A Pocketful of Principles – 5

A Pocketful of Principles – 5

Religious Education at Home for preschoolers, kids, youth and adults

from material developed by Lauren Wyeth, Director of Children, Youth & Family Ministries at the First Universalist Church of Minneapolis

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5th Principle
By listening deeply and deciding together, we make better choices.

5th Principle Playlist
Listen to our 5th Principle playlist here or build your own collection of songs to remind you to listen deeply and heed the counsel of your own heart and those most affected by your choices. Put it on as you’re starting your day, winding down at night, or anytime you want to fill your home with the reminder that choosing is a religious act.

“Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large.”

Read a reflection on our 5th Principle from the Rev. Parisa Parsa on the UUA website.

[Image description: The words “support democracy” in dark green letters, are superimposed on a background of overlapping circles in a variety of pale greens.]

Suggested Activity: Making Decisions Together

Our 5th Principle draws our attention to the importance of listening — to the still, small voice within, and to the voices of those around us — as the first step in a decision making process.

As some basic level, every choice we make is a religious act. It is through our choices that we shape the world around us, whether we are intentional about it or not.

Before a family meal, light a chalice or a candle. (Find suggested chalice lighting words at the top of this page.) Start by identifying values you each want to consider when making a decision, such as kindness, fairness, happiness and truth. During the meal, identify one decision that each member of the family has to make for themselves — they can be big or small choices. Take turns listening and supporting one another as you each consider your alternatives, giving input if you’re invited to do so.

With older elementary and middle school kids, take a look at our Responsibility and Privilege Covenant activity, drawn from our 6th graders’ Rites of Passage curriculum (used in non-Covid times). As Unitarian Universalists, our faith calls us to both listen to and respect the agency of all our family members, and to be intentional about supporting our kids in making their own choices, when that is reasonable.

Watch the video above, A Wise Lesson in Empathy

For middle- and high school youth
While listening to our own conscience is important, we also need to listen to others. In particular, we need to listen to those who are closest to and most affected by any issue we are voting or taking action on, because we don’t always have all the answers or information we need to see the whole picture and make the right decisions on our own. Before taking action, we need to do both: listen deeply to ourselves and listen deeply to others.

The phrase “Nothing about us without us” was coined by disability rights activists. What does this phrase mean in your own life?

Image description: A colorful quilt with blue and green fabric behind a reddish-orange fabric hand with “Nothing about us without us” stitched on the palm.

5th Principle Stories for All Ages
There are many children’s stories and wisdom tales that show us what becomes possible when we listen carefully to one another and to our own conscience, and act accordingly. Here are a few for families:

  • There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon, video above (start at 11:05)
  • Speak Up (for little ones)
  • A Sea of Pink (for older elementary to middle schoolers)

Questions for reflection, discussion or journaling:
For all ages

  • In the story There’s No Such Thing as a Dragon, Billy’s mother refuses to acknowledge the truth — there is indeed a dragon, and it’s a very big dragon, too!
  • When have you faced a situation you really didn’t want to talk about? If you didn’t mention it, did the problem get bigger or smaller?
  • When have you said something true but gotten the message that someone else wasn’t willing or ready to listen to you? How did that feel? 
  • When have you insisted that something was true, even though someone else wanted you to keep it quiet? What happened then?
  • Consider: Even when someone isn’t willing or ready to acknowledge your truth, it’s important to hold onto it. Like Billy, you can make your own choices about when or whether to insist on stating your truth. But, no matter what you decide to do or say or how others respond, it’s important to believe what you know to be true in your own heart.

    For middle- and high school youth and adults
    Though these stories may sound as though they’re just for little ones, their messages are relevant to people of all ages. For example, after reading A Sea of Pink, consider:

    • When have you needed a group of people to support you? Did you get that support or not?
    • Have you ever helped organize a response to injustice or unkindness? If yes, what motivated you?
    • Have you ever participated in a response to injustice or unkindness that someone else organized? How did it feel to be part of a group of people like that? Did it have the impact you hoped it would?

    ​For parents and caregivers:

    • Have you introduced your child to speaking up about injustice and supporting democracy? There are a variety of ways to do this, from relatively low effort to ways that require a big commitment.
    • Make a list of any activities like this you’ve done together, with the lowest investment examples at the bottom and the more challenging ones at the top. Some examples might include: taking your child to your polling place; making a sign to support a political candidate; writing a postcard to a legislator or a letter to the editor; going to a school board meeting; or attending a march or demonstration.
    • Sometimes as our children grow, we fail to notice that their capacity for understanding and engaging in the democratic process has expanded. Is it time to try something new together? What are some social or political issues — or ways of taking action — that might be a good fit for your family at this time?


    [Image description: The words, “When we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard or welcomed. But when we are silent, we are still afraid. So it is better to speak. Audre Lorde” are printed in a strong white font overlaid on a picture of a tree with orange leaves against a blue sky.]


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