In this post, Mandy Neff, author of the newly published children’s RE curriculum, With Justice and Compassion, shares some of the background story behind the curriculum.- Ed.
My mother escaped as a teen during the Hungarian Revolution. I grew up hearing her stories of running from soldiers, a long wait eating thin soup in a refugee camp, and finally several demanding years of learning English with the family that adopted her here in the US before she was naturalized. I knew her immigration was no small thing. But despite the difficulties, she was welcomed into a new culture when she arrived. She was one of the lucky ones – and I have benefited from that.
After several years of Buddhist studies, I have learned the power of the Metta, or lovingkindness, meditation for myself. Through its repetition of the same words for yourself, then a loved one, in ever-widening circles until you reach someone you consider an enemy and have to send them lovingkindness, it is a profound tool. As a Religious Educator, I am always searching for ways to teach compassion and respect to our children and youth. This was an ideal tool to give them.
When I began working for First Parish in Cambridge in 2009, Rev. Peter Morales was beginning his tenure and set our Unitarian Universalist focus towards immigration. First Parish responded eagerly to this call. Tasked with integrating children’s programs with the rest of congregational life, I wrote an initial immigration justice curriculum using Metta, the 7 Principles, and a panel discussion with guests from three immigrant groups. Building on a relationship between the children and one of those guests, First Parish in Cambridge has supported the Coalition of Immokalee Workers’ quest for fair and healthy working conditions on Florida tomato farms for the past several years.
For “With Justice and Compassion,” I have condensed the most successful activities from our several years of work into a 4-session curriculum for two age groups. Each lesson provides a wide range of activities to serve many learning styles, and capture and keep the attention of your children on immigration justice. As Peter Morales tells us, “how we treat immigrants… is a struggle for America’s soul.” I hope this curriculum serves you well in bringing increased compassion and healing to that collective soul.