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Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

Living for the present

by Janice Ross (revised, originally published in 2009)

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To challenge us to consider the importance of living in the present.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need the PowerPoint slides that accompany this assembly (Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow) and the means to display them. Alternatively, you could simply read the relevant sections of the quotation by Eleanor Roosevelt or display the image available at:


  1. What do you think of when you hear the word ‘history’?

    Listen to a range of responses.

    Most of our answers will probably relate to history lessons, events in the distant past or historical eras. However, history is more than just events that happened long ago. History is any time that has come before today.

  2. Each of us here has a history, starting from the moment of our birth, or perhaps even from the moment of conception. We could each make a timeline of our lives that might feature events such as starting school, the birth of siblings, a special holiday, illness and exams.

  3. Show Slide 1 or read out the first part of the quotation: ‘Yesterday is history.’

    Explain that yesterday is now history for each one of us. How much can we remember about yesterday, or the day before? Unless we have experienced a momentous event, either in our own lives or in the life of the nation, probably little will be remembered of each day. Yet how many days have we lived?

    A little bit of mental maths may be fun here. How many days have you lived if you are 12, 13 or 14 years old? (The answers are 12 years = 4,383 days, 13 years = 4,748 days, and 14 years = 5,114 days. All of these answers are for full years and include extra days for leap years.)

  4. Show Slide 2 or read out the second part of the quotation: ‘Tomorrow is a mystery.’

    Ask the following questions.

    - What about our tomorrows?
    - Who here knows what the future will hold for them?

    We may have hopes and dreams for the future, but things can happen that completely change those aspirations. We might not do as well in a subject as we had expected, our family might have to move home or our friendship group might split up.

    Nothing is certain. None of us knows what our future will hold.

  5. Show Slide 3 or read out the last part of the quotation: ‘Today is a gift. That’s why they call it the present.’

    Ask the students, ‘What about today, the present?’

    Show Slide 4 or read out the whole quotation.

    Each of us woke this morning to a new day, one that we have not lived before. Today, nothing is exactly the same as it was on previous days. It might seem to be the same: we got out of bed grumpy as usual; breakfast was the same; and we stood at the same bus stop, at the same time, waiting for the same bus.

    However, nothing in nature is the same. The air that we breathe will be different; the water that we drink will be different; our body’s workings will be different; and the sky, the clouds and our experiences will all be different.

    We will face new challenges, have new opportunities and learn new lessons.

  6. Dead Poets Society is a film that was released in 1989. It tells the story of an English teacher who inspires his students through his teaching of poetry. His methods are unorthodox and amusing, but the students respond to his enthusiasm and learn well. He takes them out of the classroom for work and encourages them to focus on the idea of carpe diem. This is a Latin phrase that means ‘seize the day’.

Time for reflection

Repeat the words carpe diem and the phrase ‘seize the day’.

Explain that ‘seize the day’ means taking hold of any opportunities that come our way and making the most of every situation in which we find ourselves. It is about living life to the full.

Ask the question, ‘How will you greet this day?’

Pause to allow time for thought.

We all need to ‘seize the day’ - after all, we can never have that day again.

Dear God,
You are the giver of life in all its fullness.
Thank you for this new day, which is a gift to live and enjoy.
Help us to be more aware of the present and to face it with hope and joy.

Publication date: September 2018   (Vol.20 No.9)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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