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Alternate Activity 2: Immigration Web (20 minutes), Workshop 4: The Call for Empathy

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

Materials for Activity

  • Ball of yarn
  • Corn, on the cob or canned
  • A piece of paper rolled up with ribbon wrapped around it and a tag that says "Mexican Constitution"
  • A pair of sunglasses
  • Map that shows Mexico and the United States
  • Leader Resource 1, Understanding the Border

Preparation for Activity

  • Print out Leader Resource 1, Understanding the Border, and cut apart the five readings.

Description of Activity

Youth explore root causes of Mexican immigration.

Solicit four volunteers for the readings in Leader Resource 1, Understanding the Border. Solicit four different volunteers to hold the four objects: corn, Mexican Constitution, sunglasses, and the map. Give one volunteer the yarn. Co-leaders can participate if there are not enough youth.

Stand in a wide circle, but not too wide to throw and catch the yarn.

Say to the group that you are going to talk about some of the root causes of increased Mexican immigration. Explain that one volunteer will hold up an object. The volunteer that has the statement about that object will read it aloud. Then volunteers should place the object and reading in the center and walk back to their place in the circle. The yarn volunteer will toss the yarn to the person who held the object. The object volunteer will toss the yarn to the reader, who will hold the yarn until the next pair has finished. Proceed until all five statements have been read. If you have more youth than volunteers, ask the youth without yarn at the end of the exercise to say, one at a time, either, "I empathize," or "I understand" in order to have the yarn thrown to them.

While still holding the yarn, invite participants to observe the immigration web you have created. Note that some of the causes of increased immigration occurred more than one hundred years ago, while others occurred within their lifetimes. These are only some of the causes of increased immigration and why people are desperate enough to risk the journey across the border and enter the United States illegally. Ask if anyone would like to comment on the root causes.

Discuss what the web means in terms of the lives of people caught in it.

  • What would it feel like for you personally to leave behind your family and friends?
  • How desperate would your own situation at home need to be for you to risk snakes and spiders at night and dying of thirst under a blazing sun during the day?
  • Given your thoughts on those first two questions, empathy is about understanding that others who are in that situation are likely feeling similar emotions and fears. With the example of immigration, do our laws allow situations to be examined with empathy by looking at legal/illegal acts through the eyes of the people most affected? Does this contribute to or diminish justice in our legal system?
  • What do you think Henry David Thoreau meant when he asked Ralph Waldo Emerson, "Waldo, the question is what are you doing out there?"
  • What spheres of influence was Henry David Thoreau impacting in his own life based on what you learned about him in this activity? What spheres of influence could you impact in your own life on behalf of immigrants?

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 Thursday, October 27, 2011.

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