“I was sitting on the couch… about to watch my favorite movie. Then I heard the knocking on the door.” These are the words of 21-year-old Tristan, who has recently began assisting with a junior youth group in Rowntree, a neighbourhood in Toronto close to Kipling and Finch Avenue.
When two people approached him and asked if he’d be interested in assisting with the program, he had some reservations. “At first, I saw them as the people who interrupted my movie,” he said. But they went on to explain that if he helped out, he could make a difference and be a role model. At the end of their conversation, Tristan agreed to meet them at 6:00 pm the next evening to check it out.
Tristan decided to join the group because he had an urge to make a difference in his community, he says. He also wanted to give the youth a chance that he would have longed to have himself.
Soon after beginning to assist with the program, Tristan noticed that many junior youth had unanswered questions. Many youth learn plenty about material things, but they often have questions about their spiritual self. Part of the purpose of the junior youth program, Tristan explained, is to answer the questions youth have that are “not asked and never answered.”
Near the end of December 2012, Tristan began to study the first in the series of books of the Ruhi Institute, in which participants learn to apply the Baha’i Writings to their individual and collective lives. He began to observe changes.
Tristan and his younger brother always used to fight about who got to eat the last slice of pizza. Then, in his study circle, he memorized the quotation, “When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love.” The next time he and his brother shared a pizza, he remembered the words and decided to forfeit the last piece to his brother — to his brother’s great surprise.
Tristan soon began to share what he was learning with his community. When he was visiting the mother of one of the junior youth, she shared a story of being treated with prejudice by a bus driver. She said that it was her wish that young people, who are the future of Canada, would turn to God. Tristan shared the quote he had learned from the study circle with her, explaining that young people like himself could oppose prejudice in society by opposing thoughts of war with thoughts of peace.
“I don’t help people so that they help me in the future,” Tristan said when discussing why he is motivated to serve his community. “You should help someone from the deepest part of your heart.” Nonetheless, he has learned a great deal since his movie was interrupted. “Junior youth teach animators more than animators teach junior youth,” he said.