The earthquake, tsunami and possible nuclear meltdown in Japan are such heart-breaking events. To see the lives changed in so many ways- loss of a loved one, a home, a car, all possessions, any form of safety and comfort... it is just so hard to comprehend in our fairly stable, safe and secure country. The civil wars and battles happening in so many African and Middle Eastern countries are completely foreign to most of us too. To hear guns going off every night, to see people shot and to be afraid to leave your home for groceries is a fear we have never felt as average Americans of the modern era. So the question is, what do these world events have to do with UUism, Religious Education and our children? The answer: Everything.
Unitarian Universalism is known as a faith of action. Our theme in RE this year has even been Families and Faith in Action. As well as teaching our UU children and youth about finding a personal connection to the Spirit of Life, UU history, and appreciation of other faiths, we strive to teach them that they have the power and the responsibility to do what they can to make the world a better place. This does not mean that we expect them to become a Senator or a lead the next great cause, but we do want them to do what they can, in their daily lives, to live our 7 principles:
We affirm and promote:
-The inherent worth and dignity of every person.
-Justice, equity, and compassion in human relations.
-Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations.
-A free and responsible search for truth and meaning.
-The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process.
-The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all.
-Respect for the interdependent web of all existence.
So, what then, as UU parents, do we do to inform our children about these world events and what our families can do about them? First, you must decide, according to the age and sensitivity of your child, how much information you want them to have. Do you let them watch some (or all, if they are older) of the news coverage of the Japanese devastation? Do you instead show them picture books about Japan (or anywhere that has a horrific event going on) and then talk in simple child-friendly words about what has happened there? These are decisions you need to make, but I suggest informing them in some way. Knowing what happens and exploring our empathy for the people in those situations teaches our children to be compassionate citizens of the world.
But then, after the information is shared and questions are answered, what can you do to help your children to take action? They can't go to those places and actually make a difference on the ground. They can't donate a million dollars. They can't send a card. What then, can they do? Start with simple. My suggestion would be that you find an organization that you like that can do those things- send supplies, money, and aid workers (like the Red Cross). Have your child collect money for a week or do extra chores to make more allowance and donate that small amount of money (plus a bit of your own!) to an organization that CAN help. Teach your UU kids that while their $20 may not make a huge difference, if all kids donated $20, it could make a huge difference! Teach them that every little thing that we can do to change the world for the better is an expression of our faith and their chance to leave a footprint in the sand.
While we cannot make the world a better place overnight (or even over years!), we can do our best to make a daily difference, teach our children to make a daily difference and be positive stewards of our faith and our actions!
April Fritts, DRE