We shouldn't be stingy or mean. In this week's Torah portion (Num. 20:14-20), Moses and the Jewish people needed to pass through the land of Edom on the way to the land of Israel. Even though Moses promised that they would avoid doing damage and would pay for whatever they used on the way, the Edomites meanly refused. We should have an open hand to the needs of others - not a tight fist.
In our story, a kid faces the choice of stinginess or generosity.
Kelly was busy filling out the answers on her social studies quiz on the topic of friendship when she felt a tap on her elbow.
"My pen ran out of ink," whispered Janet, the kid in the next seat.
Kelly gave a little shrug as Janet went on. "Um, can I maybe borrow one of yours?"
"I don't think so," Kelly whispered and turned back to her work.
"But how am I going to do the quiz without a pen?" Janet sighed. "Please, Kelly, I know you always keep extra pens in your schoolbag..."
"That's right," she answered with a smug grin. "That way I'm always prepared - unlike you. Too bad."
"So, let me buy one off you!" Janet pleaded. "I'll pay you whatever it cost you ... and even a little more. I'll even go to the store and get you a new one to replace it. It won't cost you a thing - just please help me out, okay?"
"Will you please stop bugging me?" Kelly said annoyed, "My stuff is my stuff and you have no business asking me to..."
Suddenly, the girl's face turned white and, sitting up straight, she raised her eyes to the teacher standing over her desk.
"I believe class policy is that each student does her quiz alone. It is not a group project ... otherwise known as cheating. Do you agree?" The teacher said sternly.
"Of course, Mrs. Allen," Kelly stuttered.
"Well?" the teacher asked, hands on her hips.
"I was just asking her to borrow a pen," Janet cut in. "Mine ran out of ink."
"A reasonable excuse - if true," the teacher said. "But I'm a little dubious. It seems to me that should have taken you two all of three seconds. You ask ... she gives ... you go back to your quiz. I've been watching the two of you talk back and forth for quite a while. Now, why should that be?"
Janet looked at Kelly, who looked back at her and lowered her head. Then Kelly looked up at the teacher and said, "Because ... I said no."
"So, if you didn't have an extra pen and told her so, there was no reason to keep talking, was there?"
Kelly was quiet for a moment, then said, "I did have one ... I just wouldn't let her use it." She unzipped her case and handed Janet a pen. "I'm sorry," she said.
"I think I've got the picture now," the teacher said. "Seems nobody cheated here, but," she looked at Kelly, "it looks to me that your studies on friendship could use a little more review."
Q. How did Kelly feel when Janet asked to borrow a pen?
A. She didn't want to share.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She felt sorry she hadn't been more generous.
Q. What life-lesson could someone learn from this story?
A. When we have the chance to help someone else out - especially if we won't lose out by doing so - we should be generous and not hold back.
Q. Why didn't Kelly want to lend her pen?
A. It's human nature to feel stingy and not to want to share. However, we grow so much as people when we can learn to be generous to others.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Is a person ethically obligated always to share his or her things?
A. A lot depends on the circumstances. However, in most cases, reasonable sharing is the right way to go.
Q. What else can the concept of 'generous' and 'stingy' apply to other than possessions?
A. We also have to choose how generous to be with our time, skills and energy.