This week’s assembly challenges listeners to imagine a world where we’re all in the same ’team’, and reflect upon how their own actions might start to bring this dream about
[During the following dialogues the child role should involve lots of pauses to suggest that the issue is causing him/her some confusion.] [Mum (Reader 2) and young child (Reader 1) talking.]
Child (Reader 1): Mummy… why are there wars?
Mummy (Reader 2): Well, that’s because people don’t always get on very well and sometimes when they fall out they get angry and fight each other.
Child (Reader 1): Why don’t they just get along with each other and be friends?
Mummy (Reader 2): It’s very complicated but they can’t always do that
Child (Reader 1): Why not? They should just be friends. I sometimes fall out with people but we don’t have wars.
Mummy (Reader 2): I know, but grown-ups sometimes do silly things when they fall out.
Child (Reader 1): But they’re grown-ups. I thought when you were all grown-up you weren’t supposed to do silly things.
Mummy (Reader 2): Yes, that would be nice
Child (Reader 1): So… mummy… why do grown-ups not just get along with each other and be friends?[Dad (Reader 4) and young child (Reader 3) talking]
Young child (Reader 3): Dad…. today at school somebody called me a horrible name
Dad (Reader 4): Oh, not again. Was it the same as last time?
Young child (Reader 3): Yes. Why do they do it, Dad? Why does the colour of my skin make such a big difference?
Dad (Reader 4): It doesn’t son, it’s just that…some people… they think you’re different
Young child (Reader 3): But Dad, I was born here and I’ve always lived here.
Dad (Reader 4): Me too son, but some people seem to find the colour of our skin a problem.
Young child (Reader 3): But we’ve all got noses and eyes and ears. We all eat and drink in the same way… And everybody sleeps the same.
Dad (Reader 4): I know that son, but some people don’t see it that way.
Young child (Reader 3): Dad… Why can’t we all just get along and be friends?[A different mother (Reader 6) and child (Reader 5) talking]
Child (Reader 5): Mum… what’s an enemy?
Mother (Reader 6): It’s someone who’s on the opposite side to you.
Child (Reader 5): What… like on the street?
Mother (Reader 6): Not quite. It’s when someone sees things differently to you and takes sides against you. Anyway… why do you ask?
Child (Reader 5): Because at school today somebody said I was their enemy
Mother (Reader 6): Do you know why they said this?
Child (Reader 5): No. But they weren’t very nice and they said that being nasty was what you do to your enemies. Mum… do grown-ups have enemies?
Mother (Reader 6): Yes, I’m afraid sometimes they do.
Child (Reader 5): Mum… Why can’t people just get along and be friends?
Leader: Sometimes when you listen to young children talking you can’t help but smile. They often see the world in a very simple way. They apply their own ideas about human relationships to the adult world, thinking that all adults should just get along, forget their differences and work together for everyone’s good. When you listen to such statements from children you might even chuckle a little – at how naïve and childish what they’re suggesting is… and how much more complicated the adult world is in reality.
But stop a moment and think about it. Just why is such a simplistic view of the world so wrong? In fact, perhaps if we took the advice of small children and just ’got along with each other‘ then things in our world might actually get better. We might think of it as naïve simplicity but, in fact, perhaps it is clear and wise thinking – which our older brains refuse to accept in case we’re thought of as being childish.
Just last week, political events in the UK took a surprising turn. A hung parliament led to a coalition government where both the Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties joined together to run the country. Just a few days before that they had been doing all they could to stress how different they were. They had argued, bickered and tried to show how their party was better than all the others. Then, just a few days later, they were all friends – their differences forgotten. All they were speaking about now were the things they had in common. In fact, they had come together so closely that, the leader of one party is now the Prime Minister and the leader of the other party is now his deputy. Before, they had been on two very different teams; now, they’re all in the same team.
Reader 2: It seems that when they have to, even grown-ups can make up, be friends and just get along with each other.
Leader: Also last week, celebrations were had in the UK to remember VE day. This was the day when the war ended in Europe, and stands for ‘Victory in Europe Day’. On that day in 1945, the allied forces – made up mainly of the UK, the USA and the USSR – finally defeated the Nazis. Huge celebrations took place and people lined the streets of the UK carrying the flags of Britain, the USA and the USSR.
However, after that war ended, the Cold War began, which meant a long period of tension and difficulty between the USSR on the one side and the UK the USA and other countries in the West on the other. For many years, relations between the USSR and the West remained tense. Sadly, it seemed as if the cooperation the three nations had shown during World War two was over and things were going to remain unfriendly for ever afterwards.
But last week saw a quite amazing sight. In the Russian capital city Moscow, in the heart of Red Square – a symbol that truly represents all that was the USSR and all that is modern Russia – British troops marched alongside Russian and American troops in a celebration of VE day. This was the first time such a thing had ever happened and signified that the three countries seemed to be putting aside differences, getting along better and working for the common good.
Reader 4: It seems that when they have to, even grown-ups can make up, be friends and just get along with each other.
Leader: It’s easy to think of a child’s view of the world as naïve and simplistic. It’s easy to dismiss it as something that just isn’t possible in the adult world. It’s easy to argue that the adult world is far too complex to allow such simple things like getting along to happen.
When you play in any team, you forget the differences within your team; the minor fall-outs and the strained relationships. You work together for the common good. Perhaps if we thought of everyone on the earth as belonging to the same team we might realise that it is possible for us all to get along and work for the common good – putting our differences aside.
Today you could start this off for yourself. Make up with someone you have fallen out with. Find the things you have in common with people – the things we all share, the hopes and the dreams that we all have. Work with people today and get along with them, for after all, we’re all in the same team… Team Earth. If mighty countries can do it after years of squabbling… if politicians can do it after years of disagreement… so can you.
Leader: Help me to get along with peopleTo see the things that we have in common instead of the differencesTo work together as a team for the common good
To get along with people[Amen]
This e-bulletin issue was first published in May 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.