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Activity 1: Story — Babies in the River (10 minutes), Workshop 1: The Call for Awareness

In "Heeding the Call," a Tapestry of Faith program

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Read the story until you are comfortable presenting it.
  • Optional: Make copies of the story for youth to read along.

Description of Activity

Youth will hear a story about the importance of being aware of the world around them.

Read or tell the story. Ask for answers to the questions at the end of the story. Use these additional questions to spark a discussion about different aspects of justice work: providing humanitarian relief as well as looking at root causes of injustice.

  • What do you think about the people who thought they saw something earlier, but did not investigate?
  • Why do you think one villager heard the woman, but turned away?
  • Who would you like to be in this story and why?

Say, in your own words:

Some people never see injustice in the world. Maybe they do not know how to recognize it or maybe they are too focused on their own lives. Author Douglas Adams, in his book Life, the Universe, and Everything, describes this as a SEP, or Somebody Else's Problem. He says a SEP is something we can't see, or don't see, or our brain doesn't let us see, because we think that it's somebody else's problem. The brain just edits it out—it's like a blind spot. Even if you look at it directly you may not see it unless you know what it is. Your only hope is to catch it by surprise out of the corner of your eye. This is because it relies on people's natural predisposition not to see anything they don't want to, weren't expecting, or can't explain.

Some people see injustice, but ignore it thinking it is not their problem or that someone else will handle it. Others see terrible things happening and they organize to help the people affected. Still others are like the villager who decides to head upstream, find, and try to eradicate the root cause. They want to stop the babies from getting in the river in the first place. The reality is that we need both of these last types: we need people to provide services to fulfill needs right now and we need justicemakers who work to make sure all people have equal access to the resources they need to fill their needs. We need many people, working together and working separately, to bring about true change in the world.

Everything in the story started with the villager who saw the babies and realized there was a problem. Being aware of injustice is the first step toward creating a more just, peaceful world for everyone. Getting babies out of a river is an extreme example. Other injustices may not be life threatening. They may not be as obvious as the injustice in the story. Today we are going to talk about awareness. Awareness is the first step: you need to be aware of injustice before you can do anything to correct it.

Ask the group what kind of injustices they are aware of. If participants have difficulty naming injustices, ask them to think about groups of people who are oppressed in our society: people who do not enjoy all the rights and freedoms of our country or do not have access to opportunities. They could think about youth who are picked on at school. They could think about some of the causes the congregation advocates for and embraces. Let them know that during the workshops you will discuss some injustices, like racism and classism. Ask if there are other injustices they are concerned about and would like to discuss. If they offer suggestions, write them down and make sure to include them as topics of discussion in later workshops. If activities discussing these injustices are not in the program, there are ways to add them. See the Introduction for ideas.

Including All Participants

Have enough copies of the story to share so that visual learners can follow along. Include a large-type version.

For more information contact web @ uua.org.

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Last updated on Thursday, October 27, 2011.

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