Help your family accept and appreciate people who are different.
All of us on earth are members of our Heavenly Father’s family, but we may be very different in looks, temperament, and tastes. As our perfect parent, God loves us all unconditionally. It is his desire that we give each other the same unconditional love.
Little children are curious about those who are different from them, but they are not judgmental. They quickly learn from the adults around them attitudes toward people who may be of a different race or culture, or who may have mental or physical handicaps. Parents have a solemn responsibility not to foster prejudices and negative attitudes in their children. All people want to be treated as children of the same loving Heavenly Father.
The Savior showed us the way when he said, “As ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise” (Luke 6:31).
Have five or six pieces of different colored paper. Choose your children’s favorites.
Bring enough blindfolds and earmuffs or earplugs for each person in your family. Collect enough mittens, gloves, socks, or something else you can put over a child’s hand for each child.
For families with little children provide paper, scissors, and crayons for paper dolls.
For families with teenagers have a bowl and the suggested slips of paper ready.
“Come, Follow Me” (Hymns, no. 116).
“Jesus Said Love Everyone” (Children’s Songbook, p. 61).
Spread out the colored papers so that everyone can see all of them.
Which color do you think is the best?
Which color do you think is the worst?
Explain that there is no color that is better or worse than the others. They are all just different. Variety in color helps make our world beautiful.
People come in varieties, too. Discuss with your family some of the ways the members of your own family are different from each other, such as the color of hair or eyes, age, size, or personality.
In what other ways are people different? (Race, culture, mental or physical condition.)
Put the blindfolds on each child, and then ask him to perform some easy task such as getting a book from another room or getting a drink of water. Afterward, let the family members talk about how it felt to be unable to see what they were doing.
Sometimes relatively simple tasks are difficult to master for those with other kinds of problems. Put the mittens or gloves on your children’s hands, and ask them to tie their shoes or button their shirt. Ask them how it felt to find such an easy job so difficult to do and how they felt when they were finally able to do it.
Use the earmuffs or cotton earplugs to help your children realize how deaf people may feel. Give them a whispered command such as, “Walk across the room and touch the wall.” Say it without looking at them or moving your lips very much. If they don’t respond, repeat the command after first getting their attention and speak loudly with clear lip movements. Ask them what this has shown them about communicating with deaf people or people that have difficulty hearing.
Let your family pretend that you have all just arrived in your neighborhood from a country far away. Everything is different for you. Your skin is a different color from your neighbors. You are used to eating different food than you can get here. Everyone speaks a language you cannot understand.
To help your family understand what this would be like, read a short sentence or two in a foreign language, and ask them what you said. Don’t worry about your pronunciation as they won’t understand it anyway.
You may wish to use the following sentences:
We are happy to see you. Please stand up and tell us your name. Where do you live? You may sit down.
Wir freuen uns, Sie zu sehen. Bitte stehen Sie auf, und sagen Sie uns wie Sie heißen. Wo wohnen Sie? Setzen Sie sich bitte.
Nous sommes heureux de vous voir. Levez-vous, s’il vous plaît. Comment vous appelez-vous? D’où venez-vous? Asseyez-vous, s’il vous plaît.
Now that you have had the opportunity to see some of the problems that face people who are different, discuss with your family how you can show love and understanding for these people. Most neighborhoods have in them people who are different. As a family, consider your own neighborhood and those in it who might need your love and understanding.
Remember that handicapped people usually wish to do as much for themselves as possible. They do not want attention drawn to their handicaps. Don’t single them out for special attention, but be friendly, helpful, and supportive.
Tommy lived with his parents at the student housing center while his father attended the university. Tommy liked to live there because he had so many little boys and girls to play with in the big sandpile and on the swings.
Eddy lived there, too, but he didn’t come out to play very often. He thought the children didn’t like him because they would point to him and say, “Why don’t you have two arms?”
One day, when Tommy’s mother came for him, she saw Eddy leave the sandpile and go home crying. Tommy’s mother called all the children together and told them about Eddy:
“When Eddy was born he was a beautiful baby just as all of you were. For some reason we don’t understand, he had only one arm. Now, do you think that matters to our Heavenly Father? He loves Eddy just as much as he loves each of you, and he wants Eddy to be happy too. You can help make Eddy happy by being kind to him, just as you should be kind to each other. Now that you know about his arm, you don’t need to talk to him about it anymore. When you are kind to Eddy, think of all those you make happy—Eddy, our Heavenly Father, Eddy’s mother and father, and you.”
