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Taking It Home, Session 11: Kindness in Nature

In "World of Wonder," a Tapestry of Faith program

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be measured by the way its animals are treated. — Mahatma Gandhi

IN TODAY'S SESSION... We considered how kindness is important in the web of life and learned about real life examples of animals who have acted with altruism to save the lives of humans and other creatures. Our central story was a Jataka tale from the Buddhist tradition, in which the Buddha reincarnated as an ibex to teach a lesson of kindness and compassion.

EXPLORE THE TOPIC TOGETHER. Talk about... the stories they heard about gorillas, dolphins, polar bears, and elephants helping people and other animals. Share stories you know about animals comforting or helping people. Talk about ways you can show kindness to animals and how to recognize when an animal is in distress. Read animal hero stories collected on the Squidoo website. Watch this story of dolphins rescuing a surfer on the MSNBC website.

EXTEND THE TOPIC TOGETHER. Try... 

A Family Adventure. Go on a worm rescue mission! Worms need to stay moist in order to breathe. They come out of the ground when it rains because that is when they can safely do so to seek a mate. Once the rain stops, however, worms often get stuck on pavement where they are in danger of drying out and dying. After a rainstorm, go with your child to a paved area, such as a sidewalk, playground, driveway or parking lot. To rescue the worms, remove them very carefully and gently from the pavement and move them to a grassy or dirt-covered area.

Family Discovery. There are a number of fascinating instances of humans studying animals over a very long period of time and building relationships with them. These stories have much to teach us about animal intelligence and emotions. Discover them with your child using these websites and books:

  • Koko Love: Conversations with a Signing Gorilla by Francine Patterson
  • Koko's Kitten by Francine Patterson
  • My Life with the Chimpanzees by Jane Goodall
  • Alex the Parrot: Bird with a Big Brain by Stephanie Spinner
  • The Friends of Washoe website
  • The Alex Foundation website

A Family Game. A game of Emotions Charades builds everyone's emotional intelligence. Give each person a scenario and ask them to act out the feeling they might have in that scenario. Possible scenarios could include:

  • Your younger sibling knocks down the tower you just finished
  • Your older sibling tells you to "get lost"
  • You see something to eat that looks delicious
  • You accidentally spill water all over the floor
  • Someone hits you
  • You lose a game
  • You fall off your bicycle
  • You learn how to ride your bicycle
  • You have nothing to do
  • You are sick with the flu
  • You receive an unexpected gift
  • Someone jumps out at you
  • A big dog chases you.

Once a feeling has been acted out and guessed correctly, discuss the scenario and ask everyone how they might respond with kindness to a person who has that feeling in that situation. Explain that there is no "right" feeling in any given situation. Different people might experience different emotions in the same situation.

A Family Ritual. Practice a kindness meditation. Read through this description, then lead your family in this ritual:

Sit comfortably and begin by paying attention to your breathing. Now have someone in the family name a form of suffering or hurting that exists in the web of life, such as elephants losing habitat, beached whales, or homeless kittens. As you breathe in, focus on kindness for the suffering. As you breathe out, visualize the web of life and all creatures as whole, healthy, and strong. Meditate with this focus on kindness and breathing for a few minutes. When you are finished, take a few minutes to share your experiences of the meditation with each other.

For more information contact web@uua.org.

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Last updated on Friday, May 17, 2013.

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