Opening Question: Have you ever knew someone who would not call you by name? What happened?
First Reading: Genesis 2:18-24
Jody had a new neighbor. She hoped someone her age would move into the house down the street. And when that happened, she was overjoyed. Her new neighbor was named Abigail.
Jody and Abigail soon became really good friends. They played at the park together and walked to school side by side.
But Jody felt uncomfortable at Abigail's house and she did not like to go over there. Every time she did, Abigail's mother referred to Jody as "Abigail's friend." Abigail's mother did not talk directly to Jody, but always through Abigail. "Abigail," her mother would say, "tell your friend to do...(this or that)." Abigail's mother never made Jody feel welcome, because her mother never called Jody by name.
Names are important. There a way to tell other people, "This is me!" In today's reading, the first person gave the second person a name. While "woman" is not a poetic name, it gives the person a place in a relationship and a place in the world. Imagine a world without names. "Hey, you!" would get really confusing.
(Ask for a volunteer to formally introduce two people in the audience who do not know each other. Ask if such introductions help people feel more comfortable and welcome.)
Bridging Question: How can you tell the difference between someone who is friendly and someone who is not?
Gospel: Mark :10:13-16
People brought their small children to Jesus so he could bless them. But his followers told them to go away. When Jesus saw what happened, he got angry. "Don't stop the children!" Jesus shouted. "Let them come here! Those who are like children belong to God's Kingdom. Listen! Whoever does not accept God's Kingdom like a child will never enter it!" Then Jesus hugged, blessed, and placed his hands on each child there.
Mia and Sherie played on their cull-de-sac form the time they got home from school to dinner time. When they played, they got to know most of the people who lived on their block. Some people were friendly with the girls. Others were not so friendly.
The girls liked the Gardners. Mr. Gardner always walked Teddy, his German shepherd, after dinner. Mia and Sherie would always come up to Mr. Gardner to talk and pet Teddy. "Hi, Mr. Gardner," greeted the girls, "can we pet Teddy." "You sure can," replied Mr. Gardner with a smile. The girls seemed to know that those little talks made Mr. Gardner happy.
Mrs. Smith, however, would not talk to the girls. No matter how many times they waved "hello," no matter how many times the girls tired to talk with Mrs. Smith, all they got were cold stares and "Not now, girls." Mia and Sherie got frustrated when they tried to be friendly with the woman.
The girls soon learned that some people are friendly, while others are not. One day confirmed their feelings. While they were out playing, Mia and Sherie saw Mr. Gardner walking Teddy. They ran over to pet and play with the dog. As they ran across the street, Mrs. Smith drove quickly out of her driveway, pulled beside the girls, and yelled, "Why do you girls always in the street?"
That comment surprised the girls. Mrs. Smith's car was still in her driveway when Mia and Sherie ran to Mr. Gardner. "Why was she mad?" the girls wondered.
Before the girls could say anything, Mr. Gardner spoke up. "Cindy Smith! We've been neighbors long before these girls moved here. Mia and Sherie didn't run out in front of your car. And, they're not hurting you. In fact, they've really tried to be friendly. Why do you treat them like they don't matter?"
"Samuel Gardner, they're just kids!" Mrs. Smith replied.
"Yes, they are!" Mr. Gardner shot back.
Mrs. Smith drove off mad. Mr. Gardner just smiled. "Girls, you're always welcome to play with Teddy." That's all the girls wanted to hear. As friendly as the girls were to Mr. Gardner, they felt their good feelings returned many times over.
In today's Gospel, Jesus invited the children to sit near him, so he could hug them. Hugs are nice but there are other ways to be friendly. A wave, a nice "hello," and a compliment can help someone feel better and accepted. In the gospel, Jesus welcomed the children, but in the story the children welcomed Mr. Gardner. And, Mr. Gardner returned the welcome when he defended the girls.
Closing Question: Is there some adult on your street who is friendly to you? How can you be friendly to others in your neighborhood?