Baha’is see the young as the most precious treasure a community can possess. In them are the promise and guarantee of the future. Yet, in order for this promise to be realised, children need to receive spiritual nourishment, such as can be found in the children’s classes happening all around the world.
Sometimes I Made Him Laugh: A New Children’s Book About Saichiro Fujita
Linda graciously shared the following about the book:
Baha’i Blog: Could you please tell us a little about your book?
Sometimes I Made Him Laugh – A Story About Saichiro Fujita honors an amazing soul who was the second person to become a Baha’i from Japan. Fujita san (“san” is a title showing respect that is used in Japan) was an incredible human being who met Abdu’l-Baha as a youth, and served the Covenant faithfully for decades at the Baha’i World Centre under the loving care of the Master, the Guardian, and the Universal House of Justice. The book strives to share the story of this tremendously precious soul through a conversation of a 10-year-old pilgrim from Brazil named Paolo with a youth volunteer from Papua New Guinea named Mia. Together these young souls explore various themes related to the life of Fujita san. Given paragraph #7 of the Universal House of Justice’s 2021 Ridvan message about the service rendered by Baha’i youth as “one of the most striking and inspiring features” of the series of Five Year Plans over the past 25 years, including their contributions as “educators of the young,” we were excited to have a youth sharing the story of Fujita with young Paolo.
Baha’i Blog: What inspired you to write it?
There has always been a great interest in my heart to learn about the early Baha’is who met the Central Figures of the Faith. Whenever I asked people if they had met Fujita san during their pilgrimage to the World Centre, they always described him with so much joy! Creating this new book was a thrilling way for me to learn more about him.
I was deeply moved when I read that when Fujita san was once asked how he served Abdu’l-Baha, he replied: “I never felt that I could do very much for Abdu’l-Baha.” He added, “Sometimes I made Him laugh.” I was intrigued by the concept that we can serve by making others happy and laugh. It reminded me that the beloved Master about Whom we are all reflecting profoundly this year would always ask the friends if they were happy.
Our son has always been very committed to making others laugh and the character of Paolo was written very much with him in mind. He shares jokes with everyone all of the time. Also, one of the youth who served as an animator for the junior youth group that he was in is from Brazil and that inspired Paolo’s home country. Finally, when I served in Haifa there were so many devoted and amazing youth from the Pacific and remembering them we wrote Mia to be from Papua New Guinea.
During this past year, our family visited Glenwood Springs and we were able to visit the Hotel Colorado where the beloved Master stayed for one night. It was here that Abdu’l-Baha insisted that Fujita be seated at the table even though the waiter did not initially offer him a seat. It was tremendously powerful for our family to be in this space and imagine that beautiful day.
My understanding is that Fujita san was able to serve because he was faithful to Abdu’l-Baha and to the Covenant. I want this firmness in my life and hope that this book in some small way helps children to strengthen their firmness in the Covenant and commitment to serve others in every way possible.
Baha’i Blog: What was something you learned in the process of creating this book?
One thing I learned about was the power of consultation and collaboration. This book was possible because of tremendous bonds of love and a commitment to consultation among friends living and serving throughout the world. It was an immense bounty to work together with Reina Hirano who beautifully illustrated the story and also with Yas Taherzadeh who masterfully edited it. The three of us live and serve on three different continents and when we met together for prayers and consultation, it truly made my soul soar and I felt so grateful for this opportunity.
Baha’i Blog: Who is the book’s audience?
The target audience is children in elementary school and their families. I have spoken with so many families of all religious backgrounds who are so eager to read books that will expose them to the diversity of the human experience and in particular biographies of heroic individuals to motivate our own lives.
I think every parent wants to help their children develop the spiritual capacities we find in Fujita san – including, joy, obedience, service, and more. We hope this book contributes to the process of children building these capacities – both in their homes and also through participation in children’s classes. Our children’s education during elementary school was anchored in the institute process. One of my favorite lessons in the grade 1 curriculum is about joy and I love that children all over the world are building the spiritual capacity of joyfulness and memorizing this passage of Abdu’l-Baha that so many children love to sing and that reminds me so much of Fujita san: “Joy gives us wings.”
Picture books are all about the illustrations and I feel beyond blessed to have collaborated with my dear friend Reina Hirano on this project. Reina lives in Japan and we connected at such a meaningful level right from the start around so many things that are so dear to our hearts. Her illustrations truly brought the Holy Land and Fujita and Paolo and Mia to life and brought such a sweetness to the process. It was magical to work together and I learned so much from her spirit of love and excellence. The book would not be what it became without her tremendous spirit and capacities, and I hope we will be able to do other projects together in the future.
Baha’i Blog: What do you hope children and their families will take away from reading your book?
We hope that after reading this book, children feel that Fujita san’s story belongs to all of us and draw inspiration from his steadfastness, his immense spirit of service, and his joy that brought joy to others. We also hope that children take away that Abdu’l-Baha loves us, that He is a gift to be shared with the world, and that we can follow in His footsteps every day like Fujita san did.
“Every community-building endeavour undertaken today, every educational activity and every outreach, carries with it the hope of communicating, through our own efforts, a token of the same love He [Abdu’l-Baha] showered upon every soul.” Our humble efforts in our neighborhoods and clusters “are the best tribute that can be rendered to Him, at this centenary and every day that follows.”
Baha’i Blog: What words of encouragement might you have for other aspiring Baha’i authors?
Write every day. Read stories of Abdu’l-Baha to inspire you. Find precious souls with whom to collaborate. And serve the oneness of the world of humanity.
Baha’i Blog: Thank you, Linda, for taking the time to share this with us and congratulations on this new book!
In her innermost heart, Sonjel is a stay-at-home parent and a bookworm with a maxed out library card but professionally she is a museologist with a background in English Literature. She currently lives on Prince Edward Island, an isle in the shape of a smile on the eastern Canadian coast. Sonjel is a writer who loves to listen to jazz when she's driving at night.