The poem tells the story of a young Indian-American girl hiking with her grandparents – and noting all the things in nature that are brown, like her. As she notices the numerous beautifully brown things, she also notices their beautiful attributes: a nurturing mother bear, the steadiness of deep twisting roots, beautiful wild mustangs: brown is everywhere – and beautiful in so many ways!
Read the book with your children (and every generation – make it intergenerational!).
Then head out on a hike or a neighborhood walk – that is also a prayer of observation and wonder. Notice how each individually beautiful human is reflected in countless ways throughout your surroundings.
Let this practice deepen peoples’ sense of self-love: As you walk, invite young ones (everyone) to notice parts of nature that look, sound, smell, or otherwise remind them of themselves.
These might be based on physical attributes like skin, hair, and/or eye color – but they might also notice more abstract connections.
Without disturbing nature too much, invite children (aka, everyone) to gather tokens of the things that reflect their sense of self.
Wonder together about how these objects reflect each child/person. Encourage explorations of diverse emotions and qualities and their various modes of beauty. (The book is full of wonderful examples!) Help children/people articulate how they also have these beautiful qualities.
Make these found objects into either a prayer stick (attaching them to a stick with twine, wire, or string) or turn them into a scrapbook.
If it isn’t already, turn this into an intergenerational opportunity: In the book, the young girl gives her scrapbook to her new baby brother. Is there a sibling, grandparent, or other loved one who might benefit from learning from this child how they saw themselves as beautifully reflected in nature?
You might celebrate these affirmations in worship as part of a Baptism or Affirmation of Baptism Sunday, a spiritual gifts Sunday, Stewardship Sunday, Epiphany (let your light shine!) or any time.
You might build on this contemplative practice by regularly encouraging young people to share these beautiful parts of themselves with the congregation – as worship leaders, through the arts, as volunteers, etc. Encourage those lights to shine and that beauty to be shared! (That’s inspired by The Little Book of Joy, which might also be part of these activities!)