What is home? A roof to keep out the rain? Four walls to keep out the wind? Floors to keep out the cold? Yes, but home is more than that. It is the laugh of a baby, the song of a mother, the strength of a father, warmth of loving hearts, lights from happy eyes, kindness, loyalty, comradeship. Home is first school and first church for young ones, where they learn what is right, what is good, and what is kind, where they go for comfort when they are hurt or sick; where joy is shared and sorrow eased; where fathers and mothers are respected and loved, where children are wanted; where the simplest food is good enough for kings because it is earned; where money is not as important as loving-kindness; where even the tea kettle sings from happiness. That is home. God bless it! – Ernestine Schumann-Heink
IN TODAY’S SESSION…
The children talked about why families live where they do, and what it is like to move and re-establish home. Children heard two stories: the story of Ruth and Naomi, from the Book of Ruth in Hebrew scripture, and the story of Owen and Mzee, an orphaned hippopotamus and an old tortoise that bonded together at a wildlife refuge in Kenya.
Children had an opportunity to tell some stories of their own in this session. Listening to each other’s stories is an important way to acknowledge and strengthen the connections among us. Telling our stories allows us, and the listeners, to reflect upon our experiences. Encourage your child to share the events of their life, both large and small, by telling stories.
EXPLORE THE TOPIC TOGETHER. Talk about…
Like Ruth and Naomi, and like Owen and Mzee, children have their own experiences of displacement. If your family has moved within a child’s memory, you may want to talk about how it felt to change homes. Was it exciting? Scary? Sad to leave people behind? Fun to meet new friends? Even if the whole family has never moved house, you may want to share your memories of when you moved as a child, when you first moved from your parents’ home, or other times that you’ve moved.
Children who have never experienced a household move still have probably experienced being away from home on vacation or out of necessity. How does it feel to sleep away from home? Is it more enjoyable to go to new places and see new things or to remain in a familiar location with the things and people you love around you? How would it feel different to travel if you knew that you couldn’t go back to the place you started?
EXTEND THE TOPIC TOGETHER. Try…
A Family Game
In the story of Ruth and Naomi, Ruth promises her mother-in-law Naomi that she will follow her wherever she may lead. Playing Follow the Leader is a fun way for children to have the unusual experience of having adults promise to follow them wherever (and in whatever fashion) they may lead. To play, simply make a line of participants. The person in front leads, doing whatever silly thing they choose, and taking whatever course they choose, while everyone behind does their best to do the same thing as the leader. Every minute or so, swap leaders, so that everyone has a chance to lead and to follow.
A Family Adventure
There are various real-life situations where people and animals find refuge during temporary or permanent displacement. You might want to volunteer at a shelter for the homeless, help serve a holiday meal for homeless folks or assist with a Habitat for Humanity home-building project. Or you might visit a wildlife sanctuary or wildlife museum that rehabilitates injured animals. Even migration is a displacement of sorts, and, depending on your location, a trip to a bird sanctuary or a place where butterflies spend the cold winter months can be a wonderful way to see how animals make a home for themselves while “on the road.”
A website based on Owen and Mzee offers interactive games, downloadable activities, and a variety of links to other sites that teach children about East African wildlife and ecology.
Your family may also like to look at a blog by Stephen Tuei, caretaker at Lafarge Eco Systems where Owen and Mzee formed their relationship.
You can also read more about Owen and Mzee online or even get the whole book Owen & Mzee: The True Story Of A Remarkable Friendship by Craig Hatkoff as a pdf.
Our Faith in Action section includes opportunities for children to assist homeless people. There are a variety of books for children on the subject of homelessness, including:
Fly Away Home by Eve Bunting (Clarion Books, 1993)
The Cardboard Shack Beneath the Bridge by Tim Huff (Castle Quay Books, 2007)