The Found Sheep

by Georganne McAdams 

The day I offered the Found Sheep presentation, just one newly minted 3-year-old parish member was able to join me. Cordelia comes to the atrium once a month. This narrative is a reflection about her recent experience with the Good Shepherd material in the atrium. 

Today’s lesson was the Found Sheep.  The sheep in the fold material we use are not all white; some are black, brown, tan, or gray.  Some are paired by color with another; some are not.  

While working independently Cordelia noticed, “Two sheep don’t have a match! That’s ok.  They still can be friends!” she exclaimed.  She held the two, one brown and one white, in each hand and set them down together with the others that were paired according to the same color.  

As we worked through the presentation, Cordelia stayed with me until the end.  Because she wouldn’t attend the atrium for another month, I decided to revisit the Good Shepherd and Ps 23:1-2 presentations with her.  I thought about allowing her time to work independently with the material since I had originally planned to takes notes on the needs of the environment.  An inner voice told me to “Be still, listen and watch.” I usually push through the inner voice, and proceed as I had planned.  This time I chose to sit still, listen and watch. 

After working with the material, Cordelia’s eyes were drawn to the topographical map.  It is a map orienting one to the Historical Jesus and the land where Jesus taught.  For us, it is a presentation given just before Advent. Cordelia attended that presentation. Today, she looked at the map and then back at the fold. “The sheep don’t belong here . . .”. she said, “. . . but over here (pointing to the map), on the hills to eat the grass and drink the water (indicating the Mediterranean Sea).” She promptly took the sheep over to the map – one at a time each with the Shepherd – first to the hills and then lined them up to drink from the Mediterranean Sea. She seemed to have made the connection that the sheep belonged with the map.  After a few minutes, while she watched the sheep drinking the water, she asked if it was ok for the Good Shepherd to give the sheep some fun and play in the water.  “Absolutely,” I laughed. She gently walked the Shepherd and the sheep into the water, one by one.  We both sat back in silence and looked at the scene.  Then it was time for us to go to the main sanctuary. Cordelia wanted to leave the sheep with the Good Shepherd in the water to show her grandparents.  We left the scene as it was.

I continue to wonder about what Cordelia taught me about going deeper into the material. In nearly thirty years, this is the first time a child used the work to suggest an extension of the work that includes not only the relationship between the Shepherd and the sheep, but sheep to sheep. And, this is the first time a young parish member (who attends once a month, mind you) synthesized on her own the works of the Good Shepherd, the Found Sheep, Psalm 23:1-2, and Historical Jesus, Time and Place. I am still reflecting on whether or not the color difference of the sheep may have brought out the rich statement of compassion by the child. She noticed, as had others in the past, not all the sheep were posed the same and asked “why the ones looking down are sad?”  Only a few children offered “they are eating.” At no time in my experience have the white sheep ever been paired together even in posing, suggesting they still could be friends even if they “looked” different while standing. I believe the color choice did bring out her observation in real time. 

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