You're a Success!
What makes a person a winner? In this week's Torah portion (Lev. 14:21) we learn how someone with less money would get as much credit for bringing a less expensive offering to the Tabernacle as a richer person would get for bringing more. We can learn from here that different people have different abilities and as long as we are trying our best with the abilities we have - we should know we are a success.
In our story, a kid discovers that what it takes to be a winner isn't exactly what he thought.
"Okay guys, everyone out to the running track and lineup for the race," Mr. Wade, the gym teacher, called out in his deep voice to the kids coming out of the locker room.
As the athletic guys like Gary pranced like deer to the starting line, Josh dragged his feet as if hoping somehow he'd be able to stretch out the 45-second walk to the running track into the 45 minutes of the entire gym class period. He had nothing against exercise and sports, it was just that when they were giving out bodies, he must have been last in line. Shaped more or less like a bowling pin and only a little bit taller than one, Josh knew that any race he entered he would only come in one place - last.
"Just to make things more interesting," the gym teacher said, "whoever wins gets one of these." He held up a really cool-looking pair of sunglasses.
Josh sighed to himself. While he'd love to get the prize, he knew he had as much chance of winning the race as he had climbing Mt. Everest backwards on roller skates.
The coach blew the whistle and the kids took off running. For the first half-second or so, Josh was lined up with the front of the pack, but soon, as usual, he started drifting behind. He ran the best he could - why look even worse than he had to? - but by the time he huffed his way around the track he'd had a good view of everyone else's back and no one was looking at his.
"I won! I'm the man!" Gary shouted, and, holding his hand out, jogged over to the Mr. Wade to get his prize.
"Not so fast," the gym teacher said. "That was only the first round. One more race to go."
Gary grumbled a little bit and then shrugged with a look that said, Okay, I did it once, I'll do it again.
The kids lined up, but this time instead of just blowing his starter's whistle, the gym teacher held up a small electronic device.
"If you noticed, I was clocking all of you on my computerized stop watch. It recorded all of your times - how long it took each of you to go around the track last time - and now, in this second round, I'm going to time all of you again." Josh's ears perked up as the man went on. "Whoever beats their last time this time around, wins - simple as that."
"What? You mean not just whoever comes in first?" a kid called out.
"Nope," the man smiled. "This is a different kind of race. You're not racing against each other - you're each racing against yourselves. Okay, get ready."
The whistle blew and Josh, for the first time he could remember - maybe the first time ever - felt himself excited and into it. As he pumped his short, stocky legs, he wasn't paying attention to who was in front of him or behind. Am I doing better than before? was the only thought on his mind.
The race ended. The guys - and this time not just Gary, who'd again pulled up in first place - all surrounded the teacher, bouncing up and down with hopeful eyes.
"Guess what?" the gym teacher grinned as he pulled out a whole carton of sunglasses, "every single one of you beat his previous time - that means every single one of you wins!"
He handed out the prizes to each of the kids, giving Gary an extra pair, explaining that it was only fair since he hadn't told him the new rules at first.
As Josh walked of the track field, the cool new 'winner's' sunglasses on his face, he realized that it wasn't only the colored lenses that was causing him to see things - including his own ability to be a winner - from a whole new perspective.
Q. How did Josh feel about racing at first?
A. He hated doing it because he knew he wasn't as fast as the other kids so he wasn't going to win.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He was excited because he saw that he could be a winner by doing better than he'd done before.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Josh and the other kids learned from what happened?
A. Up until then, they had all defined being a winner as someone who does something better than other people do. They learned that competing against oneself - trying to do the best one can with one's own abilities - is also called winning.
Q. Do you think the gym teacher had a good idea?
A. It was a good idea because it helped kids like Josh, who didn't think of himself as a winner, realize that they could be winners too.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Do you think competition is something positive or negative?
A. It depends how it's used. Healthy competition can be used to spur us on to accomplish more than we would otherwise, and if what we are trying to accomplish is worthwhile, then this can be a valuable thing. However, if it causes people to try to harm each other or to be unduly stressed, then it is negative.
Q. Are 'efforts' always more important than 'abilities'?
A. There is a value in both. For instance, if one needed a surgeon, he'd want one with the best ability, not just one who 'tried hard.' On the other hand, when it comes to spirituality and character development, it's the extent and sincerity of our efforts that count most.