An assembly from the Culham St Gabriel archive
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To look at how human beings are different, similar and interconnected.
Preparation and materials
- Gather together a collection of different toiletries – deodorants, scent, talcum powder, shaving foam, make-up and so on. Make sure you have quite a variety.
- The part in the ‘Assembly’, Step 1, in which you discuss the different types of toiletries, preferences and so on could be presented as a very short drama sketch, set in a shop with a shop assistant trying to find out what sort of perfume, deodorant or other toiletries the customer wants and why, discussing the customer's likes and dislikes.
- Have available the song 'If that were me' by Mel C and the means to play it at the end of the assembly.
1. Introduce the idea of difference by looking at the different types and styles of toiletries you have gathered together, displaying them in all their variety.
Mention the various advertisements on television, at the cinema, in magazines that appeal to different tastes. Engage the audience, asking, ‘What's your favourite perfume? Which brand do you feel most comfortable with? Maybe there's one you're allergic to?’
Ask the students presenting the sketch of a shop assistant and customer in a shop to do so, if using.
2. All these goods are designed to help people feel good about themselves. Maybe they do this by stopping you feeling you smell bad so people will be happy to spend time with you. Maybe they make you feel special on an important occasion or help cheer you up. Maybe the scent of your favourite soap reminds you of something good. We all have our different likes and dislikes, luxuries and routines.
3. Now introduce the idea of similarity. We all have bodies. We all have a need to be reasonably warm and comfortable, to have enough to eat and so on. Maybe we can survive physically if we are a bit dirty or smelly, but we can't survive if our basic needs are not met. Hunger and cold kill.
So, if we are all similar, what does that mean? Is it stranger that human beings don't get on or that they get on at all? Who are we responsible for?
Once you start thinking about it, being a human among other humans can raise lots of questions.
3. Siegfried Sassoon was a well-known poet who described the horrors of man's inhumanity to man in the First World War. He summed up the idea of humans being interlinked very concisely when he said, 'Look in my heart, kind friends, and tremble, since there your elements reassemble' (‘In me, past, present, future meet’).
Another poet, John Donne, famously said (in Devotions Upon Emergent Occasions and Several Steps in My Sickness, Meditation XVII), 'No man is an island entire of itself . . .', meaning that we are all interdependent. That is why, he said, every person's death in some way took something away from every other person: 'Therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.'
It is true, whatever happens to other people affects us, too. How we respond to other people affects us as well. We are all different – we have different tastes and interests – but we are all the same as well because we belong to one species and inhabit one world.
What if everyone was the same – exactly the same? In your imagination, try taking just one person, cloning him or her and populating the world with lots and lots, all exactly the same. What would be missing? What would and wouldn't happen?
4. So, everyone, whatever their interests, abilities or personality – or taste in bubble bath – is somehow linked together. ‘Interdependent’ is another word for it.
This truth is found in the teachings of many of the world’s religions. It's what the passage from the New Testament – 1 Corinthians 12.14–26 – is about. Although it talks specifically of the Church, it is also true of human beings generally. In it, Paul describes the Church as a body, in which every element plays a unique part but draws its life and strength from being a whole.
Time for reflection
Let's take a step back from our everyday concerns with our own likes and dislikes. Let's remember that we are not the only people who feel strongly about things, who feel they are right, who like to have things comfortable or as we want them.
Let's remember other people are in some way part of us, that what happens to them affects us.
As we listen to the song by Mel C, let's think about what this means for the way we live our lives.
'If that were me' by Mel C