The Virtues Project celebrates 30th birthday

Monday June 11, 2018 Written by Published in Virtues in Paradise

The 30th anniversary of The Virtues Project, founded by my husband Dan Popov, brother John Kavelin, and me is being celebrated on line this week.

We’ve been gathering pearls around the globe and I’d like to share a few here. The free website “Virtues Alive,” being launched on June 9 at offers short videos from virtues facilitators, from the US to Korea, from Africa to Europe. One of my favourites (of course), is a video made at Araura College on Aitutaki. Students stand in front of a virtues tree they created as a permanent art installation, and name their favorite virtues.

Korean facilitator, Mr Kim, speaks of the way virtues have uplifted the Korean Taxi Drivers’ Association. One driver, carrying a set of virtues cards in his vehicle, was taking a couple to divorce court. He offered them a random virtues pick, and the card that emerged was Forgiveness. They read it aloud together and wept. Suddenly, they said, “Turn around and take us back home. We’re going to try again.”

Virtues Mamas in Baltimore, Maryland show how inner city black youth have put virtues into dramas and into their lives.

Educators from award-winning Frankton School in Hamilton, New Zealand, speak of how The Virtues Project has helped them create a culture of character and new levels of academic excellence among at risk children and youth.

In my welcoming talk I shared that we were guided about what to do with our first book, The Family Virtues Guide.

Here’s the story: I was walking from the house to the garage/office, when I was struck by a sudden sense of impending danger. I rushed in and found brother John madly formatting the last few pages of the book.

I shouted, “John, save it and turn off the computer!” He resisted, saying, “But it’s almost done!! I can’t stop now.” “Just do it!” I commanded in my big sister voice. Reluctantly, he saved the document and turned off the computer. At that moment there was a huge clap of thunder, and the electricity went off. We spent three days of a cold Canadian winter, wind and snow howling around our home, huddled around the wood burning stove in the garage. We asked ourselves, “Now that this book is finished, what do we do with it?”

We had no idea how to market it, and had no publisher. We decided to pray, meditate and ask. John said, “You know I’m not good at meditation.” I said, “Just get quiet and open your mind.” As Jeremiah 33:3 says, “Call to me and I will answer you, and show you great and mighty things that you do not know.”

To John’s surprise, he heard “Something about Native people”. He looked gob-smacked. What I heard was, “First Nations First. Integrated Community Development Project.” I wrote all these things on a flip chart, wondering how on earth we were supposed to approach Native people.

“All they need is for more white people telling them how to live,” I grumbled. The second bit I didn’t understand at all at the time.

The next day, the lights and heat came on, and the phone rang. A woman with a Native accent, said, “Are you the people doing the virtues?” “Yes,” I said shakily. “Will you bring them to my people?” she asked. Three weeks later, Dan and I flew in a tiny seaplane to the small Tsawataineuk First Nation on Kingcome inlet. “Thy Kingdom come,” I thought to myself as the pilot dropped us and our box of photocopies onto an isolated dock with mountains all around.

When that first virtues workshop finished, a woman said to me, “You have reawakened the spirit of our people. This is who we really are.”

Since then we have flown to indigenous communities throughout the world, and now we live in one. “Oh, God, increase my astonishment at Thee.” (Baha’i Writings). What pearls we have gathered across this world – people of all faiths and cultures longing to bring virtues to life in their own way. What a blessing to serve the fruits of the spirit these last 30 years.

1 comment

  • Comment Link Jennifer Chapman Tuesday, 12 June 2018 08:44 posted by Jennifer Chapman

    The Virtues Project helped us turn our school around, from one fraught with bullying, intimidation, racism, and fear, to a place of acceptance and understanding. It took several years of hard work and determination, but it paid off. I retired last year, and when I stopped in for a visit recently I witnessed an unkind act in one of the classrooms. "Don't worry, Ms. C." a student said. "He's new to our school. He hasn't learned yet about the gems inside, and the powers he has."

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