November 10th, 2011
|My 1st Peacemakers Group in Portugal 2008|
I’ve been making new friends through Zervas Elementary and Temple Shalom Preschool, and running the groups I’ve taken on for this year – weekly Bahá’í children’s classes, monthly Peacemakers classes, monthly women’s groups, monthly interfaith community service, Respect for Human Differences meetings at Zervas, and various one-time volunteer opportunities such as hosting a Zervas “Destination Dinner,” helping with the “Consecration Quilt” at Temple Shalom, and doing classroom presentations for Bahá’í Holy Days. I am an enthusiast by nature, and this gets me into trouble because I have a lifelong habit of taking on too much at a time because it all sounds so fun and interesting and potentially worthwhile.
So, after a week of many volunteer activities, I’m feeling rather tired and yet energized by what I am doing, which makes it hard for me to figure out what to give up if anything, and how to make time for the goal work I set up for myself in the summer.
|Illustrating quotes in our living room|
What am I learning from each of these volunteer activities? Why am I so deeply invested in them? Let’s start with Peacemakers. I started this group 4 years ago, when we were living in Portugal, using the original Peacemakers Curriculum developed by my friend, Soma Stout. I had dreamed of teaching some sort of class that involved art, music, literature, and drama around social justice issues for years, and this was the perfect combination of those things, and better yet, was already written and tested by someone else! I invited women I met who seemed like they might be interested in such a class for themselves and their children and we started meeting every two weeks at my house in Carcavelos. Warm and sunny Portugal has a fairly ideal climate for such a class because the most days the kids could come over after school, have a snack and literally run around our house for 30 minutes before settling into our IKEA rainbow chairs outside in our garden (or yard in American terms), beneath the shade of a rustling fig tree and flapping laundry on the line. Every now and then it rained and for a few months it got cold, so we huddled in our living room on those afternoons, warmed by the space heater and each other as we shared readings, played games, and did role plays together based on the topic of the week. We were a group of 6 families who regularly attended for the two years we lived in Portugal, and I look back with great fondness and love for all of the people who participated in these first classes.
|Peacemakers in Portugal|
|Painting peace rocks|
Last Friday, we studied the virtue of Assertiveness through some readings, think-pair-share work on qualities we like in ourselves, and many role plays. The children love doing the role plays because they get to play out being the mean kid and/or to explore other ways of dealing with a difficult situation, and they learn how it feels to be on both sides. My children like these role plays so much that we use them at home on a regular basis when one of them comes home with a challenging friend situation. All one has to do is describe a scene from the day when my 3 year old leaps up in her chair saying, “Ok, which part do you want me to play?” Both my 6 and my 9 year old have reported using some of the techniques and responses they’ve come up with in our role plays, and feeling stronger and more assertive than they would have without them.