help of the wonderful staffs that welcomed us, and the warm orientation program that we had to go through, we felt accepted and we grew closer to each other. All those inhibitions, all our shyness, they just slipped away like they had never been there. We tried to break down whatever barriers that had been built around us. Well, this is what RYS is all about: breaking down walls. We have our differences: cultural, racial, religious, personal and what not. When I was asked what I wanted to get from RYS, I said, "I want to get rid of my prejudices and stereotypes. I want to be able to accept others indifferently. I want to love all people, regardless of their differences." Bringing harmony is a process, and RYS can be a powerful tool to achieve it. And my, did that tool hit me hard in the head and touch me deeply in my heart.
The next morning, we were all set up for the service project. The main theme of RYS Atlanta this time is community service. We were given a site in Summer Hill Community, helping to provide good low-cost housings for the people of Summer Hill. Service is the main element of RYS. It is through working together serving others that we can discover new aspects of our diversity. We found that our differences don't matter at all. Why? Because we have the same goal. We vision the same ideals. Our diversity is actually a new strength that we found. Witnessing what we had accomplished together truly inspired us. And we knew then, as we know now, that if we--different people of different races, religions, and cultural backgrounds--could come and work together side by side for a greater good, the rest of the world could also unite in the same way too! Why not?
Of course, during the short period of two days, we could not do everything, or solve all the problems of Summer Hill. But what we had hope to provide for the community was a model. We wanted to be a model of selfless service and cooperation that could in turn inspires them and give them hope. Well, there was no doubt that they were inspired and they felt hope. Some of them came to work together with us, and the most joyful thing to see was the little children who tried very hard to help us. They were also caught up in the spirit of service. The young ones are our hope for the future, and to see the seeds of loving service be planted in their hearts assured us of the world's hopeful future.
The nights of RYS were filled with intellectual discussions, interesting group dynamics activities, joyful games, cultural shows, entertaining skits, daily reflections, and many more. Basically, we had the chance to interact and continue the process of destroying the barriers between us. We truly learned a great deal. The way that the programs were organized is really professional. Thanks to the great RYS educators that came from near and far to give us guidance and new understanding. They are professional people who gave up their valuable time to be with us. What they had offered are like precious gems that we could treasure for the rest of our lives. The mornings were dedicated to God. We could participate in different meditation services to get a first hand experience of each other's religion. I, coming from the Muslim tradition, had the chance to share with all the participants about my Muslim practices. I led the 'zikr' (Muslim chants) glorifying our Creator and praising His Prophets. It was a new experience for many of them. One Christian brother came to me afterward and thanked me for the service, saying how honored he had felt to be a part of it. Looking at the sparkles in his eyes I was truly moved to know how big and wide God's love is. Different our beliefs may be, divine love transcends doctrines and dogma.
Finally, time had brought us to the last day. We reflected on our experiences, and we made a commitment to bring back our visions to our own community. We asked ourselves difficult questions: How can I serve my community? How can I apply what I have learned here to my society? Can I take the responsibilities to bring peace globally and locally?
I will never forget the way we said good-bye. It was a very special ceremony. We stood in a big circle, and one by one we went to each other, looking straight in the eyes we sang to one another precious words, in the most beautiful melody: "May God's blessings be upon you. May God's peace abide with you. May God's presence illuminates your heart. Now and forever more." We freely expressed our love. That love had come down from Heaven, went through our hearts, trembling our bodies, and flowed out to others. The whole room was filled with love. Brotherhoods were bonded. Tears were shed. And God was truly there.
What we experienced during RYS is deep; it's beyond words or expressions. Perhaps our tears could describe it. Or maybe our beaming smiles. We shed tears of joy, finding new hopes in our dreams, discovering so many similarities in our differences. We learned so much from each other; about each person's precious uniqueness, each life's different background. Equally important, we gained new insights about our own individualities. We found out how really beautiful we truly are and how much strength we have inside. We channeled that power together through our unity, and we could bring goodness to this troubled world. We tried to be the best that we can be. We were definitely growing up. We were reaching our highest potentials.
And now, after Atlanta RYS experience, I'm even more in love. I'm in love with God, in love with my new brothers and sisters that I found, in love with life, with the creation and its vast diversity. The different faces that I met in Atlanta, keep coming back to my mind. I want to thank them all so much. All the wonderful people who were working in the background, investing everything that they had to make RYS a success. All our teachers who had loved, cared, and guided us and shared with us so many valuable lessons. All the participants who had stroke and splashed different colors to the RYS canvas, making it the most fantastic painting that I've ever seen.
This summer there's going to be another RYS. This time it would be longer: 26 days in the hot Turkish sun. This is the real thing. I'm definitely going to be there again. I won't miss it for the world. With the new level of experience and understanding that I'm going to have, with all the new people that I'm going to meet and love, working hard--pouring sweat and tears together, for the same goal, with the same vision of the ideal world, it is going to be, as it has always been . . . another taste of Heaven! I hope you will be there too!
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