The Best and Worst
We all have good and bad experiences
by Helen Bryant (revised, originally published in 2010)
Suitable for Key Stage 3/4
To consider how to see the best and worst in situations (SEAL theme: Learning about me).
Preparation and materials
You will need two students to read out the lists of best and worst situations.
You will also need a jug of coloured liquid and a glass.
Optional: you may wish to ask some students to dress up or take part in the telling of the parable, in which case you will need time to practise beforehand. The story can be told with or without actors.
Today, we are going to think about the best and the worst of things. We’ll start by describing some best and worst experiences. (The lists below are particular to the writer’s class. You may wish to compile your own to be read out by individual students, or ask for suitable suggestions at the time.)
Ask a student to read out the following list of some people’s best experiences.
- The best thing I have ever done is get my first puppy.
- The best thing was when I went indoor skydiving in America with my family.
- The best thing I have ever done was going fishing with my uncle.
- My best experience was climbing the Eiffel Tower.
- My best time ever was when I went to Portugal with my mum and grandma.
- The best thing I have ever done was scoring the winning goal.
- My best time ever was paragliding with my brother over the Greek islands.
- My best experience was swimming with dolphins.
- My best experience was when I rode an elephant.
- My best experience was seeing some lambs being born.
Ask a student to read out the following list of some people’s worst experiences.
- The worst thing was when my guinea pig died.
- The worst thing was when I had to give away my dog.
- The worst thing was when I fell off the slide and hit my head and my teeth went through my lip.
- The worst thing was when my cousins all moved to Australia.
- The worst thing was when my first kitten died at the age of ten weeks.
- The worst thing was going on the longest cable car ride in the world.
- The worst thing was my first experience of Brussels sprouts.
- The worst thing happened on my birthday, when I was pushed by a boy, so I tripped up and fell over.
We often do best and worst comparisons. In 2016, according to the Sunday Times Best Places to Live Guide, the best UK city to live in was Winchester, but there are many people who would disagree. If you google ‘best and worst’, there are nearly 59 million results relating to all kinds of things, including books, watches, lines from films, beach bodies and so on. In 2009, the ‘best job in the world’ was advertised - to become the caretaker of an Australian island for six months. A British man named Ben Southall got the job, but appeared in the news soon after because he had been stung by a jellyfish - even the best job in the world has its bad days. The Total Jobs website offers its own list of the best jobs in the world, which includes chocolate consultant, Lego sculptor, professional sleeper and bounty hunter!
Jesus often told stories, or parables, when he was teaching people. A parable is a story that contains a hidden meaning, but the meaning may be different for everyone who hears the parable. The stories of Jesus are easy to remember. They are very important because they help us to understand how God wants us to live. Can you see where the best and the worst come in this parable?
The Parable of the Sower
Once upon a time, some farmers were sowing their seeds.
As the seeds were scattered, they fell in different places. Some of them fell on the path, and the birds came and ate them up.
Some of the seeds fell on rocky ground, where there was little soil. The seeds soon sprouted, because the soil wasn’t deep.
When the sun came up, it burnt the young plants. Their roots had not grown deep enough, so the plants soon dried up.
Some of the seeds fell among thorn bushes, which grew up and choked the plants.
However, some seeds fell on good soil, and the plants produced corn. Some produced 100 grains, some produced 60 and others produced 30.
This parable is often understood to be about people listening to the teachings of Jesus, but it also highlights the life of the sower. The worst thing that can happen is that the seeds do not grow and the farmer’s harvest fails. The best thing that can happen is that the seeds grow and produce a lot of corn, which will mean a good harvest.
However, we talked about how the best and the worst of things can mean different things for different people. Consider the birds at the beginning of the story, who eat the seeds. Having the seeds fall on the ground is the best thing for the birds.
Sometimes, people make the best of a bad situation. Bear Grylls, the famous explorer, broke his back in three places in a parachuting accident in 1996. Only two years later, he entered the Guinness World Records as the youngest Briton to climb Mount Everest, aged only 23. He has since led adventurous expeditions around the world.
You’ve probably heard the phrase ‘make the best of a bad job’. This saying means to try to salvage something from a ruined situation. In the case of the parable, the farmers still harvested their remaining corn after the birds had taken their lunch!
Sometimes, even the worst of situations might not be as bad as we think at the time. What feels like our worst day ever might turn out to have something good in it after all. Let’s all try, if we can, to make the best of a bad situation, and help others to do likewise.
Time for reflection
Place the glass on the desk and fill it halfway with the coloured liquid. Ask the students to vote on whether the glass is half-full or half-empty.
Next, ask the students to look at the glass from the other perspective.
We thank you for both our good and bad experiences.
Please help us to learn important lessons from every situation.
We all have experiences that are the best and the worst.
Please help us to be thankful for what we have.
Help us to work to make other people’s lives full of good experiences.
‘Kum ba yah’ (Come and Praise, 68)