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Actions Speak Louder than Words

by Helen Lycitt

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To make students consider the importance of showing commitment and acting on one's beliefs.

Preparation and materials

  • A tin of fruit or other dessert (e.g. chocolate rice pudding) with the label removed and replaced with a dog food label, a tin-opener, a fork.
  • ‘Chariots of Fire’ theme by Vangelis
  • There are two stories below, which can both be used depending on the time available.
  • A dramatised version of the Great Blondin story is available at:


  1. Appear rushed and unprepared, and apologize to students that you have been held up (in traffic, etc.).  Ask them if they mind you having your breakfast while doing assembly.
  2. Produce your tin of dog food (actually a tin of fruit or other dessert, e.g. chocolate rice pudding), open it and proceed to take a mouthful.  Wait for reactions.
  3. Students should hopefully be appalled and you can play up to this looking surprised, hurt, embarrassed, etc.  Tell the audience that it's actually quite nice and they shouldn't knock it until they've tried it.  Then, as if it has occurred to you that it may seem a little strange, ask if there is anyone in the audience who doesn't believe that it really is dog food.  Ask for a show of hands.
  4. Ask those with their hands up who is prepared to put their money where their mouth is and try some.  (The number of hands should drop dramatically!)
  5. Get a volunteer up to try it.  Make them close their eyes and then ask them to tell everyone what it tastes like.  When they have confirmed that it isn't dog food, thank them for their courage and ensure they get a round of applause.
  6. Read the following story to illustrate the point further:

    Charles Blondin was one of the world's greatest funambulists (that's a tightrope walker to you), and on 15 September 1860 he performed one of the most amazing stunts the world has ever seen.

    Blondin, before a great crowd, walked a tightrope stretched across Niagara Falls in Canada.  The tightrope was 160 metres above the Falls and it stretched for 1,000 metres across.

    Amazingly, he did it!

    After he had walked one way he asked the crowd if they believed he could wheel a person across in a wheelbarrow.

    They all shouted ‘Yes!' because he was the greatest tightrope walker in the world. So he then asked for a volunteer – but no one spoke up! No one was prepared to trust Blondin and put what they believed into practice.

    But eventually one person did agree to go. He was Henry Colcord, Blondin's manager. He alone had real confidence and trust in Blondin's skill as a tightrope walker.
  7. The crowd in this story all said they believed in the abilities of Blondin, but when they were challenged to do something about it no one moved. They weren't prepared to put their belief into action!
  8. Every day people say they believe in things, but are these beliefs important enough to do something about.  Perhaps we genuinely do believe, but pressure from those around us – from our friends outside school, from our family, from our class mates – stops us from making a commitment.
  9. Maybe you believed it was important to revise hard for your exams, but your friends persuaded you against it. Perhaps you believe it is important to help and support younger students, but pressure from others has led you into bullying.
  10. Tell the audience that you want to read them a story about a man who had the courage to stand by his beliefs and act on them, but arrange for the theme from the film Chariots of Fire to be played first and ask if anyone knows where it comes from.

    Chariots of Fire is the story of Eric Liddell, the Scottish athlete born in 1902, who in the 1924 Olympics earned the nickname the 'Flying Scotsman'. Liddell was born in China, the son of a Scottish missionary. He was educated at Eltham College and Edinburgh University, where his outstanding speed earned him seven caps in the Scotland rugby team.

    He was selected to represent Great Britain in the 100 metres, at the 1924 Olympics in Paris. He would have been the favourite to win the event, as he was regarded as one of the world's greatest 100-metre sprinters. But Eric refused to take part in the event. Not because he was injured. Not because he felt unable to do it. But because the heats were to be run on a Sunday.

    Eric Liddell was a Christian, who believed it was wrong to do any activity on a Sunday except worship God. He held this belief so strongly that he was prepared to give up a great opportunity.

    At the last minute Liddell entered the 200- and 400-metre events, where he was considered to have little or no chance. However, to everyone's amazement Liddell took the bronze in the 200 metres' final, and went on to win the gold medal in the 400 metres in a world-record time of 47.6 seconds.

    Eric Liddell's courage to stand by his beliefs was rewarded with amazing success. He believed that God was with him, guiding him. Later Eric followed in his father's footsteps and became a missionary in China.

    In 1981, Chariots of Fire , the film about Eric Liddell's athletic triumphs, won the Oscar for the Best Film of the Year.

    Eric Liddell had a strong belief, he showed commitment to that belief, and in the end his courage and faith paid off.

Time for reflection

Let us pray, and as we pray, let us think about what we believe, whether we act on our beliefs, and whether we allow others to influence us to compromise those beliefs:

Let us not be ashamed to stand up for what we believe.
When others laugh at us,
or try to make us feel foolish,
give us the courage of our convictions.
Help us always to follow the right path.


’Stand Up, stand up for Jesus’

Publication date: September 2004   (Vol.6 No.9)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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