Activity time: 15 minutes
Materials for Activity
- A copy of the story "The Strong Man Who Cried"
- A large basket
- Objects related to the story such as a set (a flock) of small sheep toys, a handkerchief or box of tissues, and a baby jar with water, and photos of things you find extraordinarily beautiful
- A chime, rain stick, or other instrument with a calm sound
- Optional: Box or small table and a decorative cloth cover
- Optional: Fidget basket (see Session 1, Leader Resource 4)
- Optional: Dress-up clothing for role-playing children to use characters
Preparation for Activity
- Place the story-related items and the chime, rain stick, or other sound instrument in the story basket. Place the filled basket in the storytelling area you have designated.
- Read the story a few times. Plan how you will use items from the story basket as props. This story is very easy to memorize, and very effective when told, instead of read. Consider inviting two volunteers to role play the story silently while you tell it.
- Optional: To provide a focal point where story-related items can sit while you tell the story, set up a box or table next to your storytelling area and drape it with a decorative cloth.
- Optional: If you have a basket of fidget objects for children who will listen and learn more effectively with something in their hands, make the basket available during this activity. Remind children where it is before you begin the "centering" part of this activity. See Session 1, Leader Resource 4, Fidget Objects for a full description of fidget baskets and guidance for using them.
Description of Activity
Gather participants in a circle in the storytelling area and show them the story 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 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 which should not be passed around for any reason, can be held up to show the children and then placed directly on the table.
Name each object and ask a wondering question about each one. As items come back to you, display them on the table. Then say, in your own words:
Today we are exploring a Jewish message of love. Jewish teachings that tell us to love all others as we love ourselves are part of our fourth Unitarian Universalist Source. The story today comes from the Torah (the Jewish holy book). It's about Jacob and Rachel. It's also about being different.
Ask the children briefly if they have ever felt excluded. Ask them why it is important we are inclusive of everyone. Affirm that as Unitarian Universalists, we believe it is right to treat everyone the way we want to be treated, and we work to make sure everyone is treated fairly and accepted for who they are.
Say, in your own words:
In the story you will hear, two people were not accepted because they did not behave the way people expected them to. The story was written a very long time ago, when gender stereotypes were very strict. That means girls and boys were expected to act a certain way, according to their gender: girl, or boy.
Optional: Tell the children you would like two volunteers to role-play the story of Jacob and Rachel. Explain that the volunteers may choose costumes (if you have brought some) and will act out the story as you tell it. Assign roles and invite volunteers to quickly put on costumes and rejoin the circle.
Remove the sound instrument from the story basket. Remind the children that you will use the instrument to help them get their ears, their minds, and their 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 just on listening. If someone is unable to close their eyes or sit still, invite them to hold one of the story basket items or an item from the fidget basket.
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:
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.
If children will play roles, invite them to come join you. Indicate the parameters of their "stage."
Read/tell the story. When you have finished, sound the instrument again. Lead a discussion with these questions:
- Why did Jacob cry? Was it okay that he cried? What could Jacob's father have said to him?
- What about Rachel tending sheep? (Point out that when this story was written, in Hebrew scripture, long ago, it was unusual for a girl to have this job.) What do you think about that?
- Are there any situations where you might be surprised to see a boy? Are there situations where you might be surprised to see a girl? (You might prompt by asking the group if some sports have mostly boys and other sports have mostly girls. Or, ask the group if they think equal numbers of boys and girls play particular sports, such as basketball, jump rope, or soccer, and why.)
- The story about Jacob and Rachel comes from a long, long time ago. Do you think people still have stereotypes about boys and girls? Do people still think only boys are strong? Do people think it is only okay for girls to cry?
Ask the children to take a moment and think about things they like to do. Say, in your own words:
Sometimes kids fit a gender stereotype of a boy or a girl, but just as often, they do not. Gender stereotypes are not fair. They hurt all of us, because they do not fit many of us. Whatever our gender is, most of us like a few things people do not expect us to like because of our gender, or we don't like some things people do expect us to like. What a kid likes to do or wear does not have to fit other people’s ideas for that kid’s gender. We need to accept everyone, whether they fit a gender stereotype or not.
Including All Participants
Note participants' reactions to the story and discussion. If a child seems especially uncomfortable, consider mentioning your observations to your religious educator or minister.