I have been thinking recently about what it genuinely means to empower others and George Ronald has released a biography of someone who did just that: Knight of Baha’u’llah, Gayle Woolson. Her life’s story was penned by Juliet Gentzkow, who very graciously agreed to tell us about her book called The Art of Empowering Others: The Life and Times of Gayle Woolson Knight of Baha’u’llah, and to give us a glimpse of who Gayle Woolson was. Here’s what she shared with me:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
By profession as a teacher of children, counsellor, and hospice worker, I have served in the United States, Guyana, and Haiti. I now live in Palo Alto California, near my son and his family. Limited to home by the pandemic, I continue a part-time counseling practice, Creative Transitions, and dedicate time to family, community building, biographical writing, and research.
Baha’i Blog: Could you please tell us a little about your book?
‘The Art of Empowering Others’, a biography of Gayle Woolson (1913-2011), now joins the George Ronald series on the Knights of Baha’u’llah. Gayle was one of nine children born in Minnesota to parents of Syrian origin. In 1930, her father introduced his family to news of a new Faith, brought to his attention by a Syrian friend in St. Paul. Mr. Abas told his children of teachings for a new, spiritual worldwide civilization based on humanity’s oneness. He said the youth had an important part to play in its development. By 1933, Gayle was teaching a children’s class, which became a stepping stone to public speaking. She then participated in her Local Spiritual Assembly’s initial development and became one of the very first youth traveling teachers in the United States, accompanying Ms. Marguerite Reimer (Sears) and Mrs. Mabel Ives. Following a marriage tragically cut short by her husband’s unexpected death, she arose to serve internationally. In 1940, she and another Baha’i became the first to go to Costa Rica, beginning 29 years of service throughout Central and South America. She witnessed the emergence of Baha’i communities and institutions throughout the continent, becoming a Knight of Baha’u’llah for the Galapagos Islands and serving successively on four elected National Spiritual Assemblies and as part of the initial cohort of appointed Auxiliary Board Members for the Americas. As much at home in a Quechua village as in a president’s palace, her heart burned with love for all who crossed her path. She had a simple eloquence that was yet refined. She saw in each person a unique potential destiny needed in the building of a new civilization. In 1975, following five years of service at the Baha’i World Centre, Gayle returned to the United States, where, for 20 years, she taught and also developed her Children’s Public Speaking Program.
Tuaine Hamilton, who some know as Ine, has created a thoughtful and beautifully designed tool for helping children develop their innate qualities and inner gems: virtue cards!
You may recognize Ine from her Studio Session “Listen” or from her interview about her album that bears the same name (you can read it here if you’d like).
I was delighted to hear from her about her virtue cards. In this interview, she tells us why she created them, how they can be used, and what she’s learned in the process of making them. Here’s what she shared: Continue reading
As this is a special year marking the centenary of the Ascension of Abdu’l-Baha — a year in which the Universal House of Justice asks us all to reflect profoundly on the Life of Abdu’l-Baha — Baha’i author Michael V. Day has just published a photographic book about the Ascension of Abdu’l-Baha titled Fragrance of Glory.
Michael V. Day is a dear friend and we currently live in the same city in Australia and I must say that I am personally delighted by his contributions to the world of Baha’i literature. He is the author of a trilogy of historical books about the Shrine of the Bab, which you can learn more about from his website: www.michaelvday.com. So when Michael told me about this new book in honor of the centenary of the Ascension of Abdu’l-Baha, I had to find out more. Here’s what he shared: Continue reading
As the teachings of the Baha’i Faith encourage everyone to serve others, many Baha’is choose to dedicate a year or more of their lives to full-time volunteering, whether it be by assisting with community-building efforts in a specific neighbourhood or village, or helping at a school, Baha’i temple, or even at the Baha’i World Centre in the Holy Land. This period of time is often referred to as a “year of service”.
My dear friend Nasim, a young Baha’i in Australia, decided to take a year off and spend it serving at the Baha’i World Centre in Haifa, Israel. When she returned to her home in Sydney, she decided to put a book together about her experiences. The book is called A Year of Blessings, and I caught up with Nasim to find out more about it:
Baha’i Blog: Hi Nasim! Can you tell us a little bit about the book and what it’s about?
This book is about my reflections on the spiritual blessings and transformative lessons I experienced during my year of service in the Holy Land (Haifa, Israel) back in 2018-2019. It shares glimpses of the beautiful, sacrificial and rewarding experience of devoting a full year serving at the Baha’i World Centre, and how it strengthened my love, certitude, and devotion to our Beloved Cause. In the book, I share stories about how tests (a.k.a. blessings in disguise) helped me grow and strengthen many spiritual qualities such as patience, resilience, love, wisdom, and steadfastness, to name a few. The book features full-page photographs of Baha’i Holy Places that I had the chance to photograph in the cities of Haifa, Akka, and in Bahji, as well as a compilation of quotations from the Baha’i Writings that inspired me. I hope these will also inspire the readers and encourage them to ponder their meaning as they continue serving in their respective fields.
