Family Parsha Parshat Vayeira: Seeing the Good in People
click here to jump to start of article
Join Our Newsletter

Get latest articles and videos with Jewish inspiration and insights​




Vayeira(Genesis 18-22)

Seeing the Good in People


It's easy to see what's good about some people. Their virtues just seem to shine. But sometimes it's not so easy, and it seems like we have to use a magnifying glass to find something good in a person. Our forefather, Abraham, found himself in such a situation when God told him He wanted to destroy the evil city of Sodom. Although they were pretty bad, and Abraham could have easily kept quiet and went along - he didn't. He searched and searched to try to find some good quality even there, which might persuade God to give them another chance. Like Abraham, when we are willing to seek out the hidden good qualities in others (and ourselves), we not only help to bring more good into the world, but we can help people to change for the better.

 


In our story, a class learns a lesson about the power of seeing the good.

"A TOUCH OF CLASS"

No one was really surprised when we first saw a new teacher walk into the class. After all, this was already the third new teacher this year. Our class was trouble and everybody knew it. It seemed as if every troublemaker in the whole school had gotten lumped together in one class.

I took a close look at this new teacher. She looked nice enough, with a sweet smile on her face. But then again they all smile at the beginning, until they find out what kind of class they're up against. Then the smiles usually turn into big, mean frowns.

Kathy, the girl sitting next to me, caught me day-dreaming. "Hey Judy," she said as she poked me on the shoulder, "How long do you think this one's gonna last? A week?"

I giggled, but deep down I wished that we could just be a normal class, with one, normal teacher.

The class began, and sure enough everybody was on their best (lousy) behavior. Kathy was chatting with a kid in another class on her cell-phone. Amy was snapping her fingers and humming pretty loud, her walkman headphones barely hidden behind her bushy hair, and the Cutler twins were nearly rolling on the floor with hysterical laughter for no apparent reason. And I was, let's just say, in dreamland.

Yet in the middle of all this, Mrs. Sanders, the teacher, just kept on calmly teaching as if it was the most normal class in the world. Toward the end of the class, the teacher closed the book she was teaching from, and stood up as if she was going to give a speech.

"Here it comes," Kathy elbowed me, "the lecture about what a rotten group of kids we are..."

We had all heard it before. But instead of a lecture, what Mrs. Sanders said nearly knocked me off my chair.

Still smiling, she looked at us and said, "I just wanted to tell you all how excited I am to have such a great class."

Was this a joke? I thought. But she didn't stop there. "You guys are all full of such energy. Some classes just sit there like frozen stones, but you kids are so alive! I'm sure we're going to have a great year together!"

It blew us away. None of us had ever heard that kind of talk before, especially from a teacher. The next day was nearly as wild as the first, but Mrs. Sanders seemed to still really like us. She even told one of the twins that she had a nice-sounding laugh. After a while, as the days and weeks went on, something amazing started happening in our class. I'm not sure why - maybe the teacher's confidence in us was contagious or something - but we started to change. Suddenly I found myself daydreaming less and paying attention more. Kathy kept her cell phone off, and the twins only laughed when something was really funny.

Of course Mrs. Sanders kept pointing out to us how we were growing, often even before we noticed it ourselves. It was incredible how her words kept coming true. We were really starting to learn. I don't have to tell you that it was the most incredible school year any of us had ever had. Thanks to the teacher who saw the good in us and helped us see it in ourselves, we changed from a group of first class troublemakers into a first class class!

 


Ages 3-5

Q. How did the kids feel when the new teacher first arrived?
A. They felt like the teacher wasn't going to like them, since they thought they weren't good kids.

Q. How did they feel once they got to know the teacher?
A. They saw that she liked them and thought they could succeed, so they started behaving better too.

Ages 6-9

Q. Why do you think that the class made such a big turn-around for the better once the new teacher arrived?
A. Up until then, Judy and her classmates saw themselves as a bunch of no-good troublemakers. But when the new teacher arrived, she was able to focus on what was good about the kids and this helped them to see themselves in a better light. The students started to believe in themselves and expect more from themselves. It followed naturally that their behavior would improve to match up with the new way they were looking at themselves.

Q. How can someone benefit from searching for the good qualities within himself?
A. A lot of times a person can get down on himself and focus on his weaknesses rather than his strengths. This is a time to make a special effort to try to find even one little good thing about himself, then another. Pretty soon he'll start to see his whole mood and outlook become much sunnier. This is a powerful tool to live a happier, more productive life.

Q. What are some good qualities you see in your family and friends?

Ages 10 and Up

Q. Why do you think the new teacher's attitude had such a powerful effect on the class?
A. A person's behavior is quite often a reflection of his self-image. As long as the class pictured themselves as troublemakers, their behavior reflected that. Mrs. Sanders' optimistic approach emphasized their good qualities and helped the class to think better of themselves and therefore behave better as well.

Q. Can it be that some people just don't have any good qualities?
A. Everyone has virtues. While it's true that in some people the good qualities may be hard to find, if you search enough eventually you'll discover something good within anyone. Each person is a creation of God, and is made in God's image. That alone gives each individual tremendous value. The more you look for virtues in others, the more you'll naturally like them.

Q. What are some good qualities you see in your family and friends?

 

Published: October 19, 2002

Give Tzedakah! Help Aish.com create inspiring
articles, videos and blogs featuring timeless Jewish wisdom.

Submit Your Comment:

  • Display my name?

  • Your email address is kept private. Our editor needs it in case we have a question about your comment.


  • * required field 2000
Submit Comment
stub