On August 1st, the first day of The Ripple Effect 2018: Live to Love, hundreds of youth from across the Americas and around the globe came together at MA Center Chicago in Elburn, IL. Youth aged 13 to 30 began arriving in the morning, and continued to arrive in the hours before the official inauguration ceremony.
The hall, the same space used for Amma’s many visits to Chicago, featured a carefully constructed stage, the entirety of which was created by sustainable, reusable or reused materials. As the young people began to enter the hall, a sense of excitement began to grow. This continued to grow until the ceremony officially began, with address by Ron Gottsegen, the president of MA Center. He offered a few inspiring words, reminding the group that “It’s really the young people that make change. They have the strength, spirit, and stamina to create a better world.”
In a ceremonial lighting of the stage lamp––signifying the triumph of light over darkness––Br. Shantamrita Chaitanya, Ron Gottsegen, Br. Ramanand, and Adarsha each took part in inaugurating The Ripple Effect 2018. This initial lighting of the lamp was then continued and extended, through the gathered participants. Each young person gathered lit their own small light from the candles of the distinguished guests, and in turn helped others to light their candles. The participants then created a massive heart shape in the hall, made entirely of tiny lights.
As the AYUDH’s founder and renowned humanitarian leader, Amma, says, "If we can light the lamp of faith and love in our hearts and walk forward together, then we definitely can dispel the darkness that we see around and bring about a change in society.” This massive heart, which glowed in the dark hall, was then surronded by participants, volunteers and guests, who joined in sharing a group peace prayer––”Lokah Somastah Sukhino Bhavantu,” meaning “May all beings in the world be happy and peaceful”––which resounded throughout the hall.
After the inaugural ceremony, the many participants gathered for group bhajans (singing for world peace) and a delicious dinner. This was a time that allowed the young people to reunite with old friends and meet ones, all the while sharing delicious, home-cooked food as a group. Following dinner, icebreaker community-building activities kept many of the participants up late into the night, sharing stories, ideas and laughter.