Last night I spoke the Middle School Youth Group that is run by my sister on the topic of Social Justice. They were amazing! After having spent the day doing lots of labor in 90+ temperatures, I knew they would be tired. I was to speak to them post-soccer game and pre-dinner. Needless to say, I didn’t expect much attention.
“HEY ALL! GREAT WORK TODAY! NOW, WHAT IS SOCIAL JUSTICE?” I figured if I was loud enough, peppy enough, story teller enough, we’d be ok. We started off hearing if anyone had heard of the term before. About 10 had never heard of social justice. Whoa- I’m gonna be their entree into this topic! *GULP*.
To set the stage, we talked about the difference between charity and justice. Many of the kids suggested the work they had done that day was charity. They really connected to the idea through the Chinese proverb of “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”. Charity is giving from ourselves and what we have. It addresses a problem on the short term level. Justice brings in that element of right and wrong, looking at the systems that allow the problems.
Each is needed. Each has a role. Charity and Justice are two pieces that work together in order for us to move forward. I handed the kids a drawing of two feet, one foot for each term. They liked the visual, and explained how you can only walk when you use both feet.
I found it important for them to have some background of religious teaching with this idea. I read from the Catechism, and then broke down the phrase to help them understand what it says and what the Church teaches about Social Justice. Then, I told them of some of the great works the Church is involved in to promote Social Justice.
Next up, game time! How does being in a different role, affect how you look at the world? The kids caught on well and had some great questions, realizing that life isn’t easily black and white.
Last, I closed with explaining that Social Justice is about Human Dignity. What does THAT mean? A good answer from one of the kids “realizing how good we are”- yes and others too! So, to recognize the dignity of others, we need to honor it first in ourselves. We are all gifts, we are all blessings, we are all children of God. At 11 years old, you are JUST as much of a gift to the world as you are at 80. Sometimes, in that fun stage of middle school, you forget that. I had them say and repeat a poem that my friend wrote called “I Am Enough”. Once I get permission, I’ll share that too.
Together, we had great discussion, good laughs, thoughtful questions- I really enjoyed myself. This world is beautiful and filled with beautiful things… klike the minds, questions, and interests of 11 year olds!