Explain that people of other races or cultures also need acceptance. Even if language is a problem, a friendly greeting and exchange of names will show you care.
Hans had just moved to America from Germany. He didn’t understand the teacher and the children.
The first day at kindergarten, Hans was so unhappy that tears came to his eyes. When choosing time came, Hans just stood there. He felt so alone. The teacher took his hand and said something. Her voice was kind, but he didn’t know what she said. Then a little girl took his hand from the teacher’s. She gently led him over to the playhouse.
She pointed to herself and said, “Anna.” She pointed to him and said, “Hans.” She touched herself again and said, “Anna, mother.” She touched Hans and said, “Hans, father.”
Hans knew what she meant. He smiled. He pointed to her and said, “Anna, Mutter.” Then he pointed to himself and said “Hans, Vater.”
They both laughed.
Anna picked up a baby doll and put it into Hans’s arms. “Baby,” she said.
Hans said, “Ja, baby!” Here was a word he knew. Her language wasn’t so different.
Anna touched the doll’s foot and said, “Foot.”
Hans said, “Fuss”; then he said, “Foot.”
Anna said, “Foot, Fuss.” And they laughed again.
Then other children joined them. One held up the doll’s shoe and said, “Shoe.”
Hans’s eyes sparkled. He said, “Ja, ja, Schuh!”
And they all said, “Schuh, shoe.”
When time came to go to the circle, the children were so excited they could hardly wait to tell about their word game and about the German words Hans had taught them.
Hans was happy. He felt important. He had found some friends in America.
Let each family member think of some special person they could help in some way during the following week, perhaps by just watching to open the church door for someone in a wheelchair, or saying hello to a newcomer at school.
Remind each one to keep in mind what Jesus said about doing to others what you would have others do to you. Have each family member report at breakfast or dinner each day any experiences he has had with people who are different.
Parents are often embarrassed when their young children point or ask questions in a loud voice about someone with a physical or mental handicap. Children are extremely curious and seem to be particularly interested in something or someone who is different. What children need is an explanation rather than a scolding.
Try the following activity:
Fold a rectangular sheet of paper in half three times. Draw a doll centered on the outside of the last fold, with arms and feet extending to the paper’s edges.
With paper fully folded, cut around one-half of the outline. This makes four dolls joined at the hands and feet.
Make a set of dolls for each child, and have the children color in their own dolls as they wish. Suggest that they may wish to give the dolls different racial features and ethnic dress. Give them the opportunity to tell about the dolls they have colored.
One of the best ways to try to understand another person is to put yourself in his place. Write one of the following words or phrases on a piece of paper, and place each piece of paper in a bowl: “refugee,” “person confined to a wheelchair,” “blind person,” “deaf person,” “mentally retarded person,” “new Church member from a foreign land,” and “elderly person living alone.” You may think of others you wish to add. Let each family member take one slip of paper from the bowl and, after a few moments of thought, tell about the person identified on the slip of paper. Family members should use their imagination to describe what some of the problems are that the indicated person may face every day and how he would like others to treat him. Help each other with these discussions. If you see a problem or a solution that hasn’t been mentioned, bring it up. If there are not enough people in your family to each take a role, discuss the roles generally together.
Read the following story from a conference address by Elder Spencer W. Kimball:
“May I conclude with this experience of my friend and brother, Boyd K. Packer, as he returned from Peru. It was in a branch Sacrament meeting. The chapel was filled, the opening exercises finished, and the Sacrament in preparation. A little Lamanite ragamuffin entered from the street. His two shirts would scarcely make one, so ragged they were and torn and worn. It was unlikely that those shirts had ever been off that little body since they were donned. Calloused and chapped were the little feet which brought him in the open door, up the aisle, and to the Sacrament table. There was dark and dirty testimony of deprivation, want, unsatisfied hungers—spiritual as well as physical. Almost unobserved he shyly came to the sacrament table and with a seeming spiritual hunger, leaned against the table and lovingly rubbed his unwashed face against the cool, smooth, white linen.
“A woman on a front seat, seemingly outraged by the intrusion, caught his eye and with motion and frown sent the little ragamuffin scampering down the aisle out into his world, the street.
