Change Plans? Yes We Can!
Being able to get used to new situations can make for a happier life. One of the main activities of the Sukkot, the Holiday of Joy, is spending time outside of our regular homes and instead eating, drinking and celebrating in decorated, naturally-thatched, outdoor sukkahs. One thing this teaches us is that even if plans change or we're out of our regular routine or surroundings, we can still be happy.
In our story, a kid finds out that changing plans doesn't have to mean changing moods.
FISH OUT OF WATER
"What do you mean we're not going to the zoo?" Kevin burst out, feeling tears wetting the corners of his eyes.
"I know that was our plan," his mom explained from the driver's seat of their car, "but as you can see, it's quite rainy today, so we're all going to the aquarium instead."
"So what! ... So what!" Kevin cried out. "We're supposed to go to the zoo. We always go to the zoo this time of the year!"
"But in this rain storm there won't even be any animals out to see, silly," Kevin's sister, Kara, said to him. "But fish like water - and besides they're in tanks anyway. It'll be fun."
"Yeah," his other sister, Kate, added. "Zoo? Aquarium? It's a slight change in plans. What's the big deal?"
But to Kevin it was a very big deal. The plan had been to go to the zoo, and that - and only that - was what he wanted to do.
But since his mom was behind the steering wheel - and his two sisters were all for the dumb new plan, it was to the aquarium they went.
"Wow, look at the humongous hammerhead shark!" Kara said.
"Yikes! And those stingrays are even bigger!" Kate cried out. "Did you see them, Kevin?" she asked.
The boy just shrugged his shoulders like it was the least interesting thing in the world - which to him it was, since it wasn't the zoo.
As his mom and sisters ooo'ed and ahh'ed their way along the tanks of colorful clownfish, leggy octopi, crusty crustaceans and groups of groupers, Kevin lingered just enough behind that they would all have no doubts that he was having an absolutely miserable time.
Griping and dragging his feet, the boy happened to look up at one of the tanks set into the wall. Just regular, boring fish, he said to himself ... but then he suddenly noticed something really strange; some of the fish were walking on the mud!
He skimmed the sign next to the tank, "...these fish, native to the semi-tropic regions, can adapt from their aquatic water habitat to 'walk' with their fins on dry land in search of food..."
Pretty impressive, Kevin had to admit. That a fish could just leave its regular habitat and make the switch to dry land. That's a big adjustment, he thought ... actually a much bigger adjustment than switching from a trip to the zoo to a big aquarium...
"Hi everybody - can we go see the dolphins now?" Kevin bounced up to his mom and sisters and asked through smiling, bright eyes.
"Sure, Kev," his mom smiled, looking surprised. "I'm so glad to see that you seem to be having a good time after all, just like the rest of us."
"Yeah Mom," he said. "I guess I just decided to stop being a 'fish out of water' ... or actually, he thought to himself and smiled, he'd decided to act just like one.
Q. How did Kevin feel at first about changing plans and going to the aquarium instead of the zoo?
A. He was upset and couldn't have a good time.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He realized that he really could get used to things.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Kevin learned that day?
A. He'd found it very hard to accept it when things didn't go as planned, but he got the message from seeing how much the fish could adapt, that he could adapt to a new situation, too.
Q. Why do you think it can be hard to adjust to new or different situations?
A. When we get used to something - or even expect things to go a certain way - we feel comfortable and secure. A sudden, or even not so sudden, change, takes that comfort away. Still, it's good to remember that life is full of changes and surprises and the more we work on taking them in stride, the happier we'll be.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. A great Jewish sage once advised that a person should always have in the back of his or her mind, the phrase 'this too will pass.' What do you think could be the value of such a practice?
A. The nature of life is that events and situations - whether pleasant or the opposite - are temporary. If we always have in mind that 'this too will pass,' we won't get overwhelmed if things are hard, and we won't become devastated if a pleasant situation ceases to be.
Q. What attitude do you think can help one to more easily adjust to new situations?
A. One thing is to keep in mind that the events of life are not random, but rather God's 'guided tour' to bring us to personal and spiritual growth. Knowing that, if and when a situation changes, we can feel secure that ultimately it's for the good.