Friday, April 27, 2007

bits and pieces | comedy and and drama scripts

I've been writing sketches and short plays to help youth workers and teachers engage kids in their own learning for a long time. Now I'm putting those scripts on the internet where people can get them whenever they want wherever they are.

The collection — 17 scripts so far — is largely but not exclusively comedy; mainly bite-sized; mostly about adolescence, sexuality, family or spirituality. All of it is inexpensive — $1.99 for the monologues, $2.99 for short dialogues, $3.99 for longer pieces — so college students, teachers, starving artists and people working with kids can afford to buy.

If you teach, direct, or know someone who does, drop by Bits + Pieces to see what there is to see.

And let me know what you think . . .

Saturday, April 21, 2007

it's not supposed to be like this | YouTube

from some folks in Oregon employed It's Not Supposed To Be Like This in their spiritual community. . .

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Angry + Getting Used To It

[Here's an excerpt from my book Raising Adults, available at the YS Underground]

I cannot control the way the world is run, the way others treat me, the hand I have been dealt, but I can damn well control the way I treat others (especially those who least expect it). — Kate at 20

My mom was an unhealthy model for me in terms of dealing with anger. I was constantly walking on eggshells, in fear of her irrational outbursts. I consequently have a hard time expressing my own anger because I know how my mom’s anger made me feel (like crap, like I couldn’t do anything right), because I’m afraid it’ll jeopardize my relationships, and because I’m afraid of being irrational. — Alice at 21

Anger is the cheapest drug I know. — Brian at 19

Our kids are doing a generational slow burn.

Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed. Their anger comes out as contempt, outbursts of rage, mean-spirited humor, stealing, vandalism and every once in a while, shocking acts
of violence.

Urban dwellers are uncomfortably familiar with these things. I know a young man whose little brother was the 58th child killed in Chicago the year the paper kept a running total. The child lived and died in the Henry Horner Projects — the place described in the book and film There Are No Children Here. He was shot in the back, reportedly a case of mistaken identity in a drug dispute.

Across town, Lane Tech is a magnet for four thousand high-achieving students who must declare a major when they test into the school. It’s a tough, exciting academic environment. Things are exciting outside too. Lane features after-school programs that are innovative and enriching — but that’s not why they started. They started because of drive-by shootings targeting who knows who. The after-school offerings cause students to trickle out of the building instead of exiting all at once.

The circumstances at Lane — positive and negative — hardly ever make the news outside Chicago. What made news as the century turned was a rash of suburban and small town conspiracies and shootings. The events were characterized as an unprecedented wave of student-on-student violence. I’m afraid those incidents were big news because unlike the student body at Lane Tech the shooters and their targets were primarily light-skinned children. Americans are accustomed to stories of urban violence and expect perpetrators and victims to be dark-skinned and disenfranchised and the violence to be related to the drug trade. It is unsettling when the profiles don’t fit those expectations.

Here is what we know about the attackers in 37 incidents of targeted school violence between 1974 and the end of the 2000 school year:

76 percent were white

All were male

95 percent were current students at the school where they carried out the attack

85 percent were between the ages of 13 and 18

63 percent came from two-parent homes

41 percent were doing well in school, generally making As and Bs

41 percent appeared to associate with mainstream students or were considered mainstream themselves

44 percent were involved in organized social activities in or outside school

Just 12 percent had no close friends

81 percent acted alone

Fewer than a third were known to have acted violently toward others prior to the attack

59 percent demonstrated an interest in violent movies, books, games, personal writing or other media (though there was no one common form)

63 percent had rarely or never been in trouble at school

56 percent showed no marked change in academic performance prior to the attack

73 percent showed no marked change in friendship patterns prior to the attack

59 percent showed no marked change in interest in school prior to the attack

68 percent showed no marked change in disciplinary problems at school prior to the attack

61 percent used handguns

49 percent used rifles or shotguns

68 percent acquired the gun[s] used in the attack at home or from the home of a relative

54 percent targeted one or more adults employed by the school

41 percent targeted other students

44 percent were known to have chosen more than one target prior to the attack

46 percent carried more than one weapon at the time of the attack

61 percent had a documented history of feeling extremely depressed or desperate

78 percent exhibited a history of suicide attempts or suicidal thoughts at some point prior to the attack

