Take Care of Your Stuff
Taking proper care of our possessions is an important value. In this week's Torah portion (Gen. 32:25, Rashi), Jacob forgets some of his possessions as he's traveling, and makes an extra effort to go back and get them rather than letting them be wasted or ruined. We should be grateful for the things that we have and treat them with care.
In our story, a kid finds out that how well he takes care of his things affects how well they'll take care of him.
"Hey, Bill!" Jay waved to his cousin as he jumped out of his family's minivan. One of the high points of both kids' years was when their two families, who lived in different cities, got together for a family camping and bike trip at Pine Mountain state park.
The families had coordinated their travel plans on their cell phones and pulled into the campground parking lot virtually within minutes of each other.
"Did you get one?" Bill asked his cousin excitedly.
"Yup," Jay said, nodding with a smile. "Did you?"
"Uh huh," Bill grinned back, walking over to the trunk of his mom's car and pulling out a brand new shiny green road-trail bike that he, just like his cousin, had asked their parents to get them with some of their birthday money and use for the first time on their trip.
"Wow, just like mine - exactly!" laughed Jay as he quickly unloaded his twin set of wheels.
After everyone unpacked and settled in, the boys each eagerly stuck the campsite's yearly bike permit on their rear fenders and were about the set out on their first trail ride.
"Let's go, already," Jay said to his cousin, who was bent over his bike, busily doing something.
"What, you already lubed and adjusted everything?" Bill asked.
"The bike's instruction manual has a list maintenance tips to do before using the bike for the first time," Bill said.
"Oh, that stuff?" Jay laughed with a wave of his hand. "Who cares about that? Hurry up and let's just go."
The boys had a blast their first day out on the trails. After a full day of riding, picnicking and sightseeing, they got back to the campsite around sundown.
"Whew! I'm as tired as a hibernating bear with a bad case of insomnia," Bill said.
"Yeah, me too," Jay nodded. "Last one in his sleeping back is a rotten egg," he said, heading for the tent they were sharing.
"Wait a minute," Bill said. "Those were serious rain clouds moving in. We'd better cover up our bikes with tarps to keep 'em dry." He grabbed a folded up canvas tarp and walked over to his bike. "Well?" he asked turning to Jay.
"Nah, why bother? What's a little rain gonna do to the bike, anyway?" the boy said as he slid into his sleeping bag.
After three fun-filled days, the families - and cousins - parted. Both boys kept using their bikes at home. Bill, continuing to take good care of his. And Jay … well, not.
The next year's trip rolled around, Jay, while excited, was bummed out about having to take his beat up and rusty bike. No amount of pleading his parents for a new one got had got him anywhere.
After his family pulled into the familiar campsite parking lot, Jay grabbed his bike from their van and rode over to greet his cousin. Jay got closer and his eyes went wide when he saw the kid sitting on a shiny, new looking bike.
"Hey, that's not fair!" Jay cried out. "Why'd your parents get you a new one and mine didn't?"
"A new what?" Bill asked, looking confused.
"That new bike of yours," Jay said, edging himself off his junky two-wheeled jalopy and standing in front of it so his cousin couldn't see.
"It's not new - same one as last year," Bill said.
"Yeah, right," Jay said. "Don't lie to make me feel better."
"No lie. Here, look," Bill said, pointing to his rear fender that had last year's sticker still on it.
Jay looked and then shook his head. Maybe he hadn't really needed a new bike this year after all, he told himself - just a new approach to how to treat … and take care of ... his stuff.
Q. How did Jay feel at first about the way Bill was taking care of his bike?
A. He didn't feel it was important to do things to take care of it.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He realized that taking care of it kept it like new and he wished he'd taken better care of his, too.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Jay learned from what happened?
A. He'd had the attitude that it wasn't worth the bother to take care of his things. But when he saw what a difference it made, he decided that it really was.
Q. Why do you think Jay's parents didn't want to buy him a new bike for the second year's trip?
A. They probably noticed that he hadn't taken good care of his bike and wanted him to realize on his own the importance of being more responsible with his possessions.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. If a person can afford it, is there anything wrong with wasting, or not taking proper care of, his or her things?
A. When we use our property carefully and wisely, we are developing a sense of gratitude for what we have as well as a more responsible attitude to life. Both of these traits will make us happier and more successful.
Q. Is there ever a time we should be willing to be less than ideally careful with our possessions?
A. Lending our things to others, or using our possessions to help people is an important value - even if at times it might cause our things to have more wear and tear than otherwise.