Activity time: 5 minutes
Materials for Activity
- A large basket
- Objects related to the story "Muddy Children: Hosea Ballou," such as a picture of Hosea Ballou; a copy of the book, Treatise on Atonement, by Hosea Ballou; a toy heart or a picture of a heart; or a picture of children who have gotten messy as with paint, food, or mud (perhaps Pig Pen from the Peanuts comic strip)
- A chime, rain stick or other calming sound instrument
- Optional: Box or small table and a decorative cloth cover to form a small altar
Preparation for Activity
- Place the story-related items and the sound instrument in the story basket.
- Optional: Read Unitarian Universalist Historical Society article on Hosea Ballou. Print out his picture to place in the story basket.
- Place the filled basket in the storytelling area you have designated.
- If you will make an altar as a focal point for story objects, set up the box or table you will use next to your storytelling area. Place the decorative cloth on the altar. It is not necessary to ritualize the altar as a sacred place. It can simply serve as a focal point where objects related to the story will be visible while you tell the story.
Description of Activity
Gather the children in a circle in your storytelling area. Show them the storytelling basket. Say something like, "Let's see what's in our story basket this week."
Tell the group the items in the story basket will be placed on this altar or table after the children have passed them around the circle. Take the story-related items from the basket, one at a time, and pass them around. Objects that are fragile or should not be passed around for any reason can be held up for all to see and then placed directly on the altar.
Briefly name the various objects. Show the picture of Hosea Ballou and explain that he was a Universalist minister more than two hundred years ago when most Christians believed that most people would go to hell when they died.
As the items come back to you, display them on the altar for children to look at as they listen to the story.
Now remove the sound instrument from the story basket. Tell the children that every time you tell a story in Faithful Journeys, you will first use the instrument to help them get their ears, minds, and bodies ready to listen. Invite them to sit comfortably and close their eyes (if they are comfortable doing so). You may tell them that closing their eyes can help them focus on just listening.
In a calm voice, say:
As you breathe in, feel your body opening up with air. As you breathe out, feel yourself relaxing.
Repeat this once or twice. Then, say:
Now you are ready to listen. When I hit the chime (turn the rain stick over), listen as carefully as you can. See how long you can hear its sound. When you can no longer hear it, open your eyes and you will know it is time for the story to begin.
Sound the instrument. When the sound has gone, begin telling the story.
Including All Participants
If anyone in the group is unable to hold or pass items, or cannot see the items, make sure you or a child in the group offers the person a chance to see and touch each object, as needed.
Some people do not feel safe closing their eyes when they are in a group. If any children resist, respect their resistance and suggest that they find a single point of focus to look at instead.
If you have a basket of fidget objects for children who may listen and learn more effectively with something in their hands, make the fidget object basket available during this activity. Remind children where it is before you begin the "centering" part of this activity. For a full description of fidget objects and guidance on using them, see Leader Resource 2, Fidget Objects.