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Service is the rent we pay for the privilege of living on this earth. — Shirley Chisholm, African American politician and activist

Service is the rent we pay to be living. It is the very purpose of life and not something you do in your spare time. — Marian Wright Edelman, president and founder of the Children's Defense Fund

Two 20th-century African American activists—Shirley Chisholm and Marian Wright Edelman—popularized the saying that titles this session, inspiring us to regard service as a noble duty. The story at the heart of the session, "Arjuna's Service to His People," illustrates how public service work can be hard, underappreciated, controversial, unpleasant and risky. Yet, we are all called to sustain our community by working at the tasks required to feed, protect and nurture us all.

This session focuses on service in terms of occupations which are difficult to do, yet crucial to a stable society. Police officers, firefighters, military personnel, politicians, public administrators and many others face challenges, even dangers, because they choose to work in service. Participants will learn that whether or not they agree with a particular politician or support a war the U.S. military is fighting, those who do the public service jobs in our society deserve our acknowledgement and gratitude.

In this session, make sure conversation about all service jobs remains respectful. Model your belief in the inherent worth and dignity of all individuals as well as your appreciation for those who do difficult jobs that benefit us all.

Activities 3 and 4 involve the same arts and crafts materials. You may wish to introduce Activity 4, Making Cards for Veterans in Hospitals, as soon as some of the children finish their Window/Mirror Panels (Activity 3).


This session will:

  • Expand children's ethical and spiritual development as they examine their own service and the service of others
  • Highlight the inherent worth and dignity of the people who perform tasks for the greater good that are often overlooked or devalued in the larger society (first Principle)
  • Build participants' respect for the interdependent web of all existence (seventh Principle) as expressed in the complexity of service roles a stable, safe society requires.

Learning Objectives

Participants will:

  • Identify and appreciate the service jobs people do that ensure the health and welfare of the larger society
  • Explore difficulties and challenges inherent in public service, including the potential complexity of determining one's duty or responsibility
  • Hear a story about Arjuna and reflect on a conflict about military service
  • Create cards conveying good wishes and appreciation to recovering military personnel at a veterans' hospital.

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