Giving Makes Us Happy

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Last Sunday we got cozy with some quilts from my home and read the story The Quiltmaker’s Gift and I asked the kids “why is this a good story for Thanksgiving weekend?”

Answers they had:

  • It’s about being happy with what you have and not always wanting more
  • It’s about how the best things in life, the things you should be grateful for, are people and not stuff
  • Sometimes when you have too much stuff you can’t appreciate it because it’s more than one person can ever play with
  • Giving things away makes us happy

 

They’re right, aren’t they? So many of us already have too much stuff, and the quest to get more doesn’t make us happier. Money can’t buy happiness … or can it? The Middle School group is exploring the topic of money this fall, and they recently watched a TED Talk about “How to Buy Happiness“. Researcher Michael Norton found that one reliable way money could increase people’s happiness was if they spent it on other people – if they gave it away as a gift.

Here we are, entering the holiday season when gift-giving is a huge affair. And yet young children are most often only the receivers of gifts, not the givers. How can we bring a practice of Giving into our holidays? A few ideas:

 

May our holiday season sparkle with kindness and giving, and may our spirits be lifted in the process.

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Re-Thinking Thanksgiving

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Happy Thanksgiving this week! Here is our congregational group at the county Food Bank last Saturday, volunteering to help pack Thanksgiving Dinners. Hundreds of Dinners are handed out each year by the Food Bank.

There are so many lovely aspects of this holiday – being Thankful and Grateful for what you have, a simple celebration of abundance and harvest and family and friends that has resisted over-commercialism.

But it’s also important to re-think this holiday and the way we teach about it and celebrate it in light of colonialism and on-going racism.

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Last Sunday, our Religious Education classes started a conversation about others ways to think about Thanksgiving.

Our youngest children (preschool-Kindergarten) had the story The Thanksgiving Door by Debby Atwell. In a gentle way, this story raises questions about hospitality, immigration, and what this holiday really celebrates (and who it “belongs” to).

In our Labyrinth Learning class for 1st-5th graders, we watched two videos showing Native American perspectives on Thanksgiving, one from Teen Vogue  and another from AJ+.

I encourage you to continue this conversation this week with your families. Yes, celebrate Gratitude and be thankful for the abundance we experience. Yes, remember those who are in need through service and generous giving. And also continue this conversation about colonialism and racism in our society.

Resources to Help You:

 

And you can also use that gathering of friends and family around the table to engage in a conversation about racism. This video gives tips for talking about Black Lives Matter with white family and friends, and this script for talking about racism with family was written for Asian Americans but there are good tips there for other races and ethnicities as well.

Wishing you all a Blessed Thanksgiving.

A healing congregation

The theme for November is Healing, and so yesterday in the elementary grades class we had our wonderful volunteer Parish Nurse in as a guest speaker, explaining what she does as parish nurse for our congregation. Following that conversation, the kids made Get Well Soon cards that we will send to congregants who are ill in the future.

A lovely and sweet project!

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Talking About Kids and Money

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Tonight we held a parent discussion circle at OUUC based on the book The Opposite of Spoiled. The reason for the selection of this book was based on our current Middle School program, which will start a unit on Money this coming Sunday. However, this book and the topic of kids and money are appropriate and useful no matter the current age of your children.

If you’d like to reflect on the questions yourself, here’s our discussion guide:

Parent Discussion about Kids and Money

 

  1. Opening

Play “Money” by Pink Floyd

 

  1. Introductions

 

  1. Opening Reading from The Opposite of Spoiled by Ron Lieber (page 12):

 

Money is central, but it is also a teaching tool that uses the value of a dollar to instill in our children the values we want them to embrace. These traits – curiosity, patience, thrift, modesty, generosity, perseverance, and perspective – don’t belong to one religion, region, or race. A few of our kids are already set for life financially, but most of them have no clue how much money they’ll have when they grow up. Their financial status is fluid but their financial values should not be.

 

  1. Discussion

 

  1. What financial values do we hope our children will have? Now? As adults?
  2. Thinking back on your own childhood, what “money messages” did you receive? Are these the same messages you want your children to get?
  3. How open are you to talking about money honestly with your kids? Is it time to explain your own finances and earnings to your kids? How is money one of “the talks”? (Like sex, drugs, etc)?
  4. What is challenging or hard about money for you? Are there ways that you struggle with money, and is it time to make a new relationship for yourself with money? How would that change your child’s future relationship with money?
  5. On page 24 of The Opposite of Spoiled the author shares that there is a gender disparity in allowance and financial education. Do you think we treat boys and girls differently with regard to money? Is there a gender disparity or gender stereotype in how you yourself handle financials in your life?
  6. The allowance debate: why give an allowance? What is the goal of an allowance? What lessons can it teach? Why not give an allowance? Pay for chores? Other options?
  7. What habits of saving do you hope your child will have? Are you modeling those habits yourself? How can we promote saving for kids?
  8. Lieber talks about a line between Want and Need and setting a standard $ amount for Needs before they cross into Wants. How do you separate Wants and Needs for your kids?
  9. Consumer Decisions: pages 74-75 introduce the ideas of the Fun per Dollar Ratio and the Most Good/Least Harm Rule. How are we teaching our kids to make consumer decisions? What values do we hope they will have as consumers?
  10. How do you model generosity and giving for your kids? What could make your own generosity more visible and memorable for your kids?
  11. How can kids themselves practice generosity? Do you like the “giving jar” method? What other options are there?
  12. What about kids and work? How much work should kids do? How can kids earn money for themselves? Has there been a cultural shift in how much we expect children and teens to work and be useful?

