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

Activity 1: In Pursuit Of A Mission

Activity time: 20 minutes

Materials for Activity

Preparation for Activity

  • Photocopy Handout 1, "Perhaps," one for each participant.

Description of Activity

Give everyone a copy of the poem. Ask two or more volunteers to read it aloud, pausing for thirty seconds between readings and after the last reading. Then use these questions to lead a "What do we have here?" discussion:
  • What feelings or emotions does the poem evoke?
  • What words or lines are unclear to you?

Lead a "What's the big idea?" discussion.

  • Guide the group to discover that the first and second stanzas of "Perhaps" provide different scenarios for what can happen when someone pursues a mission. The first is pessimistic and the second is optimistic, but not entirely so. Ask these questions:
    • Notice the space between the first and second stanzas. Why do you think it is there?
    • How are the outcomes described in the first stanza alike? How are the outcomes described in the second stanza alike?
    • Do the two groups of "perhapses" represent different worldviews? How can we describe the first worldview? The second?
    • Which worldview do you identify with more strongly?
  • Guide the group to find a definition of "mission" in the poem. Here are some helpful questions:
    • Does the poem give any clues about which results are more likely to occur?
    • Does the poet suggest how someone can influence which outcomes will happen? Does the speaker seem to expect any particular outcome?
    • Does the speaker seem to care about the outcome at all?
    • What does it mean when the speaker says, "We have no choice"?
    • What is the effect of the poet's use of the word "irresistible" to describe one's sense of mission? Do the words "powerful," "strong," or "compelling" do the same job? Why or why not?

Hand out paper and pen/pencil to each participant. Direct participants to list every aspect of themselves and their lives in which they "have no choice." Give the group two or three minutes to write.

Invite volunteers to offer a few items they jotted down. Then direct participants to think about the reasons why they "have no choice" for each item on their list, and provide these instructions:

  • If you have no choice because an outside authority prohibits the item, cross it off the list; examples: drive a car, go to school barefoot.
  • If you have no choice because of physical or other inherent limitations, cross the item off the list; examples: eat popcorn (braces), have a pet cat (allergic), buy a yacht (financial).

The remaining items on the list will probably be things that participants feel they MUST do (as opposed to CANNOT do). Make sure the difference is clear to them.

Now let us look deeper into the things we have no choice about and MUST do. Ask participants to draw two columns on a blank sheet of paper and add these column heads:


Under "I must," have participants rewrite the remaining items about which they have no choice. Under "Because," have participants write the reason why they must do each thing. For example:

  • I must... do my homework / Because... I will be punished and/or get poor grades if I do not.

Give the group several minutes to complete the exercise. Then ask volunteers to share some of the things they MUST do and the reasons why they must do those things. Did anyone write "irresistible sense of mission" as a reason why she/he has no choice but to do something? If any participants identified something they MUST do for reasons that come from inside themselves, they may have discovered a mission. Examples might be:

  • I must... practice basketball every day / Because... I want to the be the best player on my team.
  • I must... pick up litter whenever I see it / Because... I would not feel right if I just ignored it.

Invite volunteers to share what they have discovered. Lead a discussion to further explore the nature of a "mission." Use these questions:

  • Does a mission have to be for the betterment of others, or can it be for the betterment of you alone?
  • Is it important to have a mission in your life?
  • How do you think having a mission or a sense of purpose in life affects your spirituality?