The youngest children study right along with the adults. To bring Ezekiel 11 to life for our youngest children, I read the text directly while they listened and then created a story about a most amazing playground . . .
Eric’s grandfather was a very wealthy and generous man. He decided to build a dream park for the children of the neighborhood. (I asked each of the students what would be included: “Super-fast slides, curvy slides, big loopty-loop swings, a merry-go-round, teeter-totters with springs on the bottom . . .” You get the picture.)
Eric assumed that since his grandfather bought the playground equipment, the playground belonged to Eric. Eric would stand with his arms crossed at the entrance of the playground and would not allow any child to pass unless he was given a very special toy. “Like a Power Ranger,” said Hayden. Feeling defeated, yet desperately wanting to play on the amazing swings and slides, each child would leave the park and return with a Power Ranger for Eric.
However, once a child was permitted to enter into the park, Eric would continue to terrorize the children and insist that they work to keep all other children off the play structures until he had a Power Ranger from everyone. Eric couldn’t handle all the dirty work alone, so he forced others to do his bidding. The very children who had submitted to Eric’s selfish demands now stood at the top of the slides, pushing children off and demanding that they leave and only return with a power ranger for Eric. Instead of swinging, they ripped away the swings from others. Instead of spinning the merry-go-round, they would throw rocks at the children, forcing others to leave and return with Power Rangers for Eric.
One day Eric’s grandfather decided to visit the playground he had built. He expected to hear laughter and songs and see the games and play of the children. Instead, he heard only cries and shouts, and saw tears and blood and bruises from all the pushing and fighting. Grandfather hung his head in despair. He pulled out his whistle and called for the children to move to the sidelines of the playground. A second whistle summoned the bulldozers and dump trucks. Within minutes the entire playground was crushed to the ground and removed to the bare, dry earth. All the children wept, ashamed at what they had done.
Months passed, and as the contrite children ventured outside the next spring, they witnessed a most magical tree that had grown in the very spot where the playground had been. Even more amazing than the flashy, plastic play structures was this magical tree. Its leaves were budding with the most beautiful blossoms and delicious fruit. The children laughed with delight as they climbed and bounced and slid across the branches. The cavernous trunk opened up into secret passage ways, offering the best venue for hide-and-seek. Children could enter the magical tree from any point; there was no gate at which anyone could stand guard and keep out any child who wanted to share in the joyous play.