How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. — Anne Frank, in her diary, published in 1952
IN TODAY'S SESSION… the participants learned about the Unitarian Universalist Principle about being able to vote about things (have a say in) that concern them, in the context of making our voices heard in support of people who are not being heard. We shared a true story about Ruby Bridges, the six-year-old African American girl who became the first to integrate a previously all-white school in Louisiana during the Civil Rights era.
EXPLORE THE TOPIC TOGETHER. Talk about… the gifts members of your family have to offer one another. Make sure everyone in the family has at least one gift identified by the family. How can your family work together to share your gifts with one another?
EXTEND THE TOPIC TOGETHER. Participants were asked to think about what they have to offer to their congregational community. Think about how the gifts they identified could be put to work in the congregation. Help family members to find a way they can contribute as a congregational volunteer.
Family Adventure. Find a local agency that accepts families volunteering together and arrange a time to volunteer. If members of the family have special talents, such as playing an instrument, artistic abilities, or flower arranging, find an agency where you can share these gifts, for example, by performing a concert for clients. Afterward, discuss what the experience was like. Did everyone feel they made a difference during their volunteer time? Did anyone learn they could do something they had not known they could do? Did they learn something new? Were they proud of what they had to offer? Are there other gifts they would like to share in the community?
A Family Game. Name It! All participants get a paper and writing utensil. Ask everyone in the family to think of all the things they do well and list them on their paper. Have older children or parents help younger children as needed. Allow about five minutes for everyone to think of as many things as possible. Then, every person reads their list. If other family members think of other things to add to someone else's list, make sure they get added to the list. This game will help everyone remember they have a lot of things to offer and remind them of things that they perhaps don't realize they can do. Encourage everyone to keep their list and read it when they are feeling particularly low or discouraged.
A Family Ritual. Start a mealtime ritual in which each family member acknowledges something nice the person to their left did that day. For instance, “John said 'Good morning' to the bus driver.” If possible, switch seats or go in different directions periodically so each family member isn't always speaking about the same person.
FIND OUT MORE
Ruby Bridges finished at William Frantz and went to an integrated high school. For fifteen years she worked as a travel agent in New Orleans. She married Malcolm Hall, and they have four sons. In the early 1990s she became a volunteer at the William Frantz Elementary School, helping the students there. The picture book The Story of Ruby Bridges was published in 1995, and Ruby began giving speeches around the country. Contact the Ruby Bridges Foundation for more information, or explore these books:
Bridges, Ruby. Ruby Bridges Goes to School: My True Story (Scholastic, 2003). Illustrations include black and white photographs and the Norman Rockwell painting “The Problem We All Live With.”
Bridges, Ruby. Through My Eyes (Scholastic Press, 1999. Contains contemporary newspaper articles, many photographs, and comments from Ruby, Mrs. Henry, Ruby's mother, and others. Good for older children and adults who want to learn more.
Coles, Robert. The Story of Ruby Bridges (Scholastic Inc. 1995. Large enough to share in a story-telling circle.
“Interview with Ruby Bridges” on Newshour (PBS, 1997); watch it online.
“Ruby's Shoes,” a song by Lori McKenna, can be heard online or downloaded for free
Ruby Bridges, 1998 Disney movie. Contains depictions of harassment and name-calling as Ruby goes to school.
Picture Books on Social Action
Somewhere Today: A Book of Peace by Shelley Moore Thomas (Morton Grove, Illinois: Albert Whitman, 1998)
You have to have an alertness to deal with the unexpected. The history of science is filled with almost-made discoveries, missed by a hairline because … [someone] didn't have the alertness to realize they had a discovery. — Clyde Tombaugh, astronomer, 1906-1997
IN TODAY'S SESSION… We’ll hear a story about Clyde Tombaugh, a Unitarian Universalist who discovered Pluto, and we will talk about our fourth Principle, a free and responsible search for truth and meaning. We will learn how our faith affirms us to ask questions; investigate the world; and be open to new information, ideas, and truths, as Tombaugh would have done had he lived to see Pluto's 2006 “demotion” to dwarf planet status. Our signpost to help guide us in faithful action is “Ask Questions.”
EXPLORE THE TOPIC TOGETHER. Talk about… Invite each family member to share about a time you had to let go of a “truth” upon learning new information. Take turns filling in the blanks: “I used to believe ______, but then I learned ______ was true instead.” Discuss how it has, or has not, been easy to accept new truths.
