When something's important to us, we shouldn't give up easily. This week's Torah portion (Num. 9:6-14) tells of how some people who wanted a second chance to come closer to God persisted so much, that God told Moses to add an extra clause into the Torah so they could! When it comes to accomplishing our worthwhile goals - persistence pays.
In our story, a kid finds out what you can get - by not giving up.
CAMPING ON THE PHONE
"Busy again!" Sheila said, as the phone buzzed its 'busy' signal for what felt like the thousandth time. She and her friend, Amy, had been really psyched about applying as volunteer counselors for Camp Care, an amazing, action-packed summer camp for special-needs kid. Besides the free trips to all the great places the camp took the kids and all the celebrity visitors they would meet, both girls really felt dedicated to helping special kids feel joy in their lives, and felt they had the patience and care to help make that happen.
But after more than an hour of trying to get through to the special 'volunteers hotline' which had been published in the paper and was going to be setting up interview appointments for applicants for one day only, it seemed that hundreds of other kids had gotten the same idea.
"Well, I guess we should just forget it," Sheila said glumly. "It seems like Camp Care is going to be spending its summer without us."
"What do you mean 'forget it'?" Amy asked. "The ad said the phone line would be open until late afternoon."
"Huh!" Sheila harrumphed. "I'll bet there's not even anyone answering the phone. And even if there is, I'm sure all the counselor positions will be taken up by people who got earlier interview appointments than we would, even if we get through. Do you have any idea how many kids apply to a place like that? My cousin volunteered almost ten years ago and he still talks about how amazing the experience was."
"Well, isn't that all the more reason we should keep trying?" Amy said, dialing and then knitting her brow at the yet again busy signal. Sheila shook her head and stuffed her phone and other things into her carry bag. "I've had enough," she said. "It's a beautiful day and we've already wasted enough of it. I'm turning off my phone, going to the lake, soaking up some shade and feeding the ducks. You should come too."
Amy shook her head. "Uh, uh. I want to keep trying. I just think it would be so great for the kids I could help - and for me."
Sheila shrugged, shot Amy a pitying look, and flipping her bag over her shoulder, pranced off.
DAH-DAH-DAH The busy signal, which had become like a mantra in Amy's ear, buzzed yet again. Maybe Sheila had been right, Amy sighed. There were less than five minutes left of calling time and all she had for her hours of efforts was a sore redial finger and a missed-day at the lake.
She was about to turn off her phone, when she said to herself, This is something really important to me and I'm going to see it through to the end.
Amy dialed and got ready to click off again at the inevitable busy signal when she was startled to hear a voice.
"Is this Camp Care?" Amy asked, excited.
"It is ... I mean, was," the tired voice said. "Calling hours are over and we're packing up."
"Oh, no!" Amy groaned. "I've been trying to reach you for six hours!" she said. "Can't you please just sign me up for an interview, too?"
"I'm sorry," said the voice - then there was a pause. "Did you say six hours?"
"Yes!" Amy sputtered, "Straight out."
There was another pause. Then the voice said; "You know, that kind of commitment is really just the thing these kids - and our camp - need. I'll tell you what, I'm putting you at the top of our interview list. Come to our office tomorrow at nine o'clock sharp; ask for the assistant director and I'll see what I can do."
"Wow, Amy, you're sooo lucky," Sheila said when Amy's Camp Care acceptance form came in the mail. "You are going to be having the summer of a lifetime, while I'm going to be sitting at this boring old lake ... feeding ducks."
Amy nodded and tried to be sympathetic, but she knew that luck had nothing to do with it and that even though she'd be volunteering; she'd already been well paid - by her persistence.
Q. How did Sheila feel about continuing to try to reach the camp on the phone?
A. Even though she wanted to go there, she felt like it was too much trouble to keep trying.
Q. How did Amy feel about it?
A. She felt it was something really important to her and kept trying - until she succeeded.
Q. What life-lesson do you think someone could learn from this story?
A. Many times the things we want to accomplish don't happen right away, but if we're willing to persist, we will often succeed.
Q. What if Amy had never gotten through on the phone? Would you say she had made a mistake by trying so hard?
A. While she might not have accomplished her immediate goal, she would be building the good character trait of persistence, which is a valuable tool for life.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Is there ever a time that persistence is a negative thing?
A. Certainly if someone's persisting at accomplishing something that would harm himself or others, then the persistence is negative. Furthermore, when we try sincerely and with all of our efforts at accomplishing something and don't succeed, it could be a sign that ultimately it wouldn't be for our best to do so and it may be wise to let it go.
Q. How can we apply the concept of persistence to our daily relationships?
A. One way is to respect and be open to the persistence of others. If someone asks something of us, even if we at first refuse - if it's a positive and legitimate request, we might allow ourselves to reconsider if he asks us again.