"A tough job needs to get done, and somebody's got to do it." Do these words make us feel like jumping in there ... or running the other way? In this week's portion we learn about the people who were assigned the complicated, and difficult responsibility of taking apart the Mishkan, the portable Tabernacle, and carrying all the parts every time the people would travel on their long journeys though the desert. It wasn't the lowliest of the people who got 'stuck' with this burden; it was the Levites, the elite among the people, who felt it a privilege to do this tough job. Those who are willing to do what needs to be done realize that taking on responsibility is not a burden, but in fact one of the greatest sources of pleasure.
In our story, two friends learn the value of taking on responsibility.
"STEPPING UP TO BAT"
Two out, and the bases were loaded. Greg, the Bears' star pitcher, bore down on the Eagles' batter. He wound up, and let the pitch fly. The batter swung for all he was worth...
"Strike three!! Game over!"
The Bears had won, 3-2. It had been a great game, full of tight competition, excitement, and a last minute victory. The happy winners hit the locker room in high spirits.
Stuart Barron had just finished taking a shower and was surprised to see Greg already dressed and on his way out. "Hey superstar, what's your big rush?" he asked.
Greg smiled uneasily, as he quickly slung his carry bag over his shoulder. "I've gotta duck outta here before coach comes in. Otherwise I'll get stuck having to help..."
That second the locker room door flew open and in walked Coach Howard. "Oh no! Too late," muttered Greg under his breath.
"Great game, guys!" yelled Coach Howard. "I know you're all beat, but as usual, I need a volunteer to help me bring some equipment back into the school building. Any takers? Or do I need to volunteer someone?"
Stuart looked around. Suddenly the noisy locker room had become very quiet, and all the guys seemed to be finding it very interesting to stare at their feet. Nobody liked doing the tiresome job of putting away equipment after a game.
Stuart shrugged. He liked the coach and figured it would be nice to spend some time with him. And besides, the stuff did need to be brought in.
"I'll do it coach - soon as I finish getting changed," Stuart piped up, much to the other boys' relief.
Coach Howard smiled. "Great! I'll see you back out on the field," he said walking out the door.
Stuart suddenly felt a hard slap on the back. He wheeled around to see Greg smirking.
"Hey Stuart! Thanks for being the sucker ... I mean volunteer, and getting us off the hook!" he laughed running out of the locker room.
As Stuart got dressed, he started feeling real bad. "Maybe I really am being a sucker?" he thought to himself.
He slowly gathered his belongings and went out to the field where the coach was waiting.
"We'll start by gathering up the bases.."
Stuart realized it was going to be hard work. "What have I gotten myself into?" he thought to himself.
But as they went around the field, it really wasn't so bad. Coach Howard told Stuart a lot of interesting stories about his old days in the Minor Leagues. And as they were gathering up the bats, the coach stopped, and picked one up.
"This is how we used to grip the bat" he said "Nobody does it like this anymore, but try it once in a while, you'll fool the pitcher, and get a hit every time."
After the job was done, Stuart felt great. He had gotten to know the coach much better, and learned a whole lot too. Stuart decided to volunteer after the next couple of games as well, and soon he took it on as his set job. Even though his friends would make fun of him for being a 'slave,' Stuart actually started to enjoy the responsibility and began to look forward to it almost as much as the games themselves.
One day, after a vigorous practice, the coach called the team together for a special meeting.
"Guys," he said, "I've decided that this team needs a captain."
The kids perked up, as the coach continued. "And I think there is only one logical choice for the position."
Greg, being the star pitcher, broke out into a wide smile, confident that he was about to be named as captain.
"The captain has to be a guy who takes responsibility, and is ready to do whatever it takes to get the job done. So, Stuart - please stand up and take your new captain's hat!"
All the guys cheered - even Greg who deep down realized that Stuart was the right choice. They had come to respect Stuart's sense of responsibility, as well as the way his playing had improved thanks to the coach's special tips. Stuart beamed, as he placed the special cap on his head. He felt grateful that instead of running away from responsibility, he had chosen to volunteer himself onto a winning path.
Q. How did most of the boys feel when the coach was looking for help?
A. They didn't want to do it since they felt it was a burden.
Q. How did Stuart feel in the end about taking on the job?
A. He felt great. Not only because it helped him become captain, but also because it felt good to be helpful and responsible.
Q. Why do you think Stuart got named as team captain even though Greg was the star?
A. Greg might have been a better ball player, but Stuart had a quality that was in many ways much more valuable. Whereas Greg and the other kids tried to run away from responsibility, Stuart wasn't afraid to step in and take it on. This showed the coach that he also had the capacity to take on the responsibility of being captain.
Q. Why do some people resist taking on work or responsibility?
A. Part of it is because it's human nature to want to take it easy. We feel that the more we have to do, the harder our lives will be. But in truth, when we take on a new responsibility, we not only grow from it, but we also come to experience a special type of satisfaction and pleasure that we would never otherwise feel.
Q. How do you feel when your mother or father asks you do to something?
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Who do you think enjoys life more: someone who has total leisure time and can lay back and have fun all day, or somebody who is very active, busily involved with a number of complicated projects? Why?
A. We might think the first one has it better, but actually he would probably get very bored very fast. A big rule of life is that busy people are happy people. Keeping active energizes us, and gives us a feeling that we are accomplishing something with the very valuable, yet limited gift called life.
Q. To get this feeling, does it make a difference what we keep busy with, or is it merely enough just to keep busy?
A. An interesting aspect of human nature is that as long as a person is doing something - anything, he will feel a certain low level of accomplishment. This is the appeal of many addictive habits and many forms of entertainment. It feels better than doing nothing. However there is no comparison between that and the richly satisfying feeling that one gets when he is actively keeping himself involved in something of genuine value and purpose. Part of taking on responsibility is to take the hard work of figuring your priorities and how to best devote your time and energies.
Q. How do you feel when your mother or father asks you do to something?