This story comes from the Old Testament of the Bible. It’s a story people told to help them think about what they did.
A long, long time ago, when the world was new, there weren’t many people around. But gradually people had children and they grew up and had more children, and they grew up and had more children, and soon there were people everywhere. And some of those people came together into a great city called Babel. And they were very clever and very powerful, and they knew it. They learned to do lots of things. They all spoke the same language, and that meant that they could understand each other and teach each other what they had learned.
Now that would have been great if all the things they said to one another were good things, if all the ideas they shared were good ideas, ideas that would help people. But they weren’t. What they mostly talked about was how powerful they were, and how to make sure everyone knew it.
“We can do anything !” they said to each other – “ so we will!”
One day someone had an idea. “Let’s build a tower, the biggest tower in the world, a tower that will reach far up in the sky.
Everyone will think we are really important, really clever, really powerful. No one will ever dare to argue with us, because they will see how strong we are. Not even God will dare to argue with us…”
So they started to build. They weren’t building a place to live, or a place to work – they were just building. Taller and taller and taller the tower grew. (The children joined in with some building actions with enthusiasm) Higher and higher and higher into the sky it went…
But God saw what they were doing, and he wasn’t very pleased at all. “They are just building so that they can impress others, so that others will be frightened of them – never mind how much it costs, or what a waste of time and effort it is… I can’t let this go on …”
And God had an idea. All of a sudden, the next day, while they were all busy building their tower, God made them all speak different languages, languages they didn’t understand. One person would be talking to a friend, and suddenly he found that he was talking in French, but his friend was talking in Spanish. Another would be talking in Arabic, while her friend was talking in Polish. And no one could understand anyone.
They tried to carry on building, but no one knew whether the other one was saying “up a bit” or “down a bit”, no one knew if their mate was asking for more bricks, or whether it was time for dinner yet. You can’t build much like that, and pretty soon they had to stop, and there stood the tower, half-finished while they all babbled away at each other…
And the Bible says that the place where all this happened was called Babel – which sounds a bit like babble, because that’s where different languages started.
The people of Babel learned that just because you can do something, it doesn’t mean to say you should. We’ve got lots of power, but we have to think carefully about how we use it. The people of Babel also learned that often words are the most powerful things we’ve got. Just because we can say something, it doesn’t mean we should.
We can do almost anything with words – have an argument, make up after an argument, persuade someone to something they shouldn’t, or encourage them to do something they should.
Hand out strips of OHP acetate with the following statements on them.
“Would you like to play with me?”
“You can’t share it, it’s mine”
“Let’s all gang up on her”
“He looks really stupid – pass it on…”
“I’m sorry I hurt you.”
Get the children to read them out, and then say whether they think they are kind or unkind – words that we should say or words that we shouldn’t…
Arrange on an OHP sheet with Kind and Unkind printed on it. This could just as well be done using cards and a large sheet to stick them on.
The people of Babel learned that just because you can do something doesn’t necessarily mean you should do it. We need to think carefully before we do something or say something and ask ourselves whether it is kind or unkind, whether it will build something good or bad.
Prayer – that we should remember that just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should. That God would help us to think about the things we say to make sure they are kind and not unkind.
Following the assembly, the deputy head said to the children that she hoped during the day that children would come to her to tell her the kind words other children had said to them (which some did straight after the assembly. One little boy came up to me to tell me that it was a good story, which was kind of him, so I told him so!)
We also had a very remarkable question from one Y1 child who asked, and I quote, “Where was the city of Babel located…?” I explained that we didn’t know whether there ever was a city of Babel, or whether it was just an imaginary city, and that people might have been thinking of the city of Babylon, because it was very big and powerful. I also explained that the stories in the Bible weren’t all things that actually happened, but that some were just told to help people think about important things. It was an extraordinarily perceptive and intelligent question from a child of 6! I hope he was satisfied with the answer…