An excerpt from Teaching Kids to Respect Others by Kevin Dowd, new from Twenty-Third Publications
By Kevin Dowd
I give thanks to my God at every remembrance of you. (Philippians 1:3)
Reflection for Catechists
In her educational philosophy, Nel Noddings points to surveys in which students say nobody cares about them. As Christians, this should worry us. If students don’t feel cared for, then we are not embodying God’s very personal care for them. Noddings says that being caring is not enough; we must create caring relationships. This makes sense theologically too. God’s care is always personal, always relational. It finds its clearest expression in this world through those who allow God to work through them, embodying God’s unconditional love. In response, we say, “Thank you!” This gesture of gratitude completes the circuit of a caring relationship.
- Teach that caring is daring! It is countercultural. Caring means putting people first, even when society says to put progress, profits, or popularity first. Caring involves an unselfish sacrifice of our time and energy.
- Ask students what they know about slavery. Do they know there are still slaves in the world today and that good people are working to free them? Then tell them about the runaway slave Onesimus. When St. Paul was in prison, he wrote a letter to Onesimus’s master, Philemon, asking Philemon to free Onesimus. Use this story to discuss empathy, the Golden Rule, and ways empathy can be put into action to show we really care.
- Make faux stained glass windows to represent the Visitation. Discuss how Mary put empathy into action, emphasizing that Mary went “in haste” to visit Elizabeth and “remained with her about three months” (Luke 1:5–56), and also how Elizabeth showed gratitude. When someone does something caring for us, how can we let them know we appreciate it?
- Make little care packages for the caring people in students’ lives, filled with Hershey’s Hugs and Kisses and bearing tags that say, “I can tell you care about me. Thank you!”
- Introduce older students to the idea that caring is sometimes social and political. In this sense, people care about us through solidarity with us. Care is demonstrated by working for a better world: e.g., abolitionism; or the labor, suffragette, and Civil Rights movements; or Sr. Helen Prejean’s anti-death penalty work, etc. Choose a class project to demonstrate your own care, not just in an interpersonal way, but as solidarity toward a better world.
Suggestions for Families
- Many people take care of us through services that often go unnoticed. Help children to have “eyes to see” by modeling gratitude toward garbage collectors, janitors, police officers, waitresses and waiters, farmers, and others without whose work we would be inconvenienced or in real trouble.
- When you go to Mass together, teach your children that Eucharist is a fancy word for Thanksgiving. Catholics don’t celebrate Thanksgiving just once a year. No way! That’s not enough for all the good things God does for us. Every time we go to Mass, we are there to say, “Thanks!” to God, who always gives the best gifts.
My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. The Mighty One has done great things for me, and
holy is his name. (Luke 1:46–49)
Excerpted from Teaching Kids to Respect Others: Reflections, Activities, and Prayers on Bullying and Prejudice, by Kevin Dowd. Copyright 2018. Published by Twenty-Third Publications (TwentyThirdPublications.com). Used with permission. All rights reserved.
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