As we wind down the Sunday School year and practice for this year’s finale, I’m reminded of last year where my second and third grade class acted out Moses parting the Red Sea in front of the parish parents. We divided the class into two groups, one for Israelites and one for Pharaoh’s army. The Israelites dressed up in robes and hats and carried their belongings with them, mostly wheeled suitcases with the occasional rag bag tied to a stick. Pharaoh’s army group carried the swords they made in class out of cardboard and aluminum foil (decorated with jewels, of course) and were instructed to act as marauders.

Aswordss these things go, everyone wanted to be in Pharaoh’s army and no one wanted to be an Israelite. (I hear Moses had the same problem.) So, we did the skit twice in order to rotate the groups. Thus, everyone got to be in Pharaoh’s army. We explained this to the parents and no one minded watching it two times.

Picture: The army stalking the Israelites around the watching parents, Moses raises his staff and parts the Red Sea (a giant sheet of blue paper filled with colorful paper sea creatures the kids invented), the Israelites pass between the paper sheets which then close over Pharaoh’s army who fall to the ground and lay there flopping and twitching. (Look out Hollywood! These kids know how to be dramatic.)

The curious thing is that, during rehearsal, as the army lay flopping and twitching, and the Israelite kids were supposed to be celebrating their miraculous getaway, the Israelite kids again and again dropped their bags and returned to pull the twitching army kids to safety (away from the paper water), yelling things like, “Don’t die, my friend! Live! Live!”

Boys dragging boys by the arm, girls pulling girls, teams of Israelite kids pulling a train of the fallen Pharaoh’s army who’d linked arms… The teachers and I tried to stop them, reminding them that that’s not how the story goes. Then we conceded that if they wanted to save each other, it was okay for practice, but not for the real show in front of the parents. And finally, we silly adults stopped being directors and let the kids do what came naturally.baggage

And that’s just it, the major life lesson that I learned from them that week: When left to their own devices, kids drop their baggage and try to save each other. They don’t hesitate. They act on instinct.

It’s a lesson that changed the way I think about the world.

Jody Brown is the author of Upside Down Kingdom, available on Amazon.