Say Little, Do Much
Many times a person's actions speak louder than their words. Impressive sounding promises and claims are worth very little if they are not backed up by deeds. In fact when it comes to doing good to others, a person should try to do even more for somebody than he committed himself to do. We learn this good trait in this week's Torah portion from our ancestor Abraham. When Abraham invited some weary desert travelers to stay at his home as guests, he offered them a light snack, thinking they would not be embarrassed to accept such a small bite to eat. But then he and his wife Sarah prepared them a feast fit for a king! Like Abraham, we should try our best to say little and do much.
In our story we meet a girl who lets her actions do her talking.
Carol Linder didn't know what to do. Her parents were coming home from their ten-day vacation the next morning and her house was a major MESS. She really meant to keep the house neat but as she put off the clean up for 'just one more day,' things really started piling up.
That whole day in school she had trouble concentrating as images of dirty dishes and disappointed parents kept swimming in her head. At lunch break Carol got an idea. She walked over to the next table where two of her friends, Jill and Marci, were eating and sat down next to them.
"Hi Carol!" said Jill "That was a great get-together at your house the other night. We were just talking about it."
Carol smiled. "Er ... well, speaking of the party..." she said, "I'm glad everybody liked it, but it really trashed the house. Do you think that you guys might be able to come over this afternoon to help me straighten things up? My parents are coming home tomorrow and..."
"No problem!" Jill cut her off with a dramatic wave of the hand. "You can count on me. I'll come by right after school and I'll take care of everything!"
"That's great, Jill. Thanks."
"What do you say Marci?" Jill asked looking at the other girl.
"I can't promise, but I'll try to come," Marci answered matter-of-factly.
Later that afternoon Carol heard the doorbell ring. "Oh great! That must be Jill, just like she said," thought Carol.
She rushed to open the door and was surprised to see Marci, standing there with a mop and bucket in hand! "Well let's get to work!" Marci said with a cheerful smile.
The girls set to work. Minutes turned into hours as Marci led the way, working non-stop sweeping, mopping, dusting, scrubbing, shining, and straightening until they finally stopped to take a breather. Carol's house looked more like a five-star hotel.
"Wow Marci, I don't know what to say. You really came through and saved the day!" beamed Carol.
It was nearly nighttime when the girls sat down to a cold drink. Just then they heard a soft knocking at the door. It was Jill. "Um, hi guys," she said sheepishly. "I'm here to help out, but I've got to go in a few minutes, OK?"
"Well if you want you can join us for a drink," Carol said, "but thanks to Marci the job's already done."
Q. Which of her friends did Carol expect to help her more?
A. Jill, because she promised so much and Marci didn't.
Q. In the end who really helped out more?
A. Marci. She promised little but did a lot.
Q. What reveals more about a person's true character: what he says or what he does? Why?
A. While words are important and do tell us something about a person, actions reveal much more. Often a person might say something to give a certain impression or because he feels that it is what he is 'supposed' to say. How a person actually behaves can really help you know how he feels inside.
Q. Why do you think that Carol was surprised to see Marci when she first opened the door?
A. When Carol had first asked her friends for help, it was Jill, not Marci who seemed enthusiastic. But unlike Jill who promised a lot yet ended up doing very little, Marci let her deeds do her talking by doing much more than she said she would.
Q. Which kind of friend would you rather have (or be)?
Q. Why do you think people promise to do much more than they end up doing?
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Why do you think it is better to promise less and do more rather than simply promise what you really think you can do?
A. One of the highest values is integrity. A big part of this is the ability to stand behind one's word. Often when we make big promises we may even hope or expect to fulfill them. Yet perhaps we have over-estimated or not considered a factor, which might prevent us from doing what we said. In such a case we may end up letting down and actually harming someone that we have intended to help. By being modest with our promises, and then trying our best to give as much as we can we will often exceed our commitments and leave others pleasantly surprised.
Q. Are there any exceptions when it is advisable to make large commitments? A. There are times when we want to do something valuable yet difficult, but we suspect that we might lose our courage to do so. At such times if we express our intentions to others, we might provide ourselves with enough self-imposed 'peer pressure' to see it through. Likewise when we want to encourage others to do something worthwhile, if we publicly announce our intention to also do so, it could help to lift others up.