The 2021 National NAIDOC logo ‘Care for Country’ was designed by Gubbi Gubbi artist Maggie-Jean Douglas.
This week across Australia, we celebrate what’s called NAIDOC Week, a week where every year in July, Australians from all walks of life celebrate and honor the history, culture and achievements of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
Now, I’m not an Aboriginal or a Torres Strait Islander myself. I moved to Australia about 12 years ago and decided to make it my home and apply for Australian citizenship. I recently sat my Australian citizenship test, which presented a few interesting questions relating to the Indigenous peoples of this land. The test really got me thinking about the First Nations peoples of Australia, and how, after living in Australia for over a decade, my knowledge of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander cultures — I’m embarrassed to say — still remains extremely limited. Sure, I could say that I’ve watched movies like Rabbit Proof Fence, and that “I have some Aboriginal friends,” but honestly, other than a few facts here and there, I know absolutely nothing about the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. I guess with NAIDOC Week happening, and because of my Australian Citizenship test, it really hit me: I love this country and want to be a contributing member of its society, but how can I truly call Australia my home when I know so little about the original inhabitants of this land? Continue reading
Our family loves Melissa Charepoo’s books and her latest title, We Are One, is a gem. Centred on the theme of the oneness of humanity, this book (available in both English and Spanish) will help instil in the hearts of even the youngest children this unifying fundamental principle of the Baha’i Faith.
Melissa, gracious as ever, agreed to tell us a little about this book. We hope you enjoy our conversation:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us about what inspired you to write this book and how it differs from the other wonderful books for children that you’ve written? Why was writing this book important and meaningful to you?
I grew up learning the names of the Baha’i months in Arabic and English thanks to Jack Lenz’s “Song of the Months” and I repeatedly played the song to my own children so they too would be familiar with them. It’s a delightfully catchy tune, particularly when you sing “Sovereignty, Dominion and Loftiness!” (If you’re familiar with the song, I’m sure it’s in your head now!)
Jack is a brilliant musician and composer and I’m excited that he has a new project that revolves around the Baha’i calendar and the celebrations and commemorations in the Baha’i year: a songbook, CDs of those songs (both instrumental and a cappella), and a book of the vocal scores. All three are available for purchase, either physically or digitally. In this interview, Jack tells us all about his project and I hope it makes you as excited as I am. Here’s what he said: Continue reading
George Ronald released a children’s title by Gail Radley. Titled Ios and the King, this children’s book retells a tale that has been around for centuries, and was recounted by Abdu’l-Baha. As we turn our thoughts to Abdu’l-Baha in this year that commemorates the centenary of His Passing, I think it is worth sharing this timeless tale, just as He did.
I am so grateful that Gail took the time to share with us a little about her book. Here’s what she said:
Baha’i Blog: Can you tell us a little about yourself?
My background is Unitarian, which gave me a good base for appreciation of various cultures, ethnicities, perspectives, and ways of being. It also demonstrated for me that we should do what we can to give feet to our words. Another element I appreciate from that background is valuing the search for truth—their symbol is a flaming chalice, representing the eternal search for truth. I was lucky enough to come upon the Baha’i teachings at age 15. At the time, I considered myself an agnostic, a rather common stance for Unitarians, I think. This was during the U.S. civil rights movement of the mid-1960s, and I was living close to the nation’s capitol, Washington, D.C. I was actively committed to civil rights, the oneness of humanity, and to related social issues. So, while I didn’t know what to make of Baha’i theology, I was intrigued with the progressive social message. In time, with the Baha’is’ patient teaching, I came to realize the conception of God I had rejected, they didn’t believe in either! Rather than a bearded authoritarian in the sky, they explained that God was an Unknowable Essence— a just and loving Essence. That, I could better grasp. So, I put my feet to the words and declared my belief in Baha’u’llah
My ambition to become a writer began when I was eight or nine, and though it faltered a bit during those civil rights years, I never entirely lost sight of it. My late husband, Joe Killeen, enabled me to keep pursuing writing through our long marriage, and my current, journalist husband, Tom Armistead, is also a wonderful supporter. I dedicated Ios and the King to Tom because of his particular love of the mystical aspects of the Faith.
In addition to writing, I’ve taught English at Stetson University in Florida for the last 20-odd years.
I was very curious when I heard about a new Baha’i-inspired podcast called “Who was she?” produced by Tara Jabbari; there are few things that I love more than hearing about the stories of early Baha’i women. With a whole first season already available, I reached out to Tara and she graciously agreed to tell us all about her podcast. Here’s what she shared: Continue reading
The music of Elika Mahony holds a special place in my heart and in our family life so we were thrilled when she released a new global collaborative song called “Waves of One Sea”. No matter how often we listen to it, it never fails to rejoice my soul.
We’ve featured Elika on Baha’i Blog before — most recently, I interviewed her about her album The Exalted One in honor of the bicentenary of the Birth of the Bab. I was curious to learn more about “Waves of One Sea”, and here’s what Elika graciously shared with me: Continue reading