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A Bigger Picture

Playing your part is more important than you might think

by Laurence Chilcott

Suitable for Whole School (Pri)


To consider that we can achieve great things if we play our small part well.

Preparation and materials

  • Have available an image of St Paul’s Cathedral and the means to display it during the assembly. An example is available at:


  1. Show the image of St Paul’s Cathedral.

    Ask the children if they can name the building in the picture and if they know where it can be found.

  2. Explain that over 300 years ago, Sir Christopher Wren, the architect who designed the majestic St Paul’s Cathedral in London, was visiting to see how work was progressing. There was a lot of work still to be done, but things were taking shape and he spoke to some of the workers as he walked through the building.
    ‘What are you doing?’ he asked one man who was busy working with a mallet and chisel.
    ‘Oh, I am carving a leaf on the base of this pillar,’ he replied.
    ‘What are you doing?’ Wren asked another man, who was busy spreading mortar over part of the floor.
    ‘I am laying some tiles on this floor,’ he responded.
    ‘And what about you?’ Wren inquired of a man who was busy mixing something.
    ‘See those stonemasons over there?’ the man replied. ‘I am mixing the mortar so that they can fix the keystone into that arch.’
    Then, Wren approached a man who was sweating over a rough lump of stone that he was hammering into a roughly rectangular shape. When Wren asked the man what he was doing, the man stood up and stretched his aching back.
    ‘Why,’ the man replied, casting his eyes about him, ‘I am building a cathedral.’

  3. Although this man was simply shaping stones for the skilled stonemasons to work with, he understood that he had an important part to play in the building of the cathedral. He saw the bigger picture. His job may not have been as skilled as some of the other workers, but it was no less important. Without him doing his part, the cathedral would not have been built.

  4. In our local community, and in our school, some people may have greater responsibility, but no one is more important than anyone else.

    - Without the site supervisor, the school would be cold in the winter and we would arrive at school to find the classrooms locked.
    - Without the cleaners, our school would be dirty and unhealthy.
    - Without the secretary or school clerk, we would not have our resources organized and messages would not get passed on.

    Teachers, teaching assistants, head teachers and governors all have important responsibilities, but without the support and work of so many others, our school could not function. We all have a part to play. We are all contributing to the bigger picture.

  5. All of us are part of a community and we all have our roles to play. Some roles may seem to carry more responsibility than others, but this doesn’t mean that some people are more important than others – each role is valuable and necessary.

  6. What is important is that whatever job we do, we do it to the best of our ability. When we do this, we realize that we are an important part of the bigger picture.

Time for reflection

Martin Luther King said something about the attitude we should have: ‘If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.

The following rhyme dates back to the thirteenth century and illustrates how important seemingly insignificant things can be.

For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
For want of a horse the rider was lost.
For want of a rider the message was lost.
For want of a message the battle was lost.
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

Ask the children what they think this rhyme means.

Listen to a range of responses.

Explain that following the trail backwards from a battle allowing a kingdom to be lost takes us right back to the first line: a tiny nail being lost from a horse’s shoe. A tiny nail may seem insignificant, but it plays an important role.

Dear God,
Help us to understand that we are part of a bigger picture.
May we try to do our best in everything, regardless of whether it appears to be important or not.
We thank you for all those people who play a part in our lives and we ask that we may appreciate all that they do.

Publication date: July 2020   (Vol.22 No.7)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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