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The St. Nicholas TAP participants: Me, Rylie Brumley, Abby Brown, Tai, and Bronwyn

Being 6 years old allows you to do many more cool things during the summer. First, Tai got to go to Mini-Camp at Camp Mikell. This week, he got to attend TAP (Thompson-Pound Art Program). The last two years I’ve been involved in TAP, Tai has joined me on the last day or so to get a hint of what TAP is all about. This year, Tai got to participate as a full-time “tapper.”

I’ve never been a part of anything quite like TAP, and to watch Tai go through it was really amazing. The point of TAP is to teach children that the world doesn’t have be full of violence, discord, and hatred. Instead, we can celebrate our differences and learn to respect and listen to one another. Art becomes the common denominator for all these children from different socio-economic backgrounds, religions, and cultures. Tai learned this in a number of fun ways.

The day started with gathering together in a large group for a brief time of announcements, singing, and a meditation by a local lay or clergy leader from various faith traditions. The announcements were led by TAP director, Debbie Anderson, who has come to St. Nicholas two times to lead us during our Lenten Series. Then, I taught a song called “Walkin'” which turned out to be a major hit. It’s a song that I learned in high school at Happening, but I realized that the song isn’t specifically Christian and could be sung by anyone.

The lyrics are:

(chorus) Walkin’, walkin’, walkin’ in the light.
Walkin’ in the light (ooo), we can trust each other (ooo).
Walkin’ in the light (ooo), we can see ourselves.

It’s a sad situation, people running scared
It’s a crazy mixed up world, where there’s nothing to fear but fear.
Two, three, four, tell them what your feet are for…(chorus)

We always walk in darkness, forget about the day,
We’re afraid to face our problems, we’re hoping they’ll go away.
Two, three, four, tell them what your feet are for…(chorus)

So we finally pull our heads out of the sand
Where there’s light and warmth and sunshine, and it’s never dark again.
Two, three, four, tell them what your feet are for…(chorus)

The theme of TAP this year was “Come Sit By Me,” which taught the kids that when we sit with each other, we share light with one another in relationship. So the sub-theme of light was something we looked at closely, and the song fit perfectly. Above is a video of us singing at the TAP Celebration on Thursday night.

Tai glues photos onto the Unity Piece bench.

Tai glues photos onto the Unity Piece bench.

Tai’s first class was Art. In that class, the kids learned about photography and took pictures of each other. These photos were then printed and glued onto a bench. Then, the children printed their hands on photo-sensitive fabric, which was sewed into a quilt which will be the back drop for the bench. Finally, the children helped weave a colorful lining around the bench. All of this together made up the 2011 TAP Unity Piece, which will go in the South Columbus Library. All of the Unity Pieces of TAP are put in public places. Last year, a Peace Pylon was made and put in the median of Broad Way.

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Then, Tai went to the Focus room where the subject was to look at the concept of bullying. This was a sensitive subject to be sure, but the class teacher, Courtney Loving, did a fantastic job of making the class serious enough to make the point but fun enough to learn. The children made marshmallow people and role played bullying with them. Then, later in the week, the children did role playing of their own, taking turns being a bully, a victim, and a bystander. In one touching scene, a boy was being picked on, and another boy came up and defended him, putting his hand on the shoulder of the victim, and demonstrating compassion and love. All of these kids understand bullying, no matter where they come from, but they also understand what it means to take action so that bullying doesn’t happen.

Tai got to wear a mask!

Tai got to wear a mask!

Next, Tai went to the Snack room, which started off with religious leaders sharing rituals of light with the children. First, Buddhist nun Kelsang Sama joined us and taught the children about inner light through meditation. On Tuesday, the Rev. Donna Gafford and I shared a brief liturgy from the Easter Vigil to show how the light of Christ defeats darkness and death. Next, two Hindu teenagers, Deeti and Kishan, joined us to talk about Hindu gods, and a beautiful light ritual which empowers them to be better people. On Thursday, Sister Clarice Muhammed, a Muslim, told us about light in Islam and shared the similarities Islam has with other religions. Finally, on Friday, Rabbi Jeff Salkin joined us to talk about light in Judaism especially through the practice of using candles on Shabbat (or Sabbath) and Hanukkah. Allowing the children to have positive experiences of these religions allows them to better understand their own faith and other people’s faith, so that they can be knowledgable about other religions and not judgmental. The Snack class was concluded with healthy fruits provided each day by the children themselves to teach them about sharing, and lots of breads provided by Publix.

Tai improvs "discovering" the cloth on the floor.

Tai improvs "discovering" the cloth on the floor.

Finally, Tai danced, played, and did improvisation in the Performance room. Taught by Debbie, who is an accomplished musician and actress herself, the children played acting games such as “Captain’s Coming,” “Bippity-Bippity-Bop,” and a number game where the children had to listen and close their eyes in order to count together. They danced and used their creativity to be active and have fun. Debbie led them in improv scenes where they had to illustrate disunity, then unity through the use of masks, boxes, cloth, and rhythm sticks. The improv became a metaphor for the kids to learn even more about concepts like exclusion and inclusion, freedom to be who we are, and learning that there are multiple solutions to difficult problems.

The improv turns to unity as the children surround the cloth.

The improv turns to unity as the children surround the cloth.

Tai was in a mixed age group with teen mentors and interns who helped guide the children through each station. St. Nicholas’ own Abby Brown was a teen mentor and Rylie Brumley was a teen intern. It was wonderful to see Abby and Rylie be role models to the children, play with them, and teach them as well.

Bronwyn cuts out a hand to send to Kids 4 Peace, another organization sponsored by our diocese which promotes peace among religions.

Bronwyn cuts out a hand to send to Kids 4 Peace, another organization sponsored by our diocese which promotes peace among religions.

On the last day, like I did with Tai in previous years, I brought Bronwyn with me on the last day. She also had a blast making art projects and learning about TAP.

I am always inspired by TAP and the work the children do. It gives me such hope that the world might not always have hatred, war, and violence. There are lots of people out there who believe that peace is an impossible reality in our world. Perhaps you’re one of those people. But if you watch these kids, who are as diverse as any group can be, become friends, learn to love one another, honor and uphold the differences we all have, and build relationships with one another, you might catch a little glimpse of that hope as well, and it will certainly inspire you to do the very thing our Baptismal Covenant tells us, which is to “strive for justice and peace and respect the dignity of every human being.”

That’s why it’s important to me at least, and why it’s fantastic to see Tai learn about it as well. As I’m writing this, Tai is teaching his brother and sister about Buddhist meditation, where you breathe in the light and breathe out the “bad, dark smoke” that’s inside us. Wonders never cease.

Jeff+