Last Sunday, our Story for All Ages resulted in our congregation creating a “Smile Chain.” The story was about a teacher who gave her students a project to go out and collect happiness where they saw it in the world. One girl’s
project was to collect smiles from people by mailing a photo of her smiling to people and having them send her a picture of them smiling in return. In this way, she collected these photos of people’s smiles which she called a “Smile Chain.”
Our congregation shared their smiles by answering the question: “What makes you smile when you are at Westside?” We wrote our answers on strips of colorful paper and collected them for the children to assemble into a “Smile Chain” paper chain during our summer RE class. We now have it displayed on the table in the alcove of the RE hallway. Please stop by and read the thoughts captured that day and feel free to add to the chain with your Westside smile.
After our busy month of June with our Wizarding World Camp of Fantasy and Fun and Youth Trip to General Assembly, it’s good to take pause and remember why we’re really here. Why do we do what we do at Westside? Is our main purpose in participating in the Religious Education Program one born out of obligation, out of worry if we don’t do it, no one will? Sometimes it might feel like that, especially when we are in the midst of organizing and implementing events.
While the feelings of accomplishments wash over us as we look back on jobs well done and the spirit of community that has risen from our shared endeavors, sometimes that’s not enough to sustain us long term. As a DRE who manages volunteers, my greatest hope is that the volunteer work that people agree to do is something that feeds them deeply, is something that brings joy to their experience in our congregation. We have great fun in RE, and it does take a lot of work.
So, as we set our sights on next year’s RE Program, let’s take stock of where the smiles come from. Let’s be sure that being a part of Westside’s congregation is something that fills our needs too. In designing our program for the children, we must consider the families, the teachers, and the RE Committee members. Where do each of these groups get their smiles from as they give their time and energy?
I invite each of you to consider this question for yourself. And I invite you to have these conversations with each other, with your fellow committee members, and with Westside staff. I would love to have those conversations with you. I am eager to discover further how our work together can be an exercise in building fulfilling connections that expand our smile chain.