Prior to the attack, 98 percent experienced or perceived some major loss such as a perceived failure or loss of status (66 percent) or the loss of a loved one or significant relationship (51 percent)

83 percent exhibited outward behaviors that suggested difficulties coping with loss

71 percent felt persecuted, bullied, threatened, attacked or injured by others prior to the incident

73 percent had a grievance against at least one of their targets before the attack

66 percent told someone about their grievance prior to the attack

81 percent gave at least one person (93 percent peers) information that he was thinking about or planning his attack

Only 17 percent threatened their target[s] directly in advance of the attack

95 percent had developed the idea to harm his target[s] before the attack — about half developed their idea for at least a month

93 percent planned out the attack in advance — 69 percent prepared the attack for at least two days

93 percent engaged in some behavior prior to the attack that caused others to be concerned — in 76 percent of the attacks, more than three people we concerned about the attacker’ behavior — in 88 percent of the cases at least one adult was concerned about his pre-attack behavior

Revenge was a motive for 61 percent of attackers — though 54 percent had multiple motives

— Culled from The Final Report and Findings of The Safe School Initiative, United States Secret Service and United States Department of Education, 2002

Monday, April 16, 2007

it's not supposed to be like this

[an open letter to youth workers in the wake of the murders at Virginia Tech | Rich Van Pelt and I wrote The Youth Worker's Guide to Helping Teenagers in Crisis | The Parent's Guide to Helping Teenagers in Crisis is scheduled for release in January 2008]

April 16, 2007

It's not supposed to be like this. Just so we're crystal clear about that.

No one is supposed to walk into a dormitory and classroom building and kill 32 daughters and sons. No one has that right.

Someone has to say this clearly and compellingly to the children of God we have agreed to nurture toward wholeness.

This week, long before we know why those students and faculty were stolen from us—if indeed we ever come to know that—you will be face to face with kids who, having witnessed this calmly efficient evil, question God.

Tell them it's not supposed to be like this.

Tell them the God who spoke through the prophets at many times and in various ways—and in these last days has spoken to us by his Son—tell them this God takes no pleasure in the suffering and death of his creatures.

Tell them it's not supposed to be like this, and someday it won’t be.

Tell them the hope of the gospel includes a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness—we haven’t seen it, but in faith we see it coming.

In the meantime, tell them, life is grace and bad things happen; people are capable of breathtaking displays of love and staggering acts of oppression; the sun rises and the rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous.

Tell them about the mercy of Jesus who promises the good news will one day prove every bit as good as the bad news so obviously is bad in these days. Tell them life is hard and God is good.

BUT FIRST listen to them. Listen to their denial and fear and anger and confusion. And don't be afraid to admit your own.

As you listen, don't be afraid of silence. Let paper and colored markers express what can't be spoken—and know they will almost certainly require more blue and violet and black and gray than yellow and green.

Talk when you believe they are ready to hear. Don't be glib. Don't talk down. Don't bluff.

Here's is a comprehensive list of things you can promise the students in your care:

1. I will do everything in my power to protect you each and every day.

2. ...(THERE IS NO 2).

Don't make promises you can't keep.

That said, don't believe for a moment that being unqualified means you are not up to the task. "Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord?" the writer Annie Dillard asks,"or shall stand in his holy place?"

There is no one but us. There is no one to send, nor a clean hand, nor a pure heart on the face of the earth, nor in the earth, but only us, a generation comforting ourselves with the notion that we have come at an awkward time, that our innocent fathers are all dead—as if innocence had ever been—and our children busy and troubled, and we ourselves unfit, not yet ready, having each of us chosen wrongly, made a false start, failed, yielded to impulse and the tangled comfort of pleasures, and grown exhausted, unable to seek the thread, weak, and involved. But there is no one but us. There never has been. There have been generations which remembered, and generations which forgot; there has never been a generation of whole men and women who lived well for even one day.
— Annie Dillard, Holy the Firm, Harper and Row, 1977 p 56-57

This is the spirit in which each generation of God's people ushers the next to the table God prepares before us in the presence of our enemies. None of us comes to this table because we are worthy. We come because we are hungry.

