In exploring the theme of welcoming within the family, you could give each family member an assignment that emphasizes hospitality… a ritual, space, or even family member to focus on.
A child might focus, for example, on dinner times—how could they create a space that makes people feel at home and welcomed? Or the front entry… what could they do to make it feel joyful and relaxing to come home? Or they might focus on one person—imagining their home through a younger sibling’s eyes and finding little ways to make them feel happy and like they have a place. This same spirit can be extended beyond the family—putting extra touches and intentionality around having friends over, or inviting another family for dinner.
In conversations throughout the month, explore how hospitality varies from context to context. Look around your home through the eyes of a stranger—what type of person would feel at home there, and who would feel out of place? What are the little touches that say who you are as a family? What are the touches that might welcome others? What behaviours make people feel welcome, and what behaviours shut them out?
Welcoming and hospitality are great topics to use for exploring cultural differences. Do a little research into the rituals and traditions around hospitality in your culture(s) of origin. If there is more than one culture in your house, compare and contrast. What about the various cultures present in our city? Do they have different traditions around hospitality?
Encourage your kids to ask friends and family about their traditions of welcoming—maybe a grandparent remembers a time when things were very different from how they are today…Dinner Table Conversations (Adapted) by Liz James
On market day, Mama Panya s son Adika invites everyone he sees to a pancake dinner. How will Mama Panya ever feed them all? This clever and heartwarming story about Kenyan village life teaches the importance of sharing, even when you have little to give.
Hooray! The pigs are coming to town! With great excitement the townspeople prepare a feast that only a pig could love. To thank them, the pigs put on a show only the townspeople could love. Then the pigs leave and everyone is exhausted — but the work is not finished yet!
When Ted sees a face peeking out from the windows of a house he knows to be empty—he’s the paperboy after all!—he is sure there is a mystery to be solved. What he discovers is more than a mystery, in fact: All the clues lead him to an answer that will help one family, while ensuring the survival of his small Midwestern town. All he has to do is extend a little hospitality—without getting caught.
“We Are All Made of Molecules” is told in first person, alternating viewpoints – Stewart, a child genius who a year and a half ago lost his mother to cancer; and Ashley, the popular and often mean girl who has an innate understanding of the precarious of her position on top of the social hierarchy and whose parents have separated when her father realized he is gay. Ashley first appeared in “Dear George Clooney, Please Marry My Mom” as a secondary character but is transformed into a unique, well-rounded and interesting protagonist. When Stewart’s father and Ashley’s mother begin a romantic relationship and move in with one another, the genius and the queen bee are forced into living together by their respective parents in a small house with an even smaller house in the backyard housing Ashley’s father. Stewart is thoughtful, intelligent, likeable and innocent. He is small for his age and younger than his classmates due to being skipped ahead. His character has a lot of appeal due to his sweetness. Without giving away too much, Stewart understands science in a way in which he is desperately trying to keep his mother alive in his changing, new life both on an emotional level but also a molecular one. Stewart also has a cat named Schroedinger who helped fill some of the void his mother’s death left and Stewart sees his father’s new relationship with Ashley’s mom as a way for his father to sometimes feel less of the same loss because of having someone/thing to fill part of the void. Ashley also sees herself as having suffered a loss, the loss of her family unit and also, in some ways, of the father she thought she knew. While Ashley claims she is ok with gay people, she doesn’t want anyone finding out about her father as it could reflect on her and her social standing. Ashley occupies an interesting and unique position in writing as she is a typical queen bee mean girl but Susin Nielsen undercuts this with humour (such as Ashley’s malapropisms) and by giving an insight into Ashley’s world of popularity and her insecurities within that world. Although Ashley is undoubtedly mean, she is also incredibly appealing to readers as she is filled with contradictions – she is vapid at times and thoughtful at others; concerned with appearances and self-centred, yet also able to recognize larger issues around her and manipulate social cues. She is at once very real in her strengths and vulnerabilities. The fact that Ashley was a character of contradictions and that Susin Nielsen never hid Ashley’s bad qualities but tempered them so well, made her a character that could not only be related to but also liked
In January our congregation voted to support the process to renew our welcoming status. This month’s theme of Welcoming is a perfect opportunity to explore LGBTQ topics within our congregation and also within our homes. Sometimes our children can catch us off guard with questions that require a thoughtful and respectful answer. Its helpful to know some responses in advance…
PRACTICING RESPONSES TO CHILDREN WITH QUESTIONS ABOUT LGBT TOPICS
(Sample responses are in italics)
“What does ‘gay’ mean?” (When talking with a first-grader? When talking with a fifth-grader?)
