Projects Teach Life Lessons of Social Justice

Article excerpt

Court TV and television lawyers, along with a culture of consumerism, make it very difficult to impart the real meaning of Biblical justice. Biblical justice calls for sacrifice and working toward the common good. How can a 16-year-old with his own room, stereo, CD player, TV and car know the meaning of the word sacrifice?

One student of mine wrote in an essay that he would teach his own children to live the simple life and would not give them all of the things he had been given because they will turn out as spoiled as he is, and that is not good for the planet.

His parents certainly would be shocked by this revelation. They thought they were doing him a favor. But he says now when he is asked to be responsible for his own insurance payments that he sees it "not fair" after they have taken care of everything up to this point in his life. Why are they suddenly asking him to use money that he has earned for something that he cannot use?

It is difficult to get someone who finds it unfair to pay for his own insurance to understand the need to contribute to the common good of his community as well as the common good for all on this planet.

Hands-on Experiences

Some hands-on experiences help to awaken students to the need to go out of themselves to serve others. One of the projects in my school called for students to contact 10 agencies that provide services that serve the common good. They were required to identify agencies that:

* feed the hungry

* house the homeless

* cloth the naked

* instruct the ignorant

* attend the abused in both body and soul

* care for the sick and the imprisoned

Students then had to make in-person visits to three of the ten. These visits had to be verified with a signature of the person who gave them information. For each of the contacts, eight questions were to be answered:

1. Name of the agency and phone number

2. Hours of operation

3. What services are provided?

4. What basic rights of their clients are filled?

5. What are the requirements for those receiving the service?

6. How are costs determined?

7. What is the source of the majority of their funding?

8. How was the student as a potential client treated by the person who answered the questions?

At the end of this project, the students had to write what they learned, how they felt and how they were challenged.

Some of the reflections and reactions were blessings. One student not only visited but spent the night at a shelter folding towels and dispensing toothpaste and soap. Another small group of students decided to make it their own personal task to keep the shelves of the food bank full. They challenged their entire junior class to bring cans daily. In January, 85 cans were collected; in February, 1,000 cans were collected. The entire community was brought into this action because some of the students took it upon themselves to ask their bosses at grocery stores to give deep discounts, while other students collected cans door-to-door in their neighborhoods.

The next project to get students involved was to use Scripture passages and the fine arts to come to a greater understanding of justice as a Christian way of life. They were given a list of selected Old and New Testament passages (see box), asked to select two and then, first, tell the message of the passages, second, to tell how they were challenged by the passages (Do you believe the message is for you?) and, third, to give an artistic rendering of the passages. …