Today is the day
God cries with the masses of starving people,
despises growing disparity between rich and poor,
demands justice for workers in the marketplace.
And so shall we.
From the litany to accompany the Social Creed (Accessed November 3, 2016)
My friend Nils recently shared a story about his 2 1/2 year old son. I don’t know if it was in the context of the election in the US, or some volunteer opportunity, or if they had witnessed some heartbreaking issue of poverty, but Nils felt compelled to explain inequality to Jonah.
“You see buddy, some people have it harder than others.”
“Yeah daddy, some people are hard,” he tapped his own knee, “and some people are squishy!” as he tapped his dad’s belly. Over the next week or so Jonah was fixated on pointing out hard and squishy body parts, and hard and squishy people. This was the source of both amusement and embarrassment for Nils and his wife Emily.
It can be really difficult to talk with kids about economic inequality. For one, the issues of poverty and wealth are so complex Two, so much of how we’ve taught about poverty in the past has dehumanized the poor and made middle class and wealthy people the heroes and saviors of the story.
Not too long ago I was driving with kids in the car on the way to the Missions*Service*Purpose Camp in the Minnesota Annual Conference. The previous year we had gone to serve at a food shelf, and the activity had been really positive and empowering for the kids involved. We were remembering that time and how much fun we had when one of my sixth graders said, “you know, the food that I ate for breakfast this morning came from the foodshelf. It’s kind of cool that last year I was helping there and this year I’m eating from there.”
Later when a well-meaning, but privileged volunteer was talking with the group of kids she talked about how “we” have enough food, and “they,” need our help. My sixth grader didn’t come back to camp for the rest of the session. I can’t claim to know that it was this volunteer’s comment that kept him home, but I’ve wondered.
Main Ideas (From What Every Child Should Experience)
- My family helps me to consider and recognize the rights of others and understand what that means in the way that we live as a family.
- I begin to identify and express attitudes, ideas, and feelings about social injustice.
- The Economic Community – UMC Social Principles
Small prizes for the winning team (stickers, pencils, etc.)
a white board or chart paper to keep track of the score
a list of easy and hard questions (based on something you’ve been teaching, or pop culture or whatever else you want to question about)
A copy of ¡Sí, Se Puede! / Yes, We Can! Janitor Strike in L.A. (Available from Cokesbury)
(Divide the group into two teams).
Today we are going to play a trivia game. There will be points for questions that are answered right and the team with the most points at the end of the game wins.
(Every question you ask team 1, should be very easy. Every question you ask team 2, should be very hard. Assign points arbitrarily but always assign more points for team 1’s correct answers and less points for team 2’s correct answers. Kids really care about fair and unfair, so they will sense that this is unfair pretty quickly and may get upset. Don’t let it go on too long).
How did you feel about that game? Was it fair or unfair? How does it feel when things are unfair?
We’ve been talking for the past month or so about different ways that we show the world what God is like. Different ways that we show the world that God is love. One of the ways that we do that is by working to make the world more fair for people.
Some people work really hard and have enough of what they need. Some people work really hard and don’t get enough of what they need. There are rules and people in the world that are not fair and make it hard for people to take care of themselves or their families.
One of the ways that we work to make it more fair is to share what we have. Another way that we work to make it more fair is to work to change the rules that make it too hard for people to take care of themselves and their families. If we are a boss, we pay the people who work with us a fair amount of money. If we are workers, we help other workers ask their bosses for a fair amount of money. If we are selling things we sell them at a fair price. If we are buying things, we pay a fair price for them.
We didn’t like it when some people got more points for easy answers, and other people got less points for hard answers. No one likes that. So one of the ways that we show the world what God’s love is like is to work to make the world more fair.
If you are using this lesson outside of “Children’s Time,” in worship and have more time. You can also read ¡Sí, Se Puede! / Yes, We Can! Janitor Strike in LA by Diana Cohn. It tells the story of Carlitos who lives with his mother and abuela in Los Angeles. His mother works hard as a janitor, but needs to work extra jobs on the weekends, and still struggles to support her mother and son. The Janitors go on strike and Carlitos and his classmates help them in their protest. The Janitors are then able to get paid a fair amount and Carlitos’ mother is able to not work her second job on the weekend and she is able to pay for her mother’s medicines.
This book is bilingual in Spanish and English.
Using in Worship:
I would love to include the servant song with this message. “Brother sister let me serve you…pray that I may have the grace to let you be my servant too.”
This could also be an interesting message for Labor Day or as part of a stewardship series.
More In This Series
You can read the introduction to the series here:
You can read the first introductory children’s message here:
You can read about our call to care for the natural world here:
You can read about our call to care for families and the nurturing community here:
You can read about our call to care for individuals in the social community here