Dare to care about your neighbour
by Helen Redfern
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To show that everyone is our neighbour and introduce the South African concept of Ubuntu.
Preparation and materials
- You will need four children to act out the play in Step 2. One is to play a supporter of Newcastle or a local team and the others are to act out the story as it is read in the assembly. Ensure the children familiarize themselves with the story beforehand.
- You will also need the following props: two scarves for the opposing football teams Newcastle and Sunderland or two local teams, a mobile phone and a wallet, a policeman’s hat and a doctor’s stethoscope or bag.
- To understand the concept of ubuntu, see Nelson Mandela talking about it at: www.youtube.com/watch?gl=GB&hl=en-GB&v=l-RUPwl5edA
- Note that the introduction and play are loosely based on Luke 10.25–37.
One day, when Jesus was teaching a crowd of people – much like I am standing here talking to you now – a clever young man at the back stood up to ask a question. He wanted to see if he could catch Jesus out and make him look a fool. He said:
‘Teacher, what must I do to receive eternal life?’ In other words, ‘What do I have to do to live forever?’
Jesus, like all good teachers, answered the question with a question:
‘You know the answer to that already. It’s written in the Holy Book. What does it say?’
The young man knew the answer. He said:
‘“Love God with all your heart and soul and strength and mind.” And “Love your neighbour as you love yourself.”’
‘Good answer, young man’, replied Jesus. ‘Go and do it then.’
But the clever young man had not finished.
‘Well, who is my neighbour then?’ he said.
As he often did, Jesus answered this question with a story. This story took place over 2,000 years ago, so let’s bring it bang up to date to make it easier for us all to understand.
- Invite the four children who are to act in the play to sit to one side at the front. Give the Newcastle scarf or scarf of a local team (substitute the names of the local teams in the play below if using), the phone and the wallet to the child who is to play a Newcastle or local team supporter and one prop each to the other three characters.
This story is about a Newcastle supporter. He is walking through town on his way home after a match and he is very, very happy. Newcastle have beaten Sunderland 3-0! What a game!
Beating Sunderland is the best feeling in the world. Our Newcastle supporter could not be happier. He has his phone in his hand and is texting all his friends to share the good news. He has his wallet in the other hand ready to get his bus money out when he needs it. He takes a short cut down a deserted side street to avoid the crowds so he can get to his bus stop more quickly.
Suddenly, out of nowhere, a gang attacks him. He can’t see their faces. He can’t defend himself. There are too many of them. They take his wallet and his mobile phone and leave him lying in the dirty street. He is barely conscious. He can’t cry for help. There is no one around to help him anyway.
After some time, he hears footsteps. What a relief. Finally someone will help him. It’s a doctor on his way home after a busy shift at the local hospital. He’s tired and he’s hungry. All he wants to do is get home to his wife and kids. He sees the man lying in the street and assumes he is drunk. He knows he should stop to help him, but, instead, he walks past on the other side of the road. No one will ever know he was there. He hasn’t got the time to waste on this loser.
More time passes. It seems like hours to the injured man. Then he hears another set of footsteps. Help at last. This time, it is a policeman, finally off duty after an exhausting day keeping those opposing football fans from fighting each other. And, oh look, here’s another one. Well, he’s sick and tired of them all. This man probably got what he deserved. This policeman is off duty now. He’s going home. He walks by and leaves the man in the street.
Our Newcastle supporter has given up hope now. He really believes he is going to die there on that street. He does not even notice the next set of footsteps coming towards him. This time, it is a Sunderland supporter who has finally been let out of the football ground and is on his way to the station. He will probably give our Newcastle supporter another good kicking on the way past.
Not at all! Look! He’s stopping and bending over the injured man. He’s helping him up and taking him to get the help he needs. He’s covered in the other man’s blood, but he doesn’t seem to notice. He doesn’t seem to notice the Newcastle scarf either.
Three cheers for our Sunderland supporter. Hip, hip, hooray! Hip, hip, hooray! Hip, hip, hooray!
After Jesus had told this story, he turned to the young man and said, ‘You go now and do the same. You be like that Sunderland supporter. You go and give help to whoever needs it.’
This is what ubuntu is all about.
Ubuntu is a word for a wonderful idea.
Practise saying the word together – u-boon-too. The ‘u’ is sounded as in ‘umbrella’, the ‘boo’ as in ‘book’.
Ubuntu is a South African word for a general attitude of kindness towards all other people. Ubuntu involves never looking the other way. Ubuntu involves never walking away.
Ubuntu binds everyone in society together, in a community, regardless of the colour of their skin, their religion or the football team they support.
Ubuntu is about celebrating the ways in which we are the same and not noticing the ways in which we are different.
Ubuntu is about linking everyone and ensuring everything is shared, that nobody is left wanting.
The people of South Africa believe that this is what makes us fully human. The way we respond to the needs of everyone around us makes us what we are. Ubuntu means welcoming a stranger with open arms.
Ubuntu is about being warm and generous, caring and compassionate.
Time for reflection
Let us sit quietly for a few minutes and reflect on the play we have seen and the new word – ubuntu – that we have learnt today.
‘You’re not like me.’
‘You don’t talk the same as me.’
‘You don’t look the same as me.’
This is not an ubuntu way of being.
‘You are so interesting.’
‘I love hearing about your life.’
‘Your experiences are so different, it is fascinating.’
‘You are amazing.’
This is an ubuntu way of being.
‘Stay away from me.’
‘Stay over there.’
‘I don’t want anything to do with you.’
‘You are not my friend.’
This is not an ubuntu way of being.
‘Come over here.’
‘Come and sit with me.’
‘Come and play with me.’
‘Will you be my friend?’
This is an ubuntu way of being.
Today you have heard what it is to love your neighbour. As Jesus said to the young man, ‘You go now and do the same.’
‘The family of man’ (Come and Praise, 69)