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One night a man had a dream

To consider the message of the popular poem ‘Footprints in the sand’.

by Helen Bryant

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To consider the message of the popular poem ‘Footprints in the sand’.

Preparation and materials

  • Download a copy of the poem to display on a projector or screen – there are some beautiful poster-style images available.
  • Meditative, gentle music, such as that by Enya, and means of playing it.


  1. Sometimes things become a little hard to bear. Everything seems to be getting on top of you. Everyone is asking too much of you and you get to the point where you just can’t take any more. It could be that you are tired, you’ve got lots of work to do or the reasons for your feeling the way you do might be more serious than that. Whatever it is, there are times for us all when things get a little bit too much.
  2. I wonder what you do when life gets like that. Do you feel stressed, snapping at everyone around you? Do you retreat into yourself, not talking, just hoping that it will all go away? Do you react by being overly nice, happy or jolly, putting on a front that says ‘I’m fine’ to the outside world, but inside you are really falling to pieces? You might not react in any of those ways or maybe you react in mixture of different ways. Maybe you turn your music up really loud and sing at the top of your voice.
  3. Often, people who follow a religion claim that it helps them to pray to God to give them the strength they need at times like these. Now, not everyone here follows a religion or has faith in God, but I wonder if these religions might have something that we could use or look to during difficult times.
  4. Let’s start with Buddhism. Buddhists believe in the three jewels and seek refuge in them. These jewels are the Buddha and his example, the Dharma; the key teachings of Buddha and the Sangha; and the community of Buddhists. Buddhists take or seek refuge in these three key aspects of their religion. To seek refuge however, is the important part.

    Think of three really important things or people you can go to for guidance, help and assurance. Someone suggested to me that their three jewels would be pillow, duvet and cake. Can you think of something that you can cling to and take refuge in when things get hard for you?
  5. The second religion I want to look at is Christianity. Some Christians see the Holy Spirit as a helper or ‘paraclete’, which is a Greek word that means ‘to walk alongside’. They see the Holy Spirit as someone who walks by your side and helps you along the way. This helper cannot be seen, but Christians believe that this unseen force of God is at work in the world and within them, guiding them through the trials and tribulations that they may face.
  6. This poem that you can see here is called ‘Footprints’ and it illustrates perfectly the idea of the Holy Spirit doing exactly that. You may want to close your eyes as you listen to the words of the poem as I read it to you and imagine the scene described.

    Read the poem.

Time for reflection

Even though you may not believe in God or the Holy Spirit, the idea that there is someone or a spirit out there who can take your burdens and help you is a great comfort. That help might not necessarily come in the form you expect or even want at first, but take the opportunity it gives to relieve yourself of the burden you carry and give yourself a break. You’re probably doing better than you give yourself credit for, but if it does get too much, find someone to take refuge in or see someone who can walk alongside you and give you the courage to continue.


Play your chosen meditative music as the pupils leave.

Publication date: May 2013   (Vol.15 No.5)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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