 

Closing Words: (from page 208)

 

We haven’t got very long, and the years go by so quickly. Still, we have these conversations because they endure. They’re an essential part of making successful adults – and contented ones too.

An Accessibility Audit

The theme this month is Courage, and in our religious education classes we are exploring many different kinds of courage. This last Sunday our example of courage was Christopher Reeve, a UU, a “Super Man”, and advocate for disability awareness and medical research.

The kids also had the chance to do an accessibility audit on our building. We borrowed a wheelchair from the hospitality team (it’s normally kept available in the coat closet if needed here at the congregation) and the kids used it to try and get around in the church building.

They noted how hard it was to open doors. They realized that the grass and the wood chips in the play area are not good for wheels. They found it hard to navigate through the crowded coffee hour crowd, and difficult with a narrow aisle in the worship sanctuary.

We’ll pass the notes from their audit on to congregational leadership, but even more importantly these kids all learned a little bit about empathy and that super heroes come in all different shapes, sizes, and abilities.

The Light of Our Heritage

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When the children are invited to leave the worship service for a religious education class on Sunday mornings (if they wish, they are also welcome to stay in the worship service), I invite the children forward to carry a candle: “Carrying the light of our heritage into the classroom”.

It’s an interesting phrase, one which I inherit from what was in practice here before I became your Director of Religious Education. But what does it mean? Why this phrase, and not another?

In this context, the light is symbolizing a connection between, on the one hand, the tradition of Unitarian Universalism, the long history of those who have come before, and the congregation of elders and on the other hand our children and youth, and the future of this faith movement.

At a recent workshop for our Coming of Age program I started the youth off with some exploration of UU history and the history of this congregation, and then I asked “why does this matter to you? Why do we care about history?”

The answer from most of the youth was that it’s probably easier to decide where you want to go and what you believe if you know where you are coming from and what has come before you.

That is exactly why I think it’s important for our children to carry the light of our heritage into their classes – because in our classes we are exploring, learning, growing, and are even shaping the future of our own religious understandings and of Unitarian Universalism. But we are not creating all of this from nothing. There is a foundation that was built already, by all those who came before and asked questions and made meaning and formed community, and now here we stand on this foundation, carrying it forward into the future.

May we carry the light of our heritage, and by knowing what has come before, may we be ever more able to walk forward as part of a vital, living, tradition.

Connection to the Seasons

 

Unitarian Universalists don’t have the strong liturgical calendar that other traditions use to order their years. And, while I don’t want to anchor the whole religious experience of a year in the story of the life of Jesus, as other traditions do, I do have a bit of liturgical calendar envy.

It would be nice to have a steady and familiar rhythm to follow.

But wait – there is a rhythm already! It’s the rhythm of the seasons, which so many faith traditions, especially indigenous and earth-based traditions, have been inspired by. We can follow this natural rhythm as well, even though so many of us no longer live lives that are intimately connected to the outdoors or to agricultural cycles.

In the religious education program, this can look like it did this last Sunday, when we made fall wreaths and apple pomanders to welcome a new season after the equinox and to make our doorways welcoming to guests.

If you are interested in making connection to the seasons part of your family practice, I recommend the book The Rhythm of Family: Discovering a Sense of Wonder Through the Seasons by Amanda and Stephen Soule

 

 

High School Group Start-Up

 

Our High School group had a lovely kick-off to the new program year. Youth gathered to start creating a collaborative work of art on the group’s Chalice for the year, creating a covenant, and making some preliminary plans for the year.

Ideas for activities that the youth came up with:

  • Serving dinner at the community kitchen in town
  • going to the Painted Plate to paint pottery together
  • working on LGBT rights issues
  • working on climate change issues
  • going on a hike or doing trail work on a trail
  • volunteering with Native Plant Salvage or other habitat project
  • Laser Tag
  • beginning planning and fundraising for a group trip in 2 years

That’s just the start of our plans for the year! Let’s see how it actually takes form, but for sure it’s going to be fun!

Collaborative Planning Party

This evening we had a first for us, as these wonderful folks gathered to brainstorm and dig into ideas for how our monthly themes can become classroom stories and activities for the kids.

The idea for this came out of what I learned about white supremacy cultural characteristics at this year’s Unitarian Universalist General Assembly. I came home to the congregation inspired to try and be more collaborative, and invite more perspectives and voices to the table.

So here they are, the folks who chose to spend their time thinking about what we could do with these themes. I really appreciate everything they brought to the table. We came up with some wonderful ideas! I think we’re going to have a great time with these lessons.

Our themes will be:

  • September — Welcome
  • October — Courage
  • November — Healing
  • December — Hope

How Diverse Are Our Books?

This summer our program for children is Rainbow Readers, a celebration of reading and sharing books we love.

Last Sunday the intersection between that program and our planned White Supremacy Teach-In took us to the true story of Marley Dias and #1000blackgirlbooks. Taking our cue from Marley, we then set out to sort and determine how diverse our own OUUC children’s book collection is.

 

The sorting process meant kids looked through books, and debated what diversity they saw in the books. Is a book about an African American girl right for the Gender pile or the Black People pile? The system we were using was imperfect!

Nonetheless, we found some interesting results:

  • The biggest pile by far was of books that didn’t have people in them! Books that were either about nature or had animal characters or completely made up imaginary beings form the majority of our collection.
  • We have a lot of books about religion/s for kids. That’s probably not surprising.
  • While we do have many books showing diverse skin colors, we still have a very tall pile of books that only have white people in them. Asian and Latino people were the least represented in our collection.
  • We do not have anywhere near enough books that feature diversity in ability, sexual orientation, or gender.

 

I’ll be shopping/accepting donations with those results in mind as I add more books to the collection.

Home Resources

Want to bring more diversity into your home library and reading?