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Faith In Action: Thinking of Survival, Session 4: Thinking of God

In "Riddle and Mystery," a Tapestry of Faith program

Materials for Activity

  • Newsprint and markers
  • Paper and pencils
  • Watch, clock or other timer

Preparation for Activity

  • If your group will do "In Our Rooms," consider finding out about local donation centers in advance so you can tell youth where they can take unnecessary possessions for distribution to people in need. You can then use some of your Faith in Action time to set up a specific plan for following through and making donations as a group. You might also consider asking a representative of a center to speak with your group for a few minutes about the center's work.

Description of Activity

If your group has chosen an ongoing Faith in Action project, continue work on it.

Or, consider these short-term Faith in Action activities:

Basic Human Needs: Ask your group to brainstorm the essentials of human life. What is it that people absolutely must have in order to survive? Let the group call out possible answers while you record them on newsprint. Then review the list and ask whether every item is truly an essential. If the group agrees that something does not belong, cross it off. Do that in a way that is comfortable for whoever first suggested the idea. ("It might sound essential at first, but when we compare it to some of these other ideas we might find it less important than we thought.")

Explain that psychologist Abraham Maslow described a "hierarchy of needs." It is a list of human needs in order of decreasing importance. At the basic level are the biological needs, which include such things as oxygen, water, food, and warmth. (The other four levels, in order of most to least important, are safety needs; social needs for love and a sense of belonging; esteem needs, like self-respect and respect from others; and self-actualization needs, or a chance to do what a person was "born to do" or what a person needs to do to lead a meaningful life.) To help participants understand this concept, you might list the categories on newsprint, and ask the group where each of the following fits in the hierarchy: eating (biological), smoke alarm (safety), friends (social), and dancing lessons (self-actualization).

How does the group's list of needs compare with Maslow's? Do participants wish to change their list?

Those In Need: Ask if participants know anybody who has trouble meeting their basic, survival needs. Where have participants seen such people? What about poor people they see begging on the street or sleeping in the park? What about around the world? Ask, how many people in the world do you believe have trouble meeting their basic needs? Mention that about half the people in the world have less than two dollars a day to survive on.

In Our Rooms: This activity leads to ask how many of their own possessions are essential, and to consider sharing some that are not. Give participants paper and pencil. Invite them to prepare for a thoughtful, meditative moment by sitting comfortably, closing their eyes if they wish, or staring out a window or at some special object in the meeting space — the chalice, perhaps. Lead them with words like these: "Go in your mind to the room where you sleep at home. Look around the room at all the things you own. Remember what is in your closet, if you have one, and what is in your drawers. Then roam around in your mind through your house or apartment and look at the things that belong to you — just to you, and not your whole family. Look through the windows at things you may have outside, and then go back in your mind to the room where you sleep. Imagine that you are on your bed, not in bed but on it, just lying down, fully dressed, thinking and relaxing. Suddenly you hear a parent shouting. 'A hurricane is coming!' your parent says. 'We have to evacuate right now! We can't take a lot of stuff! Grab whatever you absolutely must have to survive and grab it right now! Then come join the rest of us! We're out of here in five minutes!' What are you going to grab? What do you absolutely need to survive?"

Ask youth to open their eyes now, to return in their minds to the group, and write down their list of essentials. When they have finished, invite them to call out some of the items on their list. Are they really essentials? There may be disagreement about this, and some may observe "it all depends" on this or that. This is fine — total agreement is not necessary to make the point that most of us have much more than we need.

Now ask the youth to use the back of the paper to write in two timed minutes as many of their non-essential possessions as they can. Announce a start time and call out "time is up" to sound the end of the two minutes. How many items did they list? Did they name everything in their rooms? Did they come close? If you have time, ask the youth to take up their pencils again and put a check mark next to all the items on their lists that they have not used for or even thought about for a long time.

So What? Ask the youth why they think you asked them to make those lists. What do the lists say about economic justice? Is it fair for some of us to have so much when others around the world are starving? Point out that you are not condemning the youth.. They, like you, live in a wealthy society, where most people have more money and goods than they need to survive. The solution is not to sit around feeling guilty about injustice. The point is to do something about it. The next question is: What should the group do? Ask for ideas about what their congregation might do, what their families might do, and what they as individuals might do. As the discussion continues, ask for the simplest possible solution. See if anybody suggests that the simplest thing might be for the people who have too much to give some of it to the people who have too little. If nobody else mentions that idea, do so yourself. Ask: "What about that idea? If we have too much, and others have too little, why not give some of our stuff away? But how do we do that?"

Ask if anybody knows of local places where people can donate clothing, toys, and other items. Do some of the group's families already make use of such centers? Who in the group will volunteer to find out more about the centers and share the information at your next meeting?

If it is practical for your group, conclude by making a plan to follow through with the donation idea. Maybe youth can bring donations to the next session, and a leader or parent can help the youth bring the materials to an appropriate center.

Otherwise, conclude by saying you hope the whole group will work with their families to donate possessions they do not need. Promise that you will do the same, and that you will be on the lookout for ways to do that most effectively..

For more information contact web @ uua.org.

This work is made possible by the generosity of individual donors and congregations. Please consider making a donation today.

Last updated on Wednesday, October 26, 2011.

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