Family Parsha Parshat Shmot: Trying Our Best
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Shmot(Exodus 1:1-6:1)

Trying Our Best

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OVERVIEW

Sometimes it's possible to do the impossible. In this week's Portion, Batya, the daughter of Pharaoh, saw baby Moses floating in a basket down the Nile river. She wanted to save him from drowning, and even though he seemed impossibly out of reach, she stuck out her arm to try anyway. God miraculously gave her the power to reach him (Ex: 22:5 - Rashi). When it comes to doing something good, for ourselves or for others, even if it seems to be out of reach, we shouldn't give up. We should try our best and let God do the rest. We'll often be amazed to see how much good we can accomplish, if we are only willing to try.

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STORY

In our story, a group of kids discover the miracles that can happen when we try to do good.

"DANNY'S PARK"

      Most kids look forward to school vacation, but for my friends and me, it was torture. Sure, our apartment complex is nice looking, with clean sidewalks and cool elevators in every building. But I think whoever built it just forgot that someday kids might live here or something, because there was absolutely no place for us to play. Nobody had his own yard, and there weren't any playgrounds, either. So we kids would all just spend the long, boring days of school vacation, hanging around with nothing to do.

      During one of those boring days, I was sitting on the front steps of our building with a couple of my friends. The adults who walked by would sometimes give us mean looks that said 'What are you doing here?' Didn't they know we had nothing else to do?

      After spending a while watching people pass by, we saw a strange sight. There was Danny, a kid from the next building, walking by like a soldier, holding a rake and a bucket full of tools. "Hey, what's up Danny?" I called out.

      He put down his stuff. "Steven, I'm tired of being bored," he said.

      "Yeah, who isn't? So what?"

      He looked up at me with a strange glow in his eyes. "So I decided I'm going to make everyone a playground."

      I looked at him, and then over at my friends to make sure I heard right. From the shocked expressions on their faces, I could see that I had. "What in the world are you talking about?" I asked.

      Danny told us his plan how he was going to clean up the old parking lot around the side of the building that nobody ever used, and make the lot and the grass around it into a kind of park for kids to play in. Frankly, we thought he was nuts and we weren't afraid to tell him so. How could one kid make a playground spring up out of nowhere?

      Danny just smiled and said, "It has to be done, so I'm going to do it. You're welcome to come help out. If not, I'll just do it myself."

      With nothing better to do, my buddies and I decided to tag along. If nothing else, watching this kid try to do something impossible would provide us with a little entertainment.

      Sure enough, he started raking up all the leaves and garbage that had accumulated over the years and stuffed it into some trash bags he had brought. The place looked a little better, but it was a long way from being a park. Meanwhile, a few other kids who were passing by stopped to see what was going on, and a couple even started helping out when Danny told them what he was doing. One kid brought out a hand lawn mower to cut the overgrown grass, and someone else brought out some old chairs, and began nailing them together to make park benches.

      Soon enough, all this commotion caught the attention of old Al, the community security guard. When he drove up, I was sure that he would put a quick end to this whole crazy scheme. Boy was I surprised when after Danny explained to him what he was doing, the guard smiled and told us it was no problem. He said he was glad to see us doing something constructive.

      Meanwhile, more kids had gathered and it had become a kind of party with everyone thinking of another way to turn this old parking lot into a playground. A couple of kids were planting flowers, and somebody's mom had sent drinks and cups for Danny to pass out to the whole crew.

      "What do you say now, Steven?" he asked me, as he handed me my drink.

      I looked the place over and it was really shaping up. But ... "Danny, I don't mean to be a killjoy, but this still isn't a park. I mean, where is all the equipment? You know, swings and stuff?"

      I thought he'd be stumped - after all, how could a bunch of kids ever get that stuff? But he wasn't put off.

      "You're right, we need it ... there must be a way we can get it," he said. He scratched his head, and after a minute, his eyes lit up again. "I've got it! I'll be right back ... I need to make a phone call."

      What was Danny up to now? It didn't take long to find out because soon a car drove up from WJFK, the local radio station! It seems that Danny's uncle was a reporter there and he was always looking for a scoop. He came to give a live report about the kids who were making their own park. Danny told him the story, and added, "All we need is some playground equipment to make the park complete. Maybe someone out there would like to help us out."

      I guess people liked the story because the very next day Danny's uncle came driving back, but this time with a truck behind him full of new-looking playground equipment! There were swings, slides, and even a couple of basketball hoops attached to tall poles. It was unbelievable! Apparently, a lot of people who heard the story wanted to help out. One company even sent some workers to help set things up! I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't seen it, but Danny had done it again. I guess he was right - if it had to be done, it would be.

      Within a few days we were all playing in our own beautiful new playground. The apartment management was all for it and even gave it some official name on a plaque. But all of us called it "Danny's Park," named after the amazing kid who was willing to try and made his impossible dream come true.

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QUESTIONS

Ages 3-5

Q. How did Steven feel about Danny's idea at first?
A. He felt like it would never work, and Danny was just dreaming.

Q. How did he feel at the end, after the park was made?
A. He saw that it really was possible to do great things if you aren't afraid to try.


Ages 6-9

Q. Why do you think Danny was successful?
A. He saw there was a problem - the kids had nothing to do. But instead of giving up, he decided to jump in and try to solve it, even though it seemed almost impossible. And he succeeded. When we take the first step and sincerely try to do something good, many times God sends us the help we need to make it happen in the most incredible ways. We just have to be willing to try.

Q. What can a person do to overcome the fear of trying?
A. One big thing is to tell ourselves that success or failure is really not in our hands, that each of us is really one of God's agents to put more good and light into the world. Our job is just to try and let God do the rest. If we succeed, great, but even if we don't we can feel good about ourselves for trying. Once we stop taking it so personally, we will no longer feel afraid.

Q. Can you think of a dream you would like to try to make happen but think is impossible?


Ages 10 and Up

Q. Why do you think some people accomplish great things, and others do not?
A. A person's talents and life circumstance have something to do with it, but really it mostly has to do with desire, and a willingness to attempt greatness. Each of us has the God-given potential for greatness within us. Those who succeed are those who are willing to make the effort and take the risks necessary to bring it out. It's our life to live so let's make the most of it.

Q. What is the definition of success and failure?
A. Contrary to what many believe, success and failure has little to do with what we have, or accomplish. A successful person is one who strives to discover what are life's genuine worthwhile goals and values, and applies himself toward reaching them. A failure is one who ignores this pursuit. It is as simple as that.

Q. Can you think of a dream you would like to try to make happen but think is impossible?


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Published: January 10, 2004

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