This assembly reflects on the idea of hope, challenging listeners to engage in hopeful thinking for the future. It refers to the recent events in Haiti, as well as the memorial services recently held to remember the victims of the Holocaust

Resources: Six readers and a leader

Engagement

[Two pupils at the end of a school day]

Reader 1: (Brightly) What’s up with you, you look miserable? Fail another test did you?

Reader 2: (Gloomily) Thanks for that; some friend you are. No, it’s just the end of another school day that’s all.

Reader 1: So, correct me if I’m being utterly and stupendously idiotic here, but that’s a good thing isn’t it? I mean – time to go home, to live again – to be free! To watch the football, to hang out with the mates… To eat gloriously unhealthy food!

Reader 2: (Maintains gloom) Yeah, maybe, but it just means that tomorrow is closer than it was this morning.

Reader 1: Dearie me. You’re a right little party unto yourself aren’t you? You’re miserable because the end of one day can’t help but lead to another?

Reader 2: Yeah. Another day at school. Another cheerless, downer of a day. Another day with nothing much to look forward to.

Reader 1: Oh come on – who knows what tomorrow will bring. It might be the very best day of your life. The sun might shine, the sky might be blue, aliens might land, you might eventually get that girl you like to notice you. Your team might even score a goal for goodness sake.

Reader 2: Of that lot, it’s most likely that the aliens will arrive. Mind you, they’ll probably zap everything in sight or eat us or something.

Reader 1: Do you know, I think that’s why I like having you as my friend (sarcastically)… You make the world seems such a cheery hopeful place – where magical things are possible – where everything turns out right….

Reader 2: Hardly ever does though, does it.

Reader 1: Good grief, there you go again. Why don’t you just try to find one thing that’s good about tomorrow?

Reader 2: No point.

[Two teachers sitting in a staffroom]

Reader 3: Guess who I’ve got first period tomorrow?

Reader 4: I don’t need to guess, I can tell by your face… it’s 4X isn’t it? [Amend according to school structure, be careful not to specific any class group!]

Reader 3: Yep, spot on – first time as ever. Did my light-hearted chirpy voice give it away?

Reader 4: No, your ‘Oh-why-do-I-do-this-job-there-must-be-better-ways-to-make-a-living?’ face said it all.

Reader 3: Right enough

Reader 4: Look, have you ever thought that maybe if you approached 4X not expecting them to reduce your nerves to jelly then you might get on better with them?

Reader 3: I’ve thought it, but it doesn’t work, because it’s not going to happen

Reader 4: There must be something about the class which is positive

Reader 3: Yes, some of them are absent a lot

Reader 4: Oh come on. I’m sure if you look hard enough you’ll discover something, or someone, in the class which sprinkles a little sunshine on your day. It doesn’t have to be much but I’ll bet it’s there, and it’ll be a start.

Reader 3: Nope, just not going to happen.

Reflection

Leader: Two of these readers are in a pretty bad way. It looks like they just can’t seem to see anything good about the day to come. Their vision of it is clouding their whole attitude – colouring the day to come in rather gloomy shades of ‘miserable’. Is there really nothing in their day to come which has even a shred of hopefulness about it? Surely not.

We have probably all acted like these two gloomy readers at some point in our lives – seeing the day ahead as nothing more than a pile of misery waiting to happen, and letting it cast its gloomy shadow on the here and now. Perhaps thinking negatively about the day to come might even cast a dark shadow over a day which has actually been perfectly bright in itself.

What is it about some people and hopelessness?

Reader 5: During the Second World War, in the concentration camps of Europe, unspeakable horrors were experienced by some people at the hands of others. At a time in the history of our world where hopelessness seemed to reign supreme, during the darkest moments of human savagery, there were still many small acts of kindness and self-sacrifice which serve to remind us that hope is always present.

Last week there were Holocaust Memorial Day events across the country. This is because 65 years ago saw the liberation of one of the largest Nazi death camps, Auschwitz-Birkenau. It is estimated that there are around five thousand concentration camp survivors still alive today, but as the years go on, there will be fewer people to tell us their stories.

This year’s Holocaust Memorial Day theme was ’The Legacy of Hope’ How could hope possibly come out of such madness, you might ask? But the thing is, it did. Survivors today remind us that they lived to tell us their tale – and to keep alive the memory of those who did not, telling their stories aswell. Their hope lies in their belief that, by telling their stories, the lessons of the Holocaust can be learned for generations, and create a more hopeful future for us all.

Reader 6: Last week a sixteen year old girl, Darlene Etienne, was rescued from the rubble of a building. This building collapsed during the Haiti Earthquake, and the girl had survived for an amazing fifteen days. She was found in the rubble of her bathroom and she had survived by drinking bath water. Rescuers had all but given up hope of finding anyone alive in the wreckage of buildings so long after the initial earthquake. In fact, five days before this the Haitian government had officially ended the rescue operation − and yet here she was, brought back to the world to the applause and cheers of onlookers.

What seemed hopeless suddenly became hopeful – a life returned which had been thought lost.

Response

Leader: So even in the gloomiest of times and circumstances there can always be hope. There always seems to be something which comes out of it all to remind us that ‘light in the darkness’ is more than just a phrase; it can be a reality and can make our lives different – more hopeful.

As you sit here today, consider the place of hope in your life. Do you approach tomorrow with a sense of hope? Do you approach it thinking that that it might be a day where something good can happen – or where you can make something good happen? Or do you think of it as a day where the spirit of hopelessness will reign supreme?

Hope can be both in your head and in your heart. It is something we can make for ourselves as well as blind ourselves to. What do you hope for? Are you filled with hope?

Leader: Let us think about the things we hope forLet us think about the things which fill us with hopeLet us banish hopelessness to the darkness where it belongsAnd bring hope to our lives and the lives of others

Let us live in hope.

[Amen]

Links

This e-bulletin issue was first published in February 2010

About the author: Joe Walker is Head of RE & Psychology at Liberton High School in Edinburgh. As well as being a well-known author he was winner of Secondary Teacher of the Year at the Scottish Education awards 2005.

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