It’s Not Fair!
by Alison Thurlow
Suitable for Whole School (Pri)
To explore fairness in terms of justice rather than just getting your own way.
Preparation and materials
- Familiarize yourself with the story given in the ‘Assembly’, Step 4.
- Arrange for two Year 6 boys to play the parts of the brothers in the story. Explain that one is to be the single brother and the other the married brother and, as you read the story, when their character is mentioned, that ‘brother’ is to mime the actions being described. Show the ‘brothers’ the story. You will need to work in some pauses during the reading out of the story to allow the ‘brothers’ time in which to mime the actions being described.
- You could use a bright torch or lamp to give the effect of the moonlight mentioned at the end of the story.
- Familiarize yourself with Ishmael’s song ‘Justice’ (on his CD Be Happy & Glad, Kingsway, 2006).
1. Explain to the children that you are going to start by asking everyone a question and you would like them all to be 100 per cent honest when they answer.
Ask, ‘Has anyone said, “It’s not fair” during the past week?’ Ask the children to put their hands up if they have.
2. Comment that there seem to be quite a lot of hands up, then ask each child to turn to the person next to them and share some of the unfair things that have happened to them recently.
Ask a few of the children if they could share their answers with everyone.
3. Comment that several of their answers seemed to start with the same word ‘I’. Their examples might include, ‘It’s not fair, I don’t get enough pocket money!’, ‘It’s not fair, I have to do the washing-up!’
Say how, in some ways, all these answers are a bit selfish as they are all to do with what they want.
4. Explain that you are now going to tell a story. It is an old Jewish folktale that interprets the phrase, ‘It’s not fair!’ in quite a different way.
Ask the two Year 6 boys to come up and help you with the story.
The two brothers
There were once two brothers who farmed together. They shared equally in all the work and split the profits exactly equally. Each had his own barn. One of the brothers was married and had a large family; the other brother was single.
One day, the single brother thought to himself, ‘It’s not fair that we divide the grain evenly. My brother has many mouths to feed while I have but one. I know what I’ll do, I’ll take a sack of grain from my barn each evening and put it in my brother’s barn.’ So, that night, when it was dark, he carefully carried a sack of grain across the field and placed it in his brother’s barn.
Now, the married brother thought to himself, ‘It’s not fair that we divide the grain evenly. I have many children to care for me in my old age and my brother has none. I know what I’ll do, I’ll take a sack of grain from my barn each evening and put it in my brother’s barn.’ So, that night, when it was dark, he carefully carried a sack of grain across the field and placed it in his brother’s barn.
The next morning, the two brothers were amazed to discover that, although they had each removed a sack of grain the night before, they still had just as many left. That night, the same thing happened again. The single brother took a sack of grain from his barn and put in his brother’s barn and the married brother took a sack of grain from his barn and put in his brother’s barn.
This carried on for several nights until, one night, the moon was shining brightly and both brothers set off at the same time. Halfway across the field, they bumped into each other!
They stopped, looked at each other, saw the other’s sack of grain on the other brother’s back and suddenly understood the mystery of the ‘ever full’ barns! The brothers smiled, gave each other a high five and were filled with a deep love, one for the other.
Legend says that God looked down from heaven, saw the two brothers embracing and said, ‘I declare this to be a holy place, for I have witnessed extraordinary love here.’
Time for reflection
The two brothers in the story did not use the phrase, ‘It’s not fair!’ in a selfish way. Instead, they used it in a positive way as they tried to do something to make the situation fairer or more just.
Ask the children to sit quietly and think if there is anything they could do to make the world a fairer place. Offer them the following to think about:
– you could try to treat everyone in your class fairly, not leaving anyone out or favouring particular people
– you could buy Fairtrade chocolate in the knowledge that the people who grow the cocoa beans – many of whom are children– will be treated and paid fairly
– you and your family or maybe the school could consider sponsoring a child who lives in a poorer country so that he or she, like you, could go to school and learn.
Please help us to make the world a fairer place to live in.
‘Justice’ by Ishmael