Dressing Up Someone's Day
It is so important not to embarrass other people, and unless we really think about it, it's possible to hurt people's feelings without even knowing it. This week's portion gives us a specific reminder to be extra careful not to hurt or embarrass people with our words.
In our story, a kid finds a creative way to avoid embarrassing her friend.
"OFF THE RACK"
Beverly always had mixed feelings when she dropped off a bag of used clothing at The Depot, the local second-hand clothing store. This store sold the used clothing at very cheap prices for people who couldn't afford to buy their clothing at regular stores, giving it the not-so-nice nickname, 'the poor people's store.'
On the one hand it felt good to clean out her overstuffed closet of so many outdated outfits that thankfully her family could afford. Yet somehow each outfit, even though she had hardly worn a lot of them, sort of felt like an old friend. It was a bit hard to say goodbye.
'Well enough of this,' she thought as she was about to dump the bag into the drop-off box at the back of the store. Suddenly she heard a familiar voice from the other end of the story. She looked up, surprised to see her friend Liz walk in with her younger sister. 'Are they dropping off clothing too?'
Beverly noticed that they came in empty-handed, and they were going up and down the racks like they were trying to pick out clothes.
It didn't make sense. Why would a couple of well off kids like them be shopping in the 'poor people's store'?
Suddenly it clicked. Beverly remembered hearing how Liz's dad had lost his job a while ago. Even though Liz had laughed it off at the time, she had also stopped coming with Bev and the gang when they would go off to the mall and stock up on the latest fashions.
'Wow, things must be harder for them than I thought,' sighed Beverly. She watched from across the store, without being seen by the girls who were picking through the used clothing bins. Beverly was about to go over to them and say 'hi' when it dawned on her how embarrassed Liz would feel if she knew she had seen her. But what could she do? They were moving her way, and there was no other exit or way to get out of sight, short of jumping into the drop-off box!
She braced for what was sure to be a very embarrassing encounter for her friend, when suddenly she got an idea.
She quickly dug a few of the outfits from her drop-off bag and emptied the rest onto one of the tables. She held up one of the outfits in front of herself as if she was looking it over.
"Oh hi Liz!" Beverly said in her best, surprised voice. "Do you shop here too?"
The two sisters looked at her and started to blush. "Um, well, you know we were just..." Liz started to mumble, but Beverly cut her off.
"Oh, I thought this was just my little secret. I don't know why more people don't shop here. I found some of the nicest things here at a really great price. Why waste money at the mall for no reason, right?"
Beverly smiled brightly, and was happy to see Liz and her sister looking relieved and much more relaxed. "So what do you think of this outfit for me?" she asked, holding up one of her own outfits. "It looks practically brand new! I think I'm gonna take it. You know I saw a lot of nice stuff over there," she said pointing to the clothing she just brought. "I'm done shopping for now, but I bet there's some stuff that would be perfect for the two of you."
With that, she grabbed her outfit and brought it to the sales counter, waving to the now smiling sisters. She paid for (her own) dress and left the store before the confused sales woman could ask any questions.
The next morning, Beverly's mom noticed her heading out for school wearing the outfit. "Hey, didn't you drop off that one at The Depot?" she asked surprised.
"Well, Mom, I was going to, until I realized how I could do an even bigger act of kindness by keeping it instead."
Q. How do you thing Liz would have felt if she knew her friend was dropping off clothing at the used clothing store while she was there to buy things?
A. She would have felt embarrassed to see her there.
Q. How did she feel after Beverly pretended to be buying things too?
A. She felt that since Beverly was shopping there too, there was no reason to feel embarrassed.
Q. Why did Beverly do what she did instead of just going up to her friends and saying 'hi'?
A. She realized that if her friend, Liz, who could once afford to shop at exclusive stores and now had to buy second-hand, saw she was dropping off clothes, it would make her feel inferior and embarrassed, so she came up with a good way to let her friend save face - by pretending she was shopping there too.
Q. Is not having a lot of money and buying things second-hand something to be embarrassed about?
A. Though it's understandable that someone might feel embarrassed in Liz's situation, and Beverly was right to be sensitive of her feelings, Liz really had nothing to be embarrassed about. As long as a person is trying to do good and live a life of proper values she needn't feel embarrassed regardless of whether she is rich or poor, good looking or ugly etc., and vice-versa.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Do you think Beverly was being untruthful by saying she was there shopping when she was really dropping off clothes?
A. Truthfulness is much more than a matter of stating correct or incorrect facts. The Torah permits one to change his words in order to save someone from embarrassment. In this case, by pretending to be shopping to save her friends' embarrassment, Beverly, in a higher sense, was being much more truthful than if she had merely told them the straight facts. But this can be done in only rare instances and no one should ever get into the habit of telling a 'white lie' even when it's justified.
Q. Our sages teach that if a formerly rich person loses his money and requires charity, we should give him more than someone who was always poor. Why do you think that is? Do you agree or do you think it is fairer to support everyone equally?
A. Someone who was always poor has grown used to it, and doesn't feel the same degree of pain about the situation as someone who was once wealthy and now must make do on much less. Therefore, the sages guide us to be sensitive to his predicament, and give him more, even if it means giving less to the other.