Faith CoLab: Tapestry of Faith: Virtue Ethics: An Ethical Development Program for High School Youth

Alternate Activity 2: Grace

Part of Virtue Ethics

Activity time: 30 minutes

Materials for Activity

  • A treat-one for each youth
  • For swans: Paper for origami, 6-inch squares in different colors
  • Handout 2, Grace Reflections
  • Handouts 3-7, Origami Instructions – Swan
  • Optional: Music, and music player
  • Optional: For doves: 8-inch diameter paper dollies
  • Optional: A computer with Internet access, and a digital projector or large monitor

Preparation for Activity

  • Print Handout 2 and Handouts 3-7 for all participants.
  • Optional: Choose music that evokes generosity of spirit. Test the music player.
  • Optional: If you will have Internet access, plan to show a video on how to fold an origami dove or origami swan. One simple, short dove origami video is posted on YouTube. Here is one for a swan, by Howcast and another, longer, more complex swan posted by Rob.

Description of Activity

Youth grapple with the religious concept of grace.

Present the treat to the group. The treat could be edible, such as cups of sherbet, or inedible, such as small, attractive stones, pieces of amethyst, or dollar store gifts. Ask the group if they know the occasion for the gift. After guesses, tell them you gave it to them “just because.”

Ask if anyone has ever given them a gift “just because” before. Seek volunteers to talk about the situations involving the gifts. Focus on how it felt to be given something they did not expect, possibly did not even feel they deserved.

Distribute Handout 2 and read the definition of grace from Babcock, a Christian scholar. The Christian concept says that humans are saved not because they are good but through God’s grace, which comes from God’s great love. It is God’s grace that allowed Jesus to be born a man, suffer, and die for human salvation. Can the concept of grace have meaning for non-Christians?

Read the Unitarian Universalist quotations from the Handout. Then, lead a discussion with these questions:

  • Do any of these definitions resonate with you?
  • Chance Hunter gives examples of small acts of grace. Have you ever had experiences like the ones he describes?
  • Does the gift have to be something materialistic? Can you think of a time you received a non-material gift that was unasked for and undeserved? For example, has a teacher ever surprised them with a gift of “no homework?"

Invite participants to think of ways they could be generous and give the gift of grace. Ask them to think of someone who would benefit from knowing they are thinking of them. Perhaps it is someone they witnessed doing a quiet act of kindness, or someone dealing with illness or hardships gracefully. They might want to give them a swan. Another option is folding an origami dove for someone whose life seems particularly stressful and chaotic at the moment. Distribute Handouts 3-7, Origami Instructions – Swan, and paper for folding.

If you have Internet access, show the instructional video(s). Be ready to stop and start the video to allow everyone to move at their own pace.

If you are not using instructional videos, or after the videos are finished, play music you have brought while youth fold animals.