Remembering to Be Thankful
by Tim and Vicky Scott (revised, originally published in 2012)
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To consider the power of positive role models to encourage us to lead more thankful lives.
Preparation and materials
- You will need a whiteboard/flip chart and a marker pen to record students’ responses. Alternatively, you may wish to carry out the activity in groups and give each group some paper and a pen.
- Optional: you may wish to use two readers for the ‘Time for reflection’ part of the assembly.
- Start by noting how every year, as a country, we remember and celebrate certain events.
Ask the students to suggest such events and write them down on the whiteboard or flip chart. Suggestions may include Easter, Christmas Day and Remembrance Sunday.
- Ask the students why they think that remembering is important.
Listen to a range of responses and write them down.
- Mention that memory is powerful. Point out that, although we are often impressed by the large memory of the latest smartphone or computer, the human brain is in a different league altogether. Estimates vary as to its storage capacity: some scientists argue that it is impossible to measure, but others have proposed figures as varied as 1 terabyte, 100 terabytes and 2,500 terabytes.
Let’s assume for a moment that the largest figure is correct. In that case, if your brain worked like a digital video recorder, 2,500 terabytes would be enough to hold three million hours of TV shows. You’d have to leave the TV running for 300 years before you would run out of space to store any more shows! This capacity to store memories, then, is vastly superior to the memory of a computer.
- Ask the students, ‘What memories are we storing?’
Explain that we have been storing memories since our earliest childhood, but not all memories are immediately accessible. Some memories stand out more than others in our minds, rather like our favourite profile pictures on social media. They are often memories of loved ones, family and friends: those who have inspired us to be the best that we can be; those who have demonstrated kindness and affection towards us; those who have shown us what it means to be a good person.
- Mention that remembering can be a positive thing to do. It is a way of exercising our vast memory banks to bring to our attention events, people and places that have made a lasting impression on us for good reasons. As we remember, positive emotions are triggered that can lead to a sense of thankfulness. Developing a more thankful way of life has lasting benefits for us: psychologists say that thankfulness can reduce blood pressure and stress, and produce happier people.
- Sadly, though, because memories are so powerful, bad memories can linger and produce unhappy emotions. It may help to discuss these memories with someone we trust. (Share details of services that are available in school for students who would like to talk to someone.)
- Christians believe that God can transform us through a process of renewal. By receiving forgiveness and forgiving others, we can create space for what can be a lengthy, but necessary, process of healing our memory. Christians thank God that he can heal their unhappy memories.
Time for reflection
If you have chosen to use readers, ask them to read out the following quotations from the Bible.
Reader 1: I thank my God every time I remember you. (Philippians 1.3)
Reader 2: I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. (Ephesians 1.16)
In these two passages from the letters of Paul, we see thankfulness and remembrance going hand in hand. When we remember our loved ones - the people who have inspired us and made a difference in our lives - we should be thankful for the positive impact that their influence has had. We can and should thank them, and also thank God for having them in our lives.
Thank you for helping me.
Thank you for helping my friends.
Thank you for all the good things that you give us and our memories of them.
‘Days’ by the Kinks, available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tuUoSuO_hfg (2.51 minutes long)