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Evening Out the ODS

Patricia Giunta

Use this allegory to teach children to work together: They'd never heard of teams before-it was always each man for himself in the land of Od.

Once, a long time ago, in the land of Even, there lived a very peculiar people. They lived in the province of Od-and odd was how all the other provinces saw them. But, as is usually the case among people, they saw themselves as perfectly normal. It bothered them not a bit that their long necks curved around into a giant C-so their eyes were able to gaze admiringly at themselves. For all that mattered to these people of Od was how they fared-how they looked, how they sounded, how they respected themselves.

Of course, with an attitude such as this, there was often great talk among the people of Od.

They argued: Who would be first? Who was most beautiful? Who was strongest and most powerful? Of course, all the people of Od felt they were and were willing to fight to the death to prove it. There were terrible battles among the men and they rammed each other with their mighty C backs to prove their unsurpassed strength. There were quiet battles among the women and they told lies about one another. And there were battles among the children-the fiercest competitors of all, because they had learned from the elders to win at any cost. They were not satisfied with simply winning; they needed to punish one another for times in the past when they hadn't won.

Well, life went on for many years this way in the province of Od. And those who won their battles adorned the humps of their backs with crowns of jewels and capes of fur so all would know to admire and respect them. Of course, no one even noticed because the
inhabitants of Od looked only at themselves.

Until one day...

It happened that the King of Even was visiting his many provinces and came upon the land of Od. He was shocked to see the likes of so many people hunched over in self-admiration. And he was hurt that so many had adorned themselves as kings. As he mingled among the people, he realized that though they admired themselves for awhile, they soon became disappointed because someone else was always close behind to prove they were better.

"These are the most unhappy people in my kingdom," thought the King. "I must certainly help them."

So, being wise and kind, the King set out to show his people how to be happy. He soon found how difficult a task this would be, however, for the people were so wrapped up in themselves, they didn't even notice their King had come. The King tried speaking to them, but it was difficult to get their attention-they were not used to listening to anyone but themselves.

So he decided instead to show them. He began by waiting for someone to lose a battle. He then rushed over with cloth and water to clean their wounds and pat their injured back. Sometimes he brought the loser food and drink to nourish the body and sometimes a hug to nourish a bruised ego. In time, the King of Even got their attention. They became curious about such service and began asking questions of him.

"Is this some kind of game?"

"Do you want to fight?"

"Don't you want to win?"

This was the opportunity the King had waited for.

"I'm here to wage a war all right!" he said. "And I'll begin by dividing you into teams."
"Teams?" puzzled the people of Od. They'd never heard of teams before-it was always each man for himself in the land of Od.

But the King of Even ignored their puzzling and continued with his plan counting them off into two even teams. Then he proceeded to arm each team with a huge rock. Of course, it was impossible for one member to wield such a heavy weapon single-handedly. So, two, then three, then four at a time took turns lifting the rock and passing it up to the front lines of their team. Slowly their heads were lifted from the slumped-over position to an upright one that was better for aiming, until finally the two front lines were face to face.

For the first time those people of Od looked into each other's eyes. They were surprised at how beautiful the other women were, how strong and powerful the other men. And as the children observed the elders, they were even more surprised to see how like them they were.

The King of Even left Od that night. He forgave the people and hoped that now they would work together. And as he passed through the entrance gates of the province, he placed the rocks-one to the right and one to the left-as a reminder to the people that when they work together, they can accomplish more than working alone.

*Ask: Why did the people of Od compete with each other? What did their fierce competition do to their community? How do you feel when you lose a game or a competition? Have you ever felt like you have to win at all costs?

*Say: This story is an allegory. The pretend people represent real people. The people of Od represent competitive people who hate to lose.

*Ask: Who does the King of Even represent? (Allow varied answers.)

*Say: The King of Even could represent lots of people. If we think of our king as Jesus, how do you think Jesus feels when we don't work together? How can we work to help each other succeed instead of fight to be the big winner?

Read aloud Philippians 2:3-4.

*Ask: What does this Scripture tell us our attitude should be toward one another?
Have kids hold hands in a big circle and each name one way they can cooperate with people this week. Give each child a felt letter C to remind them to avoid being like the people of Od.

Patricia Giunta writes delightful stories from her home in Illinois.

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