A Human Family

Close up photo of wooden game pieces from Quarto.

This children's worship activity relies on the use of objects that you'll have to assemble. Its author used Quarto! game pieces (shown in the accompanying picture). Alternately, you could use paint samples from the hardware store, or perhaps marbles or shells or stones; anything with a combination of similar and differing traits. Begin with the pieces set out for easy viewing; this engages everyone’s wonder and curiosity and saves you time setting them up later.

This morning I brought a set of game pieces to share.

If you’ve had a chance to look at them, you might have noticed that each piece has a trait that’s part of a pair of traits. In other words, each piece is either short or… [wait for them to say, “tall”, then repeat]. And each is either dark or… [light]. And each is either round or… [square]. And each is either hollow in the top, or… [solid].

One thing that’s fun with these, is grouping them according to the traits they share. You can make little families that share one trait, or two, or even three traits in common.

But there’s one particularly cool thing about these pieces. Could a volunteer choose one piece – any piece? [Take what is offered to you and name its four traits.] This piece is the only piece in the set that has this particular set of traits. This piece is unique. There is no other piece exactly like it. It’s a lot like… [pause, because they are likely to know where you are going, and may complete your thought!] people. Yes, like you and me. And like everyone else in the world. Each of us has a unique set of traits. And we have lots more than just four!

Now, here’s another thing about this set of pieces. Could I have another volunteer who can come up and divide the set into two groups of eight, so that one group shares one trait in common and the other group shares a different trait in common? [As the child is working on it, be prepared to ask them what trait they are grouping, in case you need to coach them in this sorting task, then share out loud the traits on which their sorting is based.]

You know, we people have a tendency to sort ourselves into two groups, too. It can be understandable, but sometimes it gets us into trouble. It can get us into trouble when we think about all the people in the world as either this, or that. Are there some grownups who can share examples of ways that people think about ourselves as being either one thing or another? [Likely examples will probably include: men/women, rich/poor, old/young, white/people of color, children/adults, liberals/conservatives, easterners/westerners, northerners, southerners. Add any that aren’t mentioned if you think the collective response needs rounding out.]

We do this, and when we do, we’re forgetting a deeper truth about ourselves. You see, these pieces here actually share a fundamental trait in common. What is something that’s the same about all of them? [You may get kids pointing out that each one has a stripe-like band on it; this is true. What we’re after, though, is that they’re all made of wood.] They are all made of wood. In fact, I bet the manufacturer of this game made sure they’re made of the same kind of wood. And what’s more… it’s possible that some of these pieces – maybe even all of them – are made of wood that came from the same… [see if they beat you to it!] tree. Yeah! Think about it. They’re made of the very same stuff!

And so are we! We’re all made of the same stuff. We are all people; all human beings. We’re all a member of the animal species known as homo sapiens sapiens: the beings that know that we know! We are all members of the great human family.

And when we remember this, it’s a good thing. A very good thing. So good, that it’s a sacred thing.