A caring family is more precious than gold. In this week's Torah portion (Num. 27:4) a man's daughters care enough about him - and their family - to go out of their way to make sure he gets the honor he deserves. Our family is an important part of who we are, and we all gain so much when we make family an important part of our lives.
In our story, a kid finds out what caring about family can do.
Ruth looked out her window to see her parents busily packing up their car. "Hey, are we taking a day trip?" she asked her mom, who was carrying a basket full of yummy-looking food.
"Sure are," she said, smiling.
"Yeah! Where to? The beach? The mall? Maybe the water park?"
"Well, not exactly," Ruth's dad answered, as he walked by, holding his GPS. "Great-Aunt Clara is in a new elder-care facility upstate and she's not feeling well, so we thought it would be nice if we all went to visit her every few weeks."
Ruth's face dropped. "That's not a trip," she said. "I want to go somewhere fun!"
"That's understandable," her father said, "But Great-Aunt Clara is family and she needs us."
"Not me!" Ruth crossed her arms.
Her parents looked at each other. "Well, we're not going to force you," said her mom. "We really wish you'd come, but if not, we'll see if Nancy next door can babysit...
No trip can be as bad as having a last-minute babysitter, Ruth thought bitterly, as she waved her hand, shook her head and wordlessly marched to their car.
An hour later - which felt like a week to Ruth - they arrived. Aunt Clara was very happy to see them and as her parents chatted about this and that and unpacked the care package of food and bath items they'd brought, Ruth, who hadn't said much and was still disappointed about not going to the beach, excused herself from the room and went wandering in the hall. She'd been half-heartedly looking at the dreary art-prints hanging on the wall, when she heard a weak voice call out. "Cindy? Cindy? Is that really you?"
She turned to see an even older-looking woman than Great-Aunt Clara peering at her from a wheelchair in the doorway of the next room.
As their eyes met, the woman's hopeful look faded. "Oh, I'm sorry," she said. "I thought you were my granddaughter, but I guess I was just being silly. Who are you, anyway?"
Ruth didn't really feel like talking to the sad-looking woman, but somehow it just seemed too rude to walk away. "I'm, uh, Ruth. I ... we came to visit my great-aunt in the next room."
"You did?" the woman said, her eyes lighting up, "Then what an angel you are! Family visits are worth more than all the money in the world to people like us. We breathe them like oxygen and they make us feel better than any medicine can. I only wish..." suddenly her face darkened and Ruth noticed a tear falling from the corner of her eye, "...that I had some family to come and visit. They live so far away. It's been..." her voice cracked, "more than a year since anybody came to visit me. That's why I thought that maybe you were my granddaughter. You see, it's been so long - I almost can't remember what she looks like anymore..."
"Ruth!" the girl heard her mother's voice call out. "Come say goodbye to Aunt Clara - it's time to go."
"A family visit! How lucky your aunt is," Ruth heard the woman say under her breath, as she turned to walk away.
A few weeks later...
Ruth heard a soft knock on her bedroom door. "I know it's not your favorite thing," her dad said, "but we're planning to visit Great-Aunt Clara tomorrow. So, if you don't want to come along, we can try to arrange..."
"Of course I want to come," Ruth said brightly.
"Yeah, I know how much Aunt Clara needs the company. But can I make one request?"
"Sure," said her surprised-looking father, "what is it?"
"Can we pack up two care-package baskets this time? I want to make a 'family visit' to the woman in the next room, too."
Q. How did Ruth feel at first about visiting her great-aunt?
A. She didn't want to go - she wanted to have fun instead.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She saw how important family visits were, so she felt ready to go.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Ruth learned from what happened?
A. She hadn't felt that going to visit her not-well great aunt was worth her time or effort. But when she saw, from the lonely woman in the next room, how important family contact really was, she decided to make it a priority.
Q. Why do you think that family visits were so important to Ruth's aunt and her neighbor?
A. While they may have been taken well-care physically, knowing you have people who care about you - not because they're being paid to do so - but because they feel part of you, is a warm and comforting feeling that money can't buy.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Do you think it's important to be closely involved with one's family? Why or why not?
A. While it may not always be easy, keeping close to family, even extended family, is a worthwhile investment. Family members have a special, spiritual bond with each other and can provide each other with a supportive comfort and 'familiarity' that they can get nowhere else.
Q. What can a person do to keep his or her 'family ties' strong?
A. With the family members we live with, we can make an extra effort to be kind and nice, being willing to help out as needed. With more extended family, we can remember to send cards or make calls for birthdays and other occasions and go out of our way to attend all family events, whether it's convenient or not.