Kelly J. Crocker, Minister of Congregational Life
The Right of Conscience Our fifth UU Principle, the Right of Conscience and the Use of the Democratic Process is oftentimes translated for children as “all people need a voice.” That covers the democratic piece of the principle pretty well but I think we need to also emphasize the right of conscience piece as well. Conscience can be described as the voice in your head and feeling in your heart that tells you if something is right or wrong. When you are in touch with your conscience you are listening to your inner voice that can be seen as your moral compass. This month, spend some time as a family getting in touch with your own inner voice and listening to what it says.
Chalice Lighting We light our chalice in faith and hope,
to find what meaning life holds for us,
to laugh and sing with one another,
to soothe the wounds of daily life,
and to grow together in wisdom and in love.
The Wise Teacher’s Test Adapted from a Jataka tale (Buddhist).
Once upon a time on the outskirts of a big city in Japan there stood an old temple. From a young age boys who wanted to study Buddhism would come to live in the temple and to learn from the master teacher, a Buddhist monk.
One day the Buddhist monk who ran this small temple decided to teach his young students a lesson. He gathered them around him, and spoke,” My dear students, as you can see, I am growing old, and slow. I can no longer provide for the needs of the temple as I once did. I know I have not yet taught you to work for money, and so I can only think of one thing that can keep our school from closing.” The students drew close with eyes wide.
“Our nearby city is full of wealthy people with more money in their purses than they could ever need. I want you to go into the city and follow those rich people as they walk through the crowded streets, or when they walk down the deserted alleyways. When no one is looking, and only when no one is looking, you must steal their purses from them. That way we will have enough money to keep our school alive.”
“But Master,” the boys chorused in disbelief, “you have taught us that it is wrong to take anything that does not belong to us.”
“Yes, indeed I have,” the old monk replied. “It would be wrong to steal if it were not absolutely necessary. And remember, you must not be seen! If anyone can see you, you must not steal! Do you understand?”
The boys looked nervously from one to the other. Had their beloved teacher gone mad? His eyes shone with intensity such as they had never seen before. “Yes, Master,” they said quietly.
“Good,” he said. “Now go, and remember, you must not be seen!”
The boys got up and quietly began to file out of the temple building. The old monk rose slowly and watched them go.
When he turned back inside, he saw that one student was still standing quietly in the corner of the room. “Why did you not go with the others?” he asked the boy. “Do you not want to help save our temple?”
“I do, Master,” said the boy quietly. “But you said that we had to steal without being seen. I know that there is no place on Earth that I would not be seen, for I would always see myself.”
“Excellent!” exclaimed the teacher. “That is just the lesson that I hoped my students would learn, but you were the only one to see it. Run and tell your friends to return to the temple before they get us into trouble.”
The boy ran and got his friends who were nervously gathered just out of sight of the temple, trying to decide what to do. When they returned, the Master told them the words the boy had spoken and they all understood the lesson.
No matter what we do, we always have a part of ourselves that is quietly watching, and that knows right from wrong and can guide us if we listen.
Family Activity and Craft
I See Myself
This activity gives children a chance to remember or anticipate situations that did or could, activate their inner voice or conscience. A hands-on activity can help children understand the meaning of conscience.
Invite everyone to close their eyes and use their imaginations to see themselves. In your own words, remind them about the Buddhist student in the story who did not steal. You may say:
That student said there was nowhere on earth where he would not be seen, because he would always see himself. Remind them that they see themselves when they look in a mirror. Thinking about how they look in a mirror may help some children begin visualizing a situation they have been in.
Now ask the children to quietly think about a time or a situation in their own lives in which they used their conscience. Tell them this situation will probably be one in which they had to make a choice about how they would behave, or what they would do. Tell them the situation can be a real one, that really happened, or something that might happen. Give some examples, such as:
- “I see myself playing with a toy that my brother wants to use.”
- “I see myself in the cafeteria, where there is a new child who nobody is talking to or sitting with.”
Now ask the children to open their eyes, take a piece of paper and crayons or markers, and draw themselves in the situation they imagined. Remind them that their conscience is part of the story. Ask them to see if they can find a way to draw themselves, the situation where they needed or used their conscience, and their conscience itself. You can’t really see a conscience or an inner voice, but it can be fun to imagine what it might look like.
You can also decorate mirrors with stones, gems, glass paint and stickers that can later be hung in a place all can see to remind you that when you see your reflection, you are seeing your self and remind you to have a check in with your own inner voice.
The Paper Bag Princess, Robert Munsch
Listen to the Wind, Greg Mortenso
Peace Begins with You, Katherine Scholes
The Empty Pot, Demi