By Wendy Haynes Connor
Meher Center is still vibrating from the remarkable energy of the 165 young people who attended this year’s Youth Sahavas — the 17th held here. It’s difficult to describe what happens to the young people and the Center during this ten-day event but one thing is always clear, the Center comes fully alive and sparkles with Baba’s presence.
The participants came from all over the United States and the world: this year, 3 traveled from Australia, 2 from Canada and one from England. The week long event is carefully planned beforehand by 60 young adults who serve as counselors, kitchen staff, art tent staff and workerwallas for the 105 teenagers who attend. Everyday there are discussion groups, workshops, beach time, evening programs that include films of Baba, a talent celebration, a dhuni, and a special farewell night in the Barn when all have an opportunity to bow down and place a flower on Baba’s chair. On Sunday, the last day, everyone walks to Baba’s House holding hands and says the prayers together and then their goodbyes.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of the Sahavas is that the staff is made up of young adults who were once participants themselves. While the event is administered by Meher Center’s Youth Sahavas Committee, in a very real hands-on way, this sahavas is put on by young adults for teenagers. It is no small feat to carve out these ten days (4 days for set up and clean up and 6 days with participants) — to take leave from jobs, or time out from studies and, in some cases, forfeit vacation time with family. Yet, for each of them, the opportunity to serve Baba in this way is an opportunity they treasure and look forward to all year.
They arrive early and spend three days training and preparing for the week ahead. Each year the first day begins with an excerpt from a talk given by Mani in 1980 to the Meher Pilgrim Staff in India: “Never lose sight of the purpose of your being here. You are here because of Baba. While you are working here for Baba, never forget the real work that Baba does through whatever work you do. Each of you is Baba’s special work. While He gives you an opportunity to work for Him, He is working on you. He uses the work you do to do His work within you — He is quite tricky, you see!
“Don’t lose perspective — even though He wants you to wholeheartedly do the work entrusted to you, don’t be so attached to the work itself that you find yourself failing to give what He really wants from you. Keep an eye on yourself. It’s the little things that you trip over, things too small to make a show of, with no reward of glory attached, only service and the effort to please Him.”
It is a gift to watch these young adults take Mani’s words to heart and try wholeheartedly to put themselves aside to do their best for Baba and the younger ones.
There is no doubt that the main way young people find their own relationship with Baba is through each other. The sahavas provides a rare time and place where they can come together and talk about the struggles in their lives and, in an atmosphere of acceptance, share their common bond of love for the Avatar. There is a touching recognition amongst them that they belong to the same tribe — His tribe.
Over the years, we have heard countless stories, from parents and teenagers alike, about the impact of the sahavas. Some of the teens have seen Baba physically. There is the boy who, at his first sahavas, saw Baba on the path to the Barn, and the two girls in the Lagoon Cabin who saw Baba sitting in His chair, smiling at them. This year, on the last day, a staff member discovered little notes addressed to Baba that had been slipped under the cushion on His chair in the Lagoon Cabin.
There is a wonderful story about a mother who picked her son up from the airport and driving home, asked him how it (the sahavas) went. The 15 year old replied, “Fine.” She asked, “Well, how were the activities?” “Fine”, he said. Hoping for something more specific, the mother asked, “Well, can you tell me anything that happened?” Her son turned to look at her and said, “I found God.”
I recall a conversation Buz and I had with Eruch one morning while walking at Meherazad. We shared about our work with young people and working for Baba. Eruch turned to us and said, “Who are we to think that we can do Baba’s work? After all, He has said that He alone does His work.” And then he added, “Except for one thing: never let the generation to come say that you did not tell them about Him.”
Clearly, Baba wants this generation of young people to know Him. We see Him ply His magic of awakening young hearts to His love each year through the youth sahavas.
It is particularly touching for me to see so many young ones on the Center at one time, because I often find myself reliving the birthday party Baba held for the children here in May of 1958. And I recall, with a smile, Baba stipulating that the only way an adult could attend was if a child brought them. As I watch the children gather daily at the Meeting Place, so near the site of the birthday party, I cannot help but think He planned this event long ago.