Ki Tetzei(Deuteronomy 21:10-25:19)
Focus on the Good
Despite all the harsh treatment and brutal slavery that the Egyptians put the Jewish people through, in this week's Torah portion God instructs the people not to shun the Egyptians, but rather have a sense of appreciation for what they did for us by once hosting us in a time of need. We can learn from here to focus on the good in others and to be careful not to let bad feelings stop us from showing appreciation where it is due.
In this story a kid finds a unique way to get her friends to appreciate what they didn't know they had.
"ROCKING THE BOAT"
Carrie was beginning to feel like it was a lost cause. She had gone up to three kids already and her wallet was still as light as when she started. She saw her friend Debbie bent over her open foot-locker. Okay, one more try, she thought.
"Hi Debbie, what's up?" she said with her best smile.
"Oh, hi Carrie," she answered back brightly. "I know camp isn't over for a couple more days, but I figured why save packing for the last minute? Hey, do you want this econo-sized bottle of conditioner? I hardly made a dent in it."
"No thanks, I have plenty at home too," Carrie said. "Listen, as you know, we all chipped in to buy appreciation presents for the counselors, right?"
"Well we forgot someone."
Carrie cleared her throat. "Um, Susan, the swimming instructor. I was thinking if we each just..."
Debbie cut her off.
"A gift - for HER? Forget it! I'm sorry but after a whole summer of being yelled and treated like a baby, I think giving her nothing is just about what she deserves." The girl turned around and went back to her packing.
Carrie sighed. She felt it just wasn't right to leave out one of the counselors, but nobody else seemed to agree. At least it was boating day today - her favorite activity. Carrie and her bunkmates grabbed the special picnic lunch they had made to celebrate the end of a great summer together and ran down to the lake.
The kids rowed out to the island in the middle of the small lake, tied their boat and started to eat and reminisce. Even from there they could hear the shrill sound of Susan's whistle on the beach at the far end of the pond.
"Well thankfully that's one sound we won't be hearing again," laughed Debbie as she bit into a nectarine.
"Yeah, and you want to give that whistle-happy tyrant a gift?" added Alexis, looking Carrie's way.
"But why not?" asked Carrie. "She's one of the counselors too."
"Because it's called an 'appreciation gift,' and nobody can think of one thing about her to appreciate!" All the kids cracked up at Alexis' sarcastic comment - except for Carrie, who suddenly got an idea.
She stood up, walked quickly over to where the row-boat was docked, and began to untie it.
"Hey, what're you doing?" Debbie asked. "It's not time to go. We just got here."
Debbie's face turned white as Carrie gave the untied boat a kick, sending it off bobbing like a duck in the water.
"Are you nuts?!" cried Alexis. "I can't believe you just did that. Now we're all stuck out here!"
"No we're not," Carrie smiled. "And do you know why not? Because any of us can jump in and swim out to get the boat."
"But what kind of a stunt..."
"I'm not finished," Carrie said. "Do you know why we can swim out and get it? Because..."
"Because Susan taught us how to swim," Debbie interjected, finishing her sentence with her head lowered.
"That's right!" Carrie responded. "Imagine how we'd be feeling now if we couldn't swim? Now don't you think teaching us something as important as swimming deserves a little appreciation - whistle or no whistle?"
The kids nodded silently as Carrie jumped into the water and swam out 20 feet to get the boat. When they got back to the bunk everyone chipped in for the gift, thanks to Carrie, and her dedication to showing appreciation where it was due.
Q. How did Carrie's friends feel about getting Susan a present at first?
A. They felt that since she was mean to them she didn't deserve one.
Q. How did they feel in the end?
A. They remembered that she had taught them to swim and felt grateful to her for that despite her strictness.
Q. Why did Carrie kick the boat out into the water?
A. She wanted her friends to realize that they really had a debt of appreciation to the water counselor. By kicking the boat out of their reach, Carrie helped them see how important it was to know how to swim, and to be grateful to the one who taught them.
Q. Why do you think the kids hadn't been able to see the good Susan had done for them until Carrie did her dramatic stunt?
A. Sometimes when we feel upset or angry with a person for something negative he had done to us, we only focus on the bad and forget about what is good in him. Carrie woke the kids up and made them realize that while it may have been true that Sue was too strict with them, she had also given them something valuable - and worth appreciating.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Is there something positive in everybody?
A. In some people it's easier to see than in others. But there is nobody who doesn't have at least a tiny good point within him. When we put in the effort to discover it we will often be surprised at what we find.
Q. What do we gain by focusing on the positive in people instead of the negative?
A. We have the power of choosing how happy we are going to feel about life by deciding whether to focus on the good we see or the bad. Even more, when we focus on the good in people, our positive outlook begins to rub off on them and helps them to see and strengthen the good parts of themselves and eventually improve. We each have the amazing opportunity to 'zap' the world with positive energy and really make a difference.