“A little later, seemingly compelled by some inner urge, he overcame his timidity and came stealthily, cautiously down the aisle again, fearful, ready to escape if necessary, but impelled as though directed by inaudible voices with ‘a familiar spirit’ and as though memories long faded were reviving, as though some intangible force were crowding him on to seek something for which he yearned but could not identify.
“From his seat on the stand, Elder Packer caught his eye, beckoned to him, and stretched out big, welcoming arms. A moment’s hesitation and the little ragamuffin was nestled comfortably on his lap, in his arms, the tousled head against a great warm heart—a heart sympathetic to waifs, and especially to little Lamanite ones. It seemed the little one had found a safe harbor from a stormy sea, so contented he was. The cruel, bewildering, frustrating world was outside. Peace, security, acceptance enveloped him.
“Later Elder Packer sat in my office and, in tender terms and with a subdued voice, rehearsed this incident to me. As he sat forward on his chair, his eyes glistening, a noticeable emotion in his voice, he said, ‘As this little one relaxed in my arms, it seemed it was not a single little Lamanite I held. It was a nation, indeed a multitude of nations of deprived, hungering souls, wanting something deep and warm they could not explain—a humble people yearning to revive memories all but faded out—of ancestors standing wide-eyed, openmouthed, expectant and excited, looking up and seeing a holy, glorified Being descend from celestial areas, and hearing a voice say: “Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the Son of God. I created the heavens and the earth, and all things that in them are. … and in me hath the Father glorified his name. …
“‘“I am the light and the life of the world. I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end.”’ (3 Nephi 9:15, 18.)” (In Conference Report, Oct. 1965, pp. 71–72.)
How did this story make you feel?
How do you think the woman on the front row felt?
What does this story tell about Elder Packer?
What did he think about the physical characteristics of the child, his color, his clothing, his condition?
Have the family read and discuss 1 Samuel 16:7.
How do you think the child that Elder Packer held felt?
Discuss ways you might show love and acceptance of those who are different.
Are there any people living close to you who need your friendship and help?
Usually there are opportunities in the community to give service to special people. Teenagers who have the opportunity may want to participate in the Special Olympics. Associations for the blind need people to read to the blind and also record books for them. Newcomers in a community, whether they are from foreign lands or not, always need friends. Make a special effort to follow the Savior’s direction and treat others as you would like to be treated.
Invite someone from a different cultural background to your home for family night, and let him tell you about his country, including its history, customs, dress, and holidays. You could do this with people of several different cultural backgrounds.
If there is someone who is elderly or physically handicapped in your neighborhood, arrange a time when your family can help them with housework or yard work or perform some other service. Encourage family members to get to know the person through conversation and working together.
Have family members find examples of times when Jesus or his disciples showed understanding and compassion for those who were different. You may wish to select one or two of the following scriptures for them to think about: Luke 19:1–7 (Zacchaeus), Matthew 15:21–28 or Mark 7:25–30 (the Canaanite woman), John 4:5–26 (the Samaritan woman), Acts 10:1–34 (Cornelius and the vision of Peter), Luke 14:12–14 (Jesus teaching about the afflicted), 3 Nephi 17:6–9 (Jesus heals the afflicted among the Nephites). Discuss the chosen examples and how family members might follow them in their own lives.
Prepare a two-column chart with “Different” written across the top of the first column and “Alike” written across the top of the second. Have family members suggest ways that people are different and ways that people are alike. Enter these on the chart. Discuss how unimportant the differences are compared with the ways people are alike.
Prepare beforehand two identical arcs, shaped like this:
The arcs must be circular and the same thickness throughout. You can copy these figures from the manual if you wish, or you can make them larger. Put a small 1 in a lower corner of one and a small 2 in the corresponding corner of the other. Arrange the two arcs one above the other like this:
The bottom one will look bigger than the top. Ask the family to pick out the bigger arc. Switch the positions of the arcs, and ask again. Finally put one arc on top of the other to show that they are identical.
Explain that man doesn’t always see things the way they really are but that God always does. When he looks at his children, he sees them as they really are. One is as important as another to Heavenly Father, even if they appear different to people. He sees their real values and their real differences, and he is not fooled by appearances. Read 1 Samuel 16:7.
Emphasize that Heavenly Father would like all of his children to accept the gospel.