Clarifying the context of the question will help frame your answer. Is the child asking because they heard it as a putdown or are they asking because they heard someone’s dad is gay? A discussion with elementary age students about the meanings of “gay” or “lesbian” is a discussion about love and relationships. If a student heard it as a put-down, be clear that it is a mean or hurtful thing to say.
- The word gay is used to describe a man and a man or a woman and a woman, who love each other and want to be family to each other.
- The word “gay” refers to a man who falls in love with another man in a romantic way or a woman who falls in love with another woman in a romantic way. Sometimes people use the word just to refer to a man who loves another man in a romantic way. “Gay,” however, can refer to both men and women.
You overhear a student say, “That’s Gay” or “Fag!” Or, I didn’t mean anything when I called him gay. We all use that word just to tease each other.
It’s not OK to use “gay” or “fag” as put-downs or in a negative way. Don’t ignore it. Many children use the word “gay” to mean “stupid” or “weird” because that is the only way they have heard it used. Often students don’t know what it really means. This is a good time to take the opportunity to explore that.
- You may not have meant to hurt anyone, but saying “That’s gay” can hurt those around you. Do you know what gay means?
- It’s not ok to use that word/phrase as a put-down in our school.
- Do you know what gay means?
- In the future I expect you to use that word respectfully and not in a hurtful way.
“Can two boys or two girls get married?”
- In some places women can marry women and men can marry men. In some places, they can’t. Whether they are married or not, two people who love each other can live together, take care of one another and be a family.
- No, children can’t get married! Grown-ups, on the other hand, create families in many ways. Many grown-ups live their lives in couples and take care of one another. Being married is one way to do this.
“How can she have two moms? Which one is the real one?”
If you know a child with two dads or two moms, it is helpful to know how his or her parents talk about their family. This information will help you respond to other questions. Don’t offer up information about adoption or children born in previous relationships unless you know that the child and family readily offer up that information. Be careful about making assumptions about a child’s family.
- They both are. Both moms take care of her and love her. There are all kinds of families. Some have two moms, some have two dads, some have one mom or dad and some have a mom and a dad. Some children are raised by other caring adults such as grandparents, other relatives or guardians. What’s important is to have adults who love and care for you.
“How can he have two dads? Don’t you need a mom and a dad to make a baby?”
In most situations you can steer the answer to a discussion of family and say something like:
- Children come into families in many different ways — sometimes through birth, sometimes through adoption. Children are raised in many different ways. Some have two dads, some a mom and a dad. What’s important is to have adults who love and care for you.
In older children, a question like this may come up in reference to how babies are made. It is better not to avoid the question. However, you can answer it simply that you do need an egg and a sperm to make a baby but biological parents don’t always raise children. However, children come in to families in different ways such as adoption. Then, you could move on to children being raised in different kinds of families.
- There are many kinds of families. Some have a mom and a dad. Some have two moms. Some have one mom or one dad.
- There are many different opinions about families. In this home/congregation/school we respect all families that love and care for their children. Making sure children are well-cared-for is what is important. I have met all kinds of healthy, happy families.
“Michael plays with dolls and is always hanging out with girls. That’s weird.”
- I encourage all boys and girls to play together.
- Michael hangs out with friends who he likes to spend time with, just like you do with your friends.
- I don’t believe there are girls toys or boys toys. Everyone should play with the toys they like to play with.
- It’s true that some boys don’t like to play with dolls but some boys do! Just like some of you like to draw and some of you don’t and some of you like to play kickball and others don’t. No one should have to pick and choose what they do just because they are a boy or a girl.
“But he’s a boy, why does he dress like a girl?” Or “If she isn’t a boy, why does she look and act like one all the time?”
- Because that is what (he or she) likes to wear? Why do you have on the clothes that you have on?
- There are lots of different ways that boys can dress and lots of different ways that girls can dress.
- Some boys like to wear pink or to have long hair. All of these things are OK in our home/congregation/school.
- There are many ways of being a boy (girl), and all are okay ways of being a boy (girl).
- Those are the kinds of clothes that he likes to wear? Why do you like to wear what you’re wearing?
- Sandy has always felt like a girl deep down inside. So that is just the way she likes to dress.
Adapted from welcomingschools.org