The Umbrella Sanctuary

Woman holding rainbow patterened umbrella at LGBTQ Equality March, October 2009.

To prepare for this activity, place umbrellas in the pews. Instruct people to open the umbrellas when the man in the story receives the umbrella.
Today we have a very special item in our very special Mystery Box. This item is going to teach us more about sanctuaries. Who wants to guess the Mystery Object in the Mystery Box is today? <wait for guesses>

Some good ideas, some close, but nothing quite right. Would one of you be willing to open the box and pull out what it’s inside?

Go ahead and show it to everyone...That’s right. It’s an umbrella.

What is an umbrella used for?
That’s right. It’s to stay dry when it’s raining outside.

Once upon a time, a long time ago -- okay, it was Thursday -- in a far away place known as North Carolina, I was caught outside in a sudden rainstorm! I was silly and didn’t look at the weather before I left and I was walking around outside when it started to pour! I got so wet, it took hours to dry off. And I didn’t have my trusty umbrella with me.

I have a story for you today, but you have two important parts in the story. Whenever I say “boom” I need you to shout “boom” as loud as you can. Let’s practice. "Boom."

And there will be times when I say the word “Sanctuary.” Whenever you hear the word sanctuary, I want you to quietly say the word Sanctuary. Let’s try this one. "Sanctuary."

Great job.

So once upon a time there was a little girl just like you who was also caught outside in a sudden rainstorm. She ran inside to the nearest store – I wish I had thought of that Thursday – to wait out the rain storm. As soon as she closed the door, a bright flash and a loud boom of thunder followed. I didn’t hear you – I said a loud BOOM <hold hand to hear> of thunder followed.

The little girl knew that she would be stuck in that store for quite a while. She started to look around at some of the different items in the store when the shop keeper appeared. The shop keeper was the oldest woman the little girl had ever seen! Her hair was as white as the snow and her face all wrinkly. The little girl was brave enough to admit she was a little scared.

“Young woman,” said the old shopkeep, “can I help you with something?”
The little girl pointed outside, too afraid to talk.

“Ahhh,” said the old shopkeep, “Did you run in here to escape the rain?”
The little girl nodded slowly as another loud boom <hold hand to ear> of thunder shook the store.

“Well, you can wait here if you’d like in my little sanctuary. We’ve got a nice sturdy roof over our heads, and it will keep you safe and dry.”
The little girl appreciated the offer, but she really needed to get back outside and continue on her way. The old shopkeep could tell the little girl was hesitating.

“Or,” continued the shopkeep, “You could head back outside with this.” The old shopkeep went behind the counter and what do you think she pulled out?

That’s right. An umbrella.

“Take this umbrella,” said the old shopkeep. “I don’t know why it’s raining. But I do know that you can keep dry under this portable sanctuary.”

The little girl beamed, but then stopped in her tracks. “But I don’t have any money” said the little girl.

The old shopkeep waved her off. “No worries little girl. Just be sure to offer the umbrella to someone else when they need it.”

The little girl accepted the umbrella, headed back outside, opened up her umbrella and went on her way.

The little girl was happy and dry. She started skipping down the street and was perfectly happy when she saw a man wearing a suit, trying to keep dry with a newspaper over his head. She heard another loud boom and the newspaper began to fall apart under the heavy rain. She skipped over to the man in the suit and held the umbrella up as high as she could.

“Thank you,” said the man.

Remembering the words from the old shopkeep, the little girl told the man, “I don’t know why it’s raining. But I do know that you can keep dry with me under this portable sanctuary.”

The man smiled in relief. He had been having a really bad day – see, he was wearing a suit because he was on his way to a job interview. He had been without work for a long, long time, and was desperate. He had to walk to the interview because he couldn’t afford a car. When it started to rain, he cursed his luck – he would show up to his really important job interview soaked, and he knew it would make a really bad first impression.

The little girl spotted her family in the store across the street.
“Here,” said the little girl, “take the umbrella with you. I see my family right over there across the street.”

“Oh, I couldn’t take your umbrella,” said the man feeling guilty.

“No! Take it! Just be sure to offer the umbrella to someone else when they need it.” The little girl put the umbrella into his hands and then ran off to meet her family.

The man couldn’t believe how nice the little girl was. He knew he had to hurry, though, because it was almost time for his very important interview. Another boom of thunder caused him to start running.

Well, I can tell you that the man got that job he was interviewing for. And soon enough, he was able to afford to buy a few umbrellas of his own. Whenever it would rain, he would bring not only his umbrella that the little girl had given him, he would bring two more small umbrellas to give away to people who were stuck outside in the rain. And every time he gave away an umbrella, he would say,

“I don’t know why it’s raining. But I do know that you can keep dry under this portable sanctuary.”

And soon, everyone in their town had an umbrella that they would take with them. And if the townspeople passed by someone without an umbrella, they would give up their own umbrella and pass on the words, now known by the entire town, “I don’t know why it’s raining. But I do know that you can keep dry under this portable sanctuary.”