What is a community? That was the question in our first Book Club Hour at Thorntree Preparatory School for 2020 this week!
A community is a group of people who learn, live, work or pray together, and each community would like to learn, live, work or pray together with respect and kindness. How is this achieved? What types of communities are really important? What do we do to build a strong community?
Each one of us brings something special to our communities, because we are all unique – there are no two people who are exactly the same, and that is why we should welcome new friends when we meet them. Each one of us is like puzzle piece that fits together with others to complete a picture, but just like a puzzle, if even one piece is missing (absent or not bringing his/her side), the picture cannot be complete – our community is not as strong as it could be.
The Circus Ship by American author and illustrator Chris van Dusen, carries with it a striking message about being part of a community, accepting others into the community and standing together.
The story is based on a real historical event when a big steam boat called Royal Tar, was sailing down to Portland in 1863, carrying with it almost 100 people along with a travelling circus, which included an elephant, two camels, lots of exotic birds and snakes, and horses.
The weather was terrible and the boat was having a hard time getting down the coast of Maine with all that wind! They were forced to stop a few times before they could really get on their way to Portland again. But then the boiler’s water ran too low, and it overheated and set on fire. The crew tried to hose down the flames, but the fire was too fierce!
Some of the people got onto the one lifeboat and got away, and some of the animals jumped into the ocean and started swimming. It was actually a very sad tragedy, but this retelling by Van Dusen has a happy ending.
The foundation phase learners discussed how they would welcome a newcomer into their class or school, and what they would share about their “community” to familiarize a newcomer with how things work and to help them settle in.
The idea of a community standing and working together was illustrated with a simple electronic circuit: if all the people hold hands (all connections are in tact), the light shines. All it takes to weaken a team is for one single person NOT to connect (bring his side, take hands, attend) – many hands make light work!