Through Activity to Helpfulness
( Originally Published Early 1900's )
AN evidence of maturity is the tendency to measure children's good behavior by their inactivity. "She's a good little thing — so quiet," we say. Another of our encomiums is, "I should never have known he was in the room," and we use the mouse and the dove and the lamb as terms of endearment.
Yet the law of growth is activity, and normal children are by nature full of movement. To suppress them is not only cruel; it is stupid. The world has work to be done. The untrained energy that is so objectionable to most adults is the raw material out of which work is made. It simply needs to be directed. In its highest form it will be activity for others helpfulness —and it is this form of activity we shall especially encourage in the church school.
If we can make the children feel that they are needed, they will respond proudly. Do not for one moment think this is because they are longing to help. Their motive is not so high. They probably want to show what they are able to do, and that they can do more than some other child.
1. Helpfulness in the Room. Whenever it is at all possible the children should help in the room, either before or during the session. They can get the crayons, and drawing-paper, fasten up the pictures, bring extra chairs into the circle, or put a plant in the sunlight. These little acts will make the room seem more truly theirs.
2. Stories. Stories on the themes Helpfulness and Kindness will raise an ideal of helpful activity. Such stories are: "Samuel Helping in God's House," "Ruth in the Barley Field," "Helping to Build the Wall," "David the Shepherd Boy," "The Story of the Good Samaritan," "Going on an Errand," "A Room for a Friend," and "The Story of Rebekah."
3. Songs. Such a song as "Together," in Beginners' Story 99, or the second verse of "Morning Hymn," makes helpfulness desirable.
4. Play. Pantomime of helpful acts to the members of the family and playmates gives an impulse toward actual helpfulness.
5. Acts of Helpfulness. Best of all are real acts of helpfulness done on Sunday or at the weekday session. On Sunday a gift of flowers may be arranged in a basket for a mother, or a scrap-book carefully wrapped and tied for a sick child. On a week-day gifts of all sorts can be made by active little fingers. In such acts helpfulness will be raised to its highest form by laying the emphasis on the person who is made happy rather than on the children's service.
As the children are completing their second year in the department, the thoughtful teacher is less concerned over what they know than over what they are. "Have they changed," she considers, "or are they no different from the four year-old children who came to me? Has the consciousness of God diminished their fear? Are they more considerate of others? Have they gained some independence and poise? Are they readier to express themselves? Can I find in their affection traces of appreciation? Is obstinacy being transformed into persistence? Are there sympathy and helpfulness where there were only imagination and activity?"
"O little child!" said she,
"I loved you yesterday,
"Today I love you more,
"O little child !" said she,