The sign of a real leader is someone who isn't afraid to consider the points of view of the people he's leading, and even being willing to change his mind. In this Torah portion, a group of women expressed their opinion about a certain matter to Moses, the leader of the Jewish people. Moses carefully considered their point of view and took the matter up with God. In the end, he did as the women suggested.
In our story, a kid makes an unexpected discovery about leadership.
"ON SECOND THOUGHT"
Margo stood her ground, arms crossed tightly and wearing her best 'I'm-in-charge' look, as she peered down at the young camper.
"But it's not fair!" Tracy persisted. "The way you set up the chart, I have to clean the bunk almost twice as many times as the other kids. If you just switch Cindy with Beth and put me down there, it will all be even."
Margo sternly shook her head.
"But won't you just look at this new schedule I made? You'll see how it's better and..."
Margo angrily grabbed the paper out of the kid's hand. "Forget it Tracy, there's nothing to talk about. I'm the counselor and I make the rules. And if you don't stop arguing with me right now and join the rest of the kids outside, I'll see that you miss out on the next free swimming session."
Tracy lowered her head and, mumbling something under her breath, stomped away.
It was Margo's first summer as assistant camp counselor. It was a lot of fun, but hard work too, especially when kids like Tracy gave her a hard time. She was really looking forward to her day off that was coming up at the end of the week. Maybe she'd go home and see her parents or maybe just stay local and relax at her cousin's bungalow or maybe...
"Knock, knock, anybody home?" Margo turned around. It was Linda, the head counselor, on a surprise bunk inspection.
"How're things going Margo?"
"Um, super. No problems at all," Margo answered tensely as Linda glanced around the neat and tidy bunk.
"Looks good," Linda smiled. "Keep it up. Oh, by the way," she added "we're going to have to postpone your day off for a different week." Margo's face fell as Linda went on. "We're having staff elections that day so you have to be here to vote."
What terrible luck, Margo thought. Why of all days did it have to be that one? Then she got an idea.
"Uh, Linda, do you think maybe we could have the election the next day instead? I don't think that's anyone's day off."
"Sorry, the decision's been made."
"But...but I really need a break. I have a good idea. How about you just give me my ballot the day before and I'll vote early, or you can..."
Linda's face was beginning to turn red. "Listen Margo. I don't want to hear any more 'good ideas' from you. I am the head counselor here and I decide what will be." With that, she turned and walked out of the bunk.
Margo felt crushed. It was so unfair. Why did she have to miss her day off? And even more, why did Linda have to be so bossy and not even listen to her ideas that would have solved the problem?
She looked at her watch. The campers would be coming back any minute and she was about to start getting things ready for the next activity when she noticed that she was holding an unfamiliar piece of paper in her hand. What's this? she asked herself. Oh, Tracy's schedule she wanted me to look at. Hah! That kid has some nerve to think I'd consider an idea from a mere camper.
Margo crumpled up the paper and was about to toss it, when she had a thought. Wait a minute! I'm doing the same thing Linda did to me! A good idea is a good idea, no matter who thought of it... and maybe Tracy really does have a good idea.
She straightened the page out again and looked it over. Hmm, the kid is really right. Her schedule made a lot of sense and was actually fairer than the one she had made.
That second all the campers piled in, turning the bunk into a noisy jungle. Margo called Tracy over.
"Tracy," she said with an open smile, "I looked over your schedule and we might have something to talk about after all."
Q. How did Margo feel at first about Tracy's idea?
A. She felt that because she was older than Tracy and a counselor, she shouldn't listen to her.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She felt that even if you are somebody's leader, you can still try to be fair and see if what he has to say is a good idea.
Q. What life lesson did Margo learn from everything that happened?
A. She had assumed that the right way to be a leader was just to dictate to people and refuse to consider their opinions. After she saw how bad she felt the way her boss, Linda, had refused to consider her opinion, she realized that she should be willing to consider what the campers had to say.
Q. Do you think that Tracy respected Margo less or more after she admitted that her way was better?
A. It might seem that Tracy would respect her less, after all she knew something Margo didn't, but really she would have respected her more for being fair and admitting when she was wrong.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Do you think there can be ever times when we shouldn't stop and consider other people's opinions?
A. Some things we simply know are right, such as positive, healthy values. If people with unhealthy values want us to consider their opinions against these, we have nothing to gain - and plenty to lose - by even considering what they have to say.
Q. A great sage once said that as much as he learned from his teachers, he learned even more from his students. What do you think this means?
A. If a teacher is humble enough to take seriously the opinions and questions of a sincere student, he will become clearer in his own understanding and discover things he would otherwise never know.