EXTEND THE TOPIC TOGETHER. Try… Pay extra attention to times when your child asks questions, shows curiosity, or otherwise actively seeks to learn. Point out instances of your child acting faithfully in a way that affirms or promotes a free and responsible search for truth and meaning — their own search, or others'. Your child will have the opportunity to share their actions next time Faithful Journeys meets.
Choose a topic that interests family members or a question you would like to have answered. Spend an evening in a library or online, learning everything you can about it. Challenge each person to learn at least one new thing (or five, if you are ambitious).
A FAMILY RITUAL
Gather as a family before an evening meal. Have each member of the family name something they are wondering about or something they learned that day. If you like, light candles as you share. Consider saying candle-lighting words that affirm asking questions, for example, “We give thanks for our curiosity and the answers it brings.” Avoid editing or answering one another's questions, correcting information, or exchanging dialogue until everyone has shared. Where possible, provide resources and encourage family members to seek answers themselves. It is okay to validate questioning as a process that is as important, if not more important than, determining answers. (To keep this activity popular, avoid pressuring family members to do research every time a “wondering” is shared.)
A FAMILY GAME
Twenty Questions. One person thinks of a person, place or thing, and the others try to guess by asking questions that can be answered yes or no. For example: “Is this a person?” / “Is the person alive?” / “Is it a character from a book?” / “Is it a man?” If someone guesses correctly before twenty questions have been asked and answered, it is their turn to think of a person, place, or thing for others to guess.
Read the children's picture book Clyde Tombaugh and the Search for Planet X, by Margaret K. Wetterer (Carolrhoda Books, 1996).
The Astronomical Society of the Pacific's Family ASTRO program offers a multitude of activities with supporting resources, as well as online games and research tools.
True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice. — Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
IN TODAY'S SESSION… the participants began their exploration of the words “to dwell together in peace” in the Blake covenant by discovering how the concepts of civil disobedience and nonviolent protest link Henry David Thoreau, Mahatma Gandhi, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The heritage of seeking peace with nonviolent communication treasured by Unitarian Universalists comes to us through the words and examples of early Unitarians and Transcendentalists, including Thoreau. The children used the words of Thoreau, Gandhi, and King in impromptu speeches urging peaceful protest against contemporary injustices. The group played Tug of Friendship, a cooperative version of Tug of War.
EXPLORE THE TOPIC TOGETHER. Talk about… a time you have worked for social change using nonviolence. If you have participated in any peace vigils, protests, or social action projects that may be relevant, share these experiences with your child.
EXTEND THE TOPIC TOGETHER. As a family, participate in a peace rally, vigil, or peaceful protest with the aim of creating social change or raising awareness.
Family Discovery. Visit the King Center in Atlanta, Georgia where you can discover the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and his work for social change through non-violence. The museum describes how Dr. King was inspired by the ideas of Gandhi and Thoreau.
A Family Game. Play Tug of Friendship, Musical Chairs Remix, and other non-competitive versions of competitive games. Find directions for this session's games in the Love Connects Us program on the UUA Tapestry of Faith website. Almost any game that promotes competing over cooperation can be adapted so everyone works together instead of against one another.
A Family Ritual. As part of a leaving ritual—for example, at bedtime or as family members go off in different directions—wish one another peace by saying “Go now in peace,” “May you go in peace,” or “Peace be with you as you go,” to one another. “Shalom” means peace in Hebrew. “Salaam” means peace in Arabic, and “Shanti” is peace in Sanskrit. These words (or others meaningful to your own family's particular heritage) could be shared in a family parting ritual.
People should have a say in things that concern them. That's the Unitarian Universalist Fifth Principle. That's democracy, right? Democracy is not easy. People sometimes use tricks to get people to vote their way or get power or to get their hands on all the money that belongs to everyone.
What does a voter need to do to be informed? How do you know if something is simply benefiting you as an individual or good for the entire community, nation or world community?
We are watching The Simpson’s episode Marge vs. the Monorail and discussing democracy, politicians and and green transportation.
Coming of Age
Are you in control of your own destiny? How does where you were born, what your parents do for a living or the order of your birth affect who you are?
Joseph Epstein said, “We do not choose to be bom. We do not choose our parents, the country of our birth, or the immediate circumstances of our upbringing. We do not, most of us, choose to die; nor do we choose the time and conditions of our death. But within this realm of choicelessness, we do choose how we live.”
John Connor in Terminator 2 said, “There is no fate, but what we make.”
What fate will you make?