Life is how you look at it. On the one hand there is always a reason to appreciate what we have. On the other hand, a person can always find a reason to complain even about the best situations. For instance, in this week's Torah portion, God sent the Jewish people in the desert wonderful food to eat. It was called manna. It fell down free from the sky. It tasted like whatever you wanted it to (ice cream every day!), and it was perfectly healthy. While some people appreciated what a great gift it was, others found a reason to complain even about this. We see from here that more than anything else, it's our attitude that is going to determine whether we live a happy life or not.
In our story a girl helps her sister develop a happiness attitude.
It wasn't very easy to tell the Silver twins apart. Both Karen and Gail Silver had reddish-blond hair, big blue eyes and tons of freckles. They walked the same, they dressed the same, they even sneezed the same.
But once you got them talking, there was no longer any doubt who was who. If you asked Karen how she was, she'd smile and say, "I'm great!" and mean it.
Gail would sigh and say, "Things could be better."
Karen would always comment what a beautiful day it was, rain or shine. But for Gail, it was always too hot or too cold.
One Sunday the Silver family went to the nearby lake for a picnic. The two sisters walked together down the path toward the water. On the way they came across a patch of wildflowers. "Hey Gail, come smell these beautiful flowers!" Karen exclaimed.
"No thanks, they probably have thorns," came Gail's reply.
After a while, their mom called them for lunch. Karen couldn't stop raving about how delicious everything tasted outdoors, while Gail seemed to be too busy trying to stay out of the sun and swat away flies to notice the food.
It was finally time to go home. The twins were sitting together in the back of the family's van. Karen smiled at Gail and said, "What a great day we had, huh?!" She was caught by surprise though when her sister, instead of nodding her head, burst into tears. "What's wrong, Gail?" asked Karen.
Gail looked up through her tears. "I just don't get it," she sobbed. "How come you have such a great life, and I'm always miserable?"
Karen looked her sister in the eyes. "Listen sis," she said with a sympathetic smile, "you and I have almost the exact same lives, but we live in two different worlds."
"What do you mean?" sniffed Gail.
"I mean, we have the same parents, the same looks, go to the same school and have the same friends, right?"
Karen went on. "But the difference is that I try to see what's right with everything and you look at what's wrong. Let's face it, nothing and nobody is perfect. But everything does have some good in it. You just have to look for it. When you do that, and try not to complain, life becomes just wonderful."
Gail looked interested but puzzled. "But how?" she asked.
Karen laughed. "It's easy! Start by telling me one good thing about your life."
Gail thought for a minute, smiled, and said, "One good thing for sure is that I have a sister like you!"
Q. How did Karen feel after the family's day at the lake?
A. She felt good, because she always tried to see what was good in things.
Q. How about her twin sister, Gail?
A. She felt upset and disappointed since she focused on what was wrong with things.
Q. Do you think that the way a person looks at things has a large effect on the quality of his life?
A. A person's outlook, the way he looks at and interprets the events around him, has a lot to do with how he's going to feel. One person could look at a rainy day as a bother, that ruined his chance to play ball outside, while another person will look at it as an opportunity to finally read that novel he's been wanting to read for months. A person who discovers this secret, and tries to look at things in a positive way will find himself feeling much happier than he had before.
Q. Who's outlook do you think was more realistic, Karen's or Gail's? Why?
A. On the one hand, there are both positive and negative aspects to nearly every situation. Each of the girls merely chose which aspect to focus upon. However, from a practical standpoint, a person who chooses to focus on the good will experience a much better life. Furthermore, God created a beautiful world that is bursting with goodness. We have a mitzvah to be happy by focusing on the good.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Which do you think is a more important factor to achieve happiness: a good situation or a good attitude? Why?
A. While certainly some situations are more conducive to happiness than others, it is one's attitude that makes the difference. A person with an optimistic attitude who seeks reasons to be happy will almost always find them. Conversely, someone with a negative focus will always find something wrong. One of the most valuable life-tools we can give ourselves is the development of a positive, optimistic, happiness-producing outlook on life.
Q. Do you think there can be such a thing as a 'perfect' moment or situation? Why or why not?
A. Many of us spend a lot of our time and energy searching for that perfect moment, yet practically no one ever finds it. But why? That is because the nature of the physical world is to not be 100% perfect. Every moment, person or situation is bound to have at least some small thing not to our liking. However, in a deeper sense, when we come to understand that spiritually every moment or event that we experience has been given to us specifically by God as a means to reach our perfection of character, we can reach the breath-taking and deeply satisfying realization that ultimately every moment is the perfect moment.