Last year we introduced a new focus for the very end of the church year in the elementary class: a service project. After exploring our UU tradition and other religions all year, we end with Acting on our Faith: Nature in April and Service in May.
The service project was proposed and voted upon at the Children’s Annual Meeting, and this year the kids chose to do a service project to help EGYHOP. This means we will be exploring the issue of homelessness this month, and taking actions to assist people experiencing homelessness.
At the congregation we will pack care packages that kids can deliver themselves, run a supply drive for items on EGYHOP’s wishlist, and hold a Bake Sale to raise $ that will all be donated to EGYHOP. You can follow along at home as well:
- Learn more about homelessness:
Some lovely recommendations of picture books about hunger, homelessness, and poverty here. There is also a good list of books about people without homes and animals without homes at The Institute for Humane Education.
2. Talk about how you can respond to homelessness as a family. The issue of how to respond to panhandlers is especially acute for children … it presents an immediate dilemma and opportunity to practice compassion and yet they see so many adults look the other way. You may have good reasons to choose not to give money to panhandlers, but talk to your kids about why you’ve chosen that action.
3. Get Involved in the effort to aid people experiencing homelessness and reduce the number of people who become homeless. Locally there are many ways to get involved:
and of course, EGYHOP
There are many additional options if you want to tackle poverty or hunger or medical care … all related issues for people experiencing homelessness
Our congregation is going through an unexpected ministerial transition right now, throwing many of us into a state of uncertainty, sadness, and confusion.
For the most part, our children and youth are less affected. But that doesn’t mean they are not affected at all, or that we should not talk about this departure with our youngest members.
Children were invited to write a farewell card to the Reverend and his wife last Sunday, just as the adults in our congregation were. It is important to get to say goodbye and to express both appreciation and gratitude for a person and grief at their absence.
We also released and said goodbye to our butterflies that we have been raising here at the congregation. The butterfly remains, while a clichéd symbol, a powerful symbol of transformation and new possibilities. We watched our caterpillars grow, go into a chrysalis and seem almost dead, and then emerge completely transformed into butterflies. We enjoyed our butterflies for a week, then knew that it was time to let them go, and watch them fly away.
This is a metaphor for change that children can understand, as they will if you share the book Farfallina and Marcel by Holly Keller. Farfallina is a caterpillar and a great friend to Marcel, a duckling, but one day Farfallina is gone. When she returns, Marcel doesn’t recognize her, but they become friends again all the same … here we have a gentle story about friendship enduring transformation and change.
Another story about change, loss, grief and death for young children is Badger’s Parting Gifts by Susan Varley. Badger is a good friend to many, and when he dies peacefully one night, all his friends are sad. But when they gather to share their stories of Badger, they celebrate the gifts he left behind, and the precious ways he still lives on in their memories.
Neither of these books is a perfect match for what we are experiencing in the congregation right now, and we will not always find the perfect story for every possible occasion. But I believe that we need to explore stories like these with our children because they open a door of possibility for the children to tell their own stories … the story of how they are feeling, what they are wondering, what they have noticed and seen.
Share a story with your children, and then listen for their own. Don’t be afraid to wade out into deeper emotional waters … children have a depth of feeling and experience and just as much need to talk about it as adults do.
May we all find our way, through transition and transformation. Blessed Be.
The Story of Our Butterflies:
Eggs were hatched into caterpillars who were gathered up and sent through the mail to our Director of Religious Education’s home (so they wouldn’t get too cold in case the church building was closed when they arrived). There were 33 caterpillars, all in one cup full of food. They were tiny!
Each of those caterpillars needed to have its own space and its own food, much like we all need enough room and nurture in order to grow. We carefully moved them each into their own cup, with their own food.
The caterpillars got larger and larger, while we checked on them every Sunday (and the DRE checked on them all week long), and then when they had eaten enough and were ready, they clung to the lid of the little home and formed a chrysalis. We took all the lids and put them into the butterfly net, so they would have more room when it was time to come out of those hard pods. We watched, and we waited, and we even began to worry because it was taking longer than we thought it would!
And then the butterflies emerged! One by one they squirmed free of their chrysalides, unfolded their wings, and twitched and flapped them to get them dry and strong.
We enjoyed watching our butterflies, and feeding them orange slices and sugar water.
But butterflies can’t live in a net forever … they need to fly and find flowers and live their lives. So it was time to release our butterflies.
One by one, they flew away. Goodbye butterflies!
This month our children’s religious education classes are learning about Islam, and as part of that learning it is important that we discuss the rise of Islamophobia in our country. Here are some ideas and resources for beginning that work at home:
Then – Have Fun and Be Safe!
June is Pride Month, and all around the world there are Pride Parades and celebrations. And, after the shooting in Orlando, it’s even more important for our children and youth to have positive stories lifted up. Celebrate Pride Month with these resources: