I was very touched by that comment. I wasn't sure what to expect, probably thinking that he was just saying a short prayer that he had memorized, only because it was short, and without much further thought behind it. But no. He had a reason. He had actually thought about it, and chose that exact prayer to say. Every night.
A few months ago he began to fixate on another prayer. Most every evening for the better part of half a year now, he has been saying the following prayer:
O God, my God! I have set out from my home, holding fast unto the cord of Thy love, and I have committed myself wholly to Thy care and Thy protection. I entreat Thee by Thy power through which Thou didst protect Thy loved ones from the wayward and the perverse, and from every contumacious oppressor, and every wicked doer who hath strayed far from Thee, to keep me safe by Thy bounty and Thy grace. Enable me, then, to return to my home by Thy power and Thy might. Thou art, truly, the Almighty, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting.
It seemed sort of a strange prayer to read in the evening, just before going to sleep, but who am I to comment? And yet, night after night, I couldn't help but wonder. Was there a reason for this prayer? Did he think that his spirit was leaving the home when he was asleep? Was he sneaking out at night and having various adventures of which I was unaware? My mind boggled. I mean, he's only 11, at least for a few more days. What was his reasoning?
I finally broke down and asked. "Why this prayer, Shoghi?" What special meaning, I enquired, did it hold for him?
"I'm saying it", he told me, "for all the African American people in the US, and all the refugees around the world, who have to leave their home and are unsure if they will make it back safe."
* * * * *
I had to pause there, and I thought you might want to, also.
First, he's eleven.
Second, I had no doubt that he truly felt love and sorrow for the many refugees all over the world who have had to flee their homes in order to try and preserve the lives of their family members.
Third, he put the African American people in the same category as the refugees.
Even now, a few weeks later, I still have to think about that. And pray about it. An meditate on it. And feel sorrow.
Every evening now, when he says that prayer, so much runs through my heart and mind. I think about my time serving with the refugee centre in Winnipeg, and those people who are now braving the harsh prairie winter to escape from the US and find refuge in Canada. I think about my brother in Chicago who is a firefighter and how if I get stopped by the police for speeding there, I may get a ticket, but he might just get killed. And I think about all my other friends who are being silenced from speaking about their oppression, attacked for trying to defend their homes, and bullied by those anonymous people in their own neighbourhoods just because their skin tone is different, or they follow a different path in their life.
I think about so much when he reads that prayer.
I am so grateful for his simple wisdom and awareness of what is happening in the world today.
And I strive to learn from his compassion.