Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Riddle and Mystery: A Program on the Big Questions for Grade 6

Activity 4: WIT Time - Controlling Our Lives

Activity time: 15 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • One hundred pennies or other items for each participant
  • Handout 2, Controlling the Future

Preparation for Activity

  • Decide whether to use the basic approach suggested here or use variations provided.
  • Adapt Handout 2 as you wish. Print it out and copy for all participants.

Description of Activity

Youth sometimes wonder how they can help decide the destiny of the human race if they cannot even control their own lives. This activity demonstrates that they might have more control right now than they think they do, and that they will gain more control in the years ahead. Human destiny is not exactly in their hands, but they can certainly help shape it. You may wish to remind youth of this activity from time to time, in future Riddle and Mystery sessions, as they consider and prepare for various Faith in Action projects.

Gather the group and say in your own words:

Today's big question asks where we are going. We have said that many Unitarian Universalists believe humans can help shape the future. That means that we, all of us, can help direct humanity where we are going. Of course, we cannot stop hurricanes and things like that but we can control a whole lot.

Sometimes youth who talk about helping shape the future ask "How can I control what happens tomorrow? I'm just a kid and I don't control anything at all."

Well, of course we can all control some things. Now we are going to talk about just how much control we really have at different times of our lives.

Let's imagine that every person who is born has 100 units of control to spend during their life. When do they get to spend it? Think of it as 100 pennies. You have 100 pennies to spend on controlling your own life in a way that helps shape the future for everybody. When can you spend that money? Can you spend it on the day after you are born? Not really because you are too small and weak and you have to depend on other people just to stay alive-though you might control the people around you to some extent. Can you spend it when you are one hundred and ten years old? You might have physical limitations, or you might not live that long. So when can you spend it?

Distribute copies of Handout 2. Point out the seven age categories. Invite the youth to imagine they everyone has 100 units of control to spend across all those categories, and to show you on the paper just when they think most people can spend them.

Now give each youth a supply of 100 pennies (or other items) and tell them to pile the pennies on their handouts at the age categories where they would spend them. If they think they would have no control after just being born, they should put no pennies there. If they think they will have a lot of control as teenagers, they should put a lot of pennies there. How many is up to each of them.

Help the youth find places to sit at tables or places to lie on the floor and divide their pennies up. When all have finished, discuss the results. How many pennies did various youth place in each category, beginning with the younger ones?

Point out that there are no right or wrong answers. But, contribute to the discussion. If youth say they have little or no control over their lives at their present age, ask if they can control what they think, how they relate to other people or how much they help with Faith in Action projects?

The discussion should be lively. When it is time to move on, conclude by pointing out that people do have a lot of control over what they do, and some of that affects where the human race will go. Nobody has total control, of course. Adults who seem free to decide everything they want to do really cannot. They have financial, physical and time restraints. Yet each of us has some control over where we are going together.


A simpler alternative is to distribute pens/pencils and invite the youth to divide their 100 units of control by writing numbers in the various age categories, being sure that their total is only 100. But this is not as much fun as using pennies or substitutes like small pieces of paper.