Be present. Open your ears and eyes and heart. Remember. Tell the truth as well as you can. Trust God to make that enough.

Thanks for what you do for kids every day.

Deep peace,

Jim Hancock and Rich Van Pelt

p.s. Here are some texts that inform these thoughts and may be useful as you explore all this with your students... the opening paragraph of Hebrews...2 Peter 3...Hebrews 11...Matthew 5:38-48...Psalm 24...Psalm 23...Isaiah 55

[A pdf of this letter is posted at]

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Rocks Cry Out | Kurt Vonnegut dead at 84

I love this from Kurt Vonnegut at 81 years of age:

How about Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes?

Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the Earth.
Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.

…And so on.

Not exactly planks in a Republican platform. Not exactly Donald Rumsfeld or Dick Cheney stuff.

For some reason, the most vocal Christians among us never mention the Beatitudes. But, often with tears in their eyes, they demand that the Ten Commandments be posted in public buildings. And of course that’s Moses, not Jesus. I haven’t heard one of them demand that the Sermon on the Mount, the Beatitudes, be posted anywhere.“

Blessed are the merciful” in a courtroom? “Blessed are the peacemakers” in the Pentagon? Give me a break!

Mr. Vonnegut will be missed, if only for calling us to cut the crap and get on with it.


Friday, April 06, 2007

Good Friday

A passage from The Book of Common Prayer for Good Friday . . .


Almighty God, kindle, we pray, in every heart the true love of
peace, and guide with your wisdom those who take counsel for
the nations of the earth; that in tranquillity your dominion may
increase, until the earth is filled with the knowledge of your
love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Let us pray for all who suffer and are afflicted in body or in mind;
For the hungry and the homeless, the destitute
and the oppressed
For the sick, the wounded, and the crippled
For those in loneliness, fear, and anguish
For those who face temptation, doubt, and despair
For the sorrowful and bereaved
For prisoners and captives, and those in mortal danger
That God in his mercy will comfort and relieve them, and
grant them the knowledge of his love, and stir up in us the
will and patience to minister to their needs.


Gracious God, the comfort of all who sorrow, the strength of
all who suffer: Let the cry of those in misery and need come
to you, that they may find your mercy present with them in all
their afflictions; and give us, we pray, the strength to serve
them for the sake of him who suffered for us, your Son Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen.

Let us pray for all who have not received the Gospel of Christ;
For those who have never heard the word of salvation
For those who have lost their faith
For those hardened by sin or indifference
For the contemptuous and the scornful
For those who are enemies of the cross of Christ and
persecutors of his disciples
For those who in the name of Christ have persecuted others
That God will open their hearts to the truth, and lead them to
faith and obedience.

Merciful God, creator of all the peoples of the earth and
lover of souls: Have compassion on all who do not know you
as you are revealed in your Son Jesus Christ; let your Gospel
be preached with grace and power to those who have not
heard it; turn the hearts of those who resist it; and bring
home to your fold those who have gone astray; that there
may be one flock under one shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Let us commit ourselves to our God, and pray for the grace
of a holy life, that, with all who have departed this world and
have died in the peace of Christ, and those whose faith is
known to God alone, we may be accounted worthy to enter
into the fullness of the joy of our Lord, and receive the crown
of life in the day of resurrection.


O God of unchangeable power and eternal light: Look
favorably on your whole Church, that wonderful and sacred
mystery; by the effectual working of your providence, carry
out in tranquillity the plan of salvation; let the whole world
see and know that things which were cast down are being
raised up, and things which had grown old are being made
new, and that all things are being brought to their perfection
by him through whom all things were made, your Son Jesus
Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity
of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

second thoughts: lost faith in President Bush

“I’m a big believer that in part what we’re called to do — to me, by God; other people call it karma — is to restore balance when things didn’t turn out the way they should have. Just being quiet is not an option when I was so publicly advocating an election.”
— Matthew Dowd, chief campaign strategist for Bush 04, breaking publicly from the Adminstration in The New York Times, April 1, 2007