I teach at a public school, so I do not teach religion at all. At school we emphasize the Golden Rule: Treat others the way you want to be treated.
Sunday at church, our pastor discussed compassion. He told a story about a man from the city who came to a fork in the road. He was trying to decide which road to take when he noticed a farmer in the field nearby. He asked the farmer, “Does it matter which road I take?”
The old farmer replied, “Not to me it don’t.” I know. It is incorrect subject verb agreement. I am writing in dialect.
It took a moment for the joke to settle in. The pastor wanted to share with the congregation that we should care about one another. His sermon reminded me of this anonymous story I use in class to teach parables:
The Mouse Trap Parable
A mouse looked through a crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife opening a package. “What food might it contain?” he thought. He was aghast to discover that it was a mousetrap!
Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse proclaimed the warning, “There’s a mousetrap in the house, there’s a mouse trap in the house!”
Chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said, “Mr. Mouse, I can tell you this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me; I cannot be bothered by it.”
The mouse turned to the pig and told him, “There is a mouse trap in the house.”
“I am so very sorry Mr. Mouse,” sympathized the pig, “but there is nothing I can do.”
The mouse turned to the cow, who replied, “Wow, Mr. Mouse, a mouse trap; am I in grave danger? No. Good luck to you.”
So the mouse returned to the house, head down and dejected, to face the farmer’s mousetrap alone.
That very night a sound was heard throughout the house, like the sound of a mousetrap catching its prey. The farmer’s wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness, she did not see that it was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught. The snake bit the farmer’s wife.
The farmer rushed her to the hospital. She returned home with a fever. Now everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, so the farmer took his hatchet to the farmyard for the soup’s main ingredient.
His wife’s sickness continued so that friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock. To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig.
The farmer’s wife did not get well, in fact, she died, and so many people came for her funeral the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide meat for all of them to eat.
We are all connected and when one of us is in trouble, we need to help. We need compassion and empathy for others.
Today, I decided to try to evaluate my lesson on compassion with an alternative assessment idea that I created: After each class I pushed a kid down the stairs. Nine out of ten kids (or 90%) helped him. My lesson was a success and others felt good about being compassionate.