This is how Rolling with the Punches describes herself: "I am (generally) a happy, energetic, optimistic and slightly nutty Persian-Latin-American who is trying to find her place in this ever changing world. Hopefully my place will be in China, writing and implementing arts integrated curricula for middle and high school aged students." She participated in the election of her Baha'i local spiritual assembly on the first day of Ridvan. Here is how she described it on MySpace in a post entitled "Who says voting can’t be a spiritual experience?"
Photo:New Assembly of Welwyn UK by John Barnabas
On Thursday night (April 20, 2006) it was the beginning of Ridvan. This is 12 day festival in the Baha'i Faith when we celebrate the announcement that Baha'u'llah, the Prophet Founder of the Baha'i Faith, made to the world. He told the world at that time that He is the Manifestation of God for this day. And the first day of Ridvan is the day designated for Baha'is all across the globe to get together and elect their Local Spiritual Assemblies. A Baha'i Local Spiritual Assembly is comprised of 9 adult (21 yrs and older) Baha'is chosen by the Baha'i community to carry out the administrative duties and responsibilities. Different communities have different needs, depending on the size and maturity of community, but most Assemblies manage the local Fund, maintain membership data, encourage the Baha'is to deepen their knowledge of the Faith, coordinate teaching and educational activities and plans, and also appoint committees if necessary to carry our different services needed by the individuals in their community. And these members have no special rank or station, and are not considered above others. Actually their merit and authority is only in existence as a group. The LSA as a whole makes decisions based on consultation and unity. No one member may make a decision for the community.
How are these LSA members selected? Well, in local communities where there are 9 or more adult members, all the adult members get together and read the Baha'i Sacred Writings on the purpose of an LSA and the spirit in which members should be elected. After prayers and readings, each individual chooses 9 members in the community who he or she believes will best serve the community and who have certain qualities and skills that will help the community to grow, unify and progress. There is no campaigning, no electioneering and no nominating in Bah' elections, whether it be on a local, regional or national level. The voting is all done by secret ballot; each individual writes his or her selections and is checked off by the tellers as each ballot is collected. (It also possible to send in an absentee ballot.) While the tellers count the votes, the community, in the spirit of love, unity and consultation, has the opportunity to reflect on the last year and give suggestions to the incoming LSA. The tellers then make a report to the community after all the valid votes have been counted. At this point the old members LSA are relieved of their responsibility and the new LSA members accept the responsibility to serve the community.
Why is this relevant to my life? Well it affects me in a few ways. One: this year was the first year I voted for my LSA in person (always absentee ballot before). It was an awesome experience. I was able to choose members of my Assembly surrounded by others doing the same. In that atmosphere of serenity and spirituality, I wrote down the names of the 9 people in my local community of Chicago, IL, that I thought would best serve my fellow lovers of Baha'u'llah. And later I was present as each member was announced and saw the unassuming and humble way in which each individual accepted that duty. And what a diverse group! All different ages, races, genders and backgrounds! Two: I actually have a say in how my local community is managed and who does it! I know that the people elected to the LSA are there because the collective wanted it. Three: I work in the Baha'i National Center in the Membership and Records office. My "official" title actually is "Membership Support Specialist." I won't bore you will the details of maintaining and continually updating the 230,000 records in our database (although I find the job exhilarating since I LOVE prioritizing, organizing, arranging, classifying and categorizing), but one responsibility my office has all of a sudden is to verify and input all the data being sent by the roughly 1,700 LSA and roughly 1,700 Registered Baha'i groups at this moment in time. AHHHH! Every single election report form and group formation passes through our hands before going into the database and then to Records. If you don't see me til the end June, that's why. I'll be performing all my regular never-ending tasks and duties PLUS (with the help of my other team members) tackling this daunting task. I'm NOT by any means complaining, but Im feeling a bit overwhelmed by the boxes of mail, faxes and emails that are pouring in!
It was just a great night and really made me love my local Baha'i community even more! Of course it was also wonderful to go out afterwards and chill at the Pick me up Cafe with an amazing group of young adults/youth that I don't necessarily get to hang out wit has often as I would like.
Rolling with the Punches, "Who says voting can't be a spiritual experience?" MySpace