Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Exploring Our Values Through Poetry: A Program for High School Youth

Activity 1: Transforming Communities

Activity time: 20 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Photocopy Handout 1, “Pull the Next One Up,” one for each participant.

Description of Activity

Distribute Handout 1, “Pull the Next One Up.” Ask two or more volunteers to read it aloud, pausing for thirty seconds between readings and after the last reading. Then lead a “What do we have here?” discussion, using these questions:

  • What words or references confound or confuse you?
  • What metaphor is the basis for this poem?

Use these questions to lead a “What’s the big idea?” discussion:

  • What difficulties do the people in the poem face, literally and figuratively?
  • This poem is obviously about courage. What other themes can you find in this poem? (Possible answers include cooperation, social action, our shared human condition, setting and reaching goals, and community action.)
  • Frequently, when someone talks about mountain climbing, it is to exemplify the glory of one person “conquering” the mountain. This poet says one mountain climber reaching the top is meaningless if they do not bring others along with them. Is he really talking about climbing mountains? What do you think he is talking about?
  • What does the poem have to say about the progress of the individual versus that of the community? (Do not let participants miss the point that individual climbers must reach each new plateau before they can pull others up.)
  • Is concentrating on the rope and those “dangling bodies” that still need help up the mountain, instead of planting flags and claiming victory, a different way of thinking about defining success in mountain climbing?
  • Is there anything in the poem that speaks to transformation?

Ask for a show of hands from youth who have participated in ropes courses or a group retreat where the group had to help each other overcome physical challenges. Now expand the metaphor to a broader scale and discuss how this metaphor could be a way to think about community and social action. Does this metaphor provide a model for how communities are transformed? Ask participants to give examples. Does the metaphor apply to other aspects of their lives? Are there other models for transforming communities?

Remind participants that in the next workshop, the group starts planning the Poetry Slam. Does the metaphor in this poem pertain to this project? How do participants hope their community (the congregation or the Poetry group) will be transformed by the experience of the Poetry Slam?

Ask for a definition of the word "synergy." The American Heritage Dictionary defines it as “the interaction of two or more agents or forces so that their combined effect is greater than the sum of their individual effects.” Let the group provide examples. The Poetry Slam is an example. Tell participants that the next activity is another example of synergy, transformation, and the interaction between the individual and the community.