Simply Helping Others
Shavuot is the holiday we celebrate God's giving us the Torah. Interestingly, Mt. Sinai, the special mountain God chose to give us the Torah, wasn't the tallest mountain in the world or even the tallest in the area. One of the reasons God chose it, however, was to teach us an important lesson: just like Mt. Sinai, sometimes the greatest things - and people - are the ones that don't seem flashy on the outside.
In our story, a kid discovers a surprising, new definition of greatness.
"Oh no," whispered Jason under his breath as he stared at the notice on the bulletin board outside his classroom.
"FATHER AND SON CROSS-COUNTRY BIKE TRIP!"
Jason felt his heart fill with dread. It wasn't that he didn't like his dad. Of course he did. They did tons of fun stuff together, like fishing and making all kinds of things in his dad's wood shop.
Under normal circumstances, he would have been thrilled to spend a day biking with his dad. But these weren't normal circumstances! He was one of the few kids who attended his exclusive private school on scholarship, because his mom worked in the office, and, after visiting a few of his classmates' super-fancy homes that made his house look like an ant hill, he also realized his dad was quite a bit older than all the other kids' father's were. All he and his dad had were old clunker bicycles and everyone else would probably have the latest mountain bikes. How would he handle the embarrassment of being with his plain old bike - and his plain old dad - around everyone else's great ones? Forget it!
He decided he just wouldn't tell his dad and let the trip pass, but when he arrived home, he found his father in his shop with both their old bikes turned upside down.
"Hey Jase," his dad said. "Your mom called me from work and told me all about the bike trip coming up, so I just thought I'd get our bikes into shape."
So much for not telling him.
"Is anything wrong, son? It's going to be great, no?"
"Yeah, uh, sure, Dad." Jason smiled weakly and headed up to his room. It looked like his fate was sealed.
On the big day, fathers and sons gathered outside the school building waiting for the trip to start. Jason and his dad, dressed in simple sports clothes stood, at Jason's suggestion, off to the side until everyone started to move out. Jason couldn't tell which cost more: the other kids' great bikes, their great gear, or their great biking clothes. As everyone started riding, all the fast bikes left them pulling up the rear.
After riding along for about an hour, Jason noticed ahead of them a boy standing at the side of the road, crying and trying to wave down the bikes just in front of them. He saw how all the fathers and their sons ahead of him were racing past the kid without breaking stride. Jason was about to do the same when he heard the squeak of his dad's brake behind him as he stopped and got off his bike.
"Hey there," he said to the boy. "What seems to be the problem?"
"M-m-m-my dog!" the boy managed to say through his sobs.
"What about your dog?" said Jason's dad
"We were out for a walk and he fell into a big hole and he c-c-can't get out!
"Hmm. That's a big problem. But it just so happens I might have a solution."
"Dad!" whispered Jason. "We're already in last place! How can we take the time to help?"
The two looked at each other, and then his father shook his head, with that serious look he got when he felt something was important.
"How can we not help?" he said simply, and reached into his bike bag. He pulled out a long rope and some other things and before anyone could say anything, they were following the boy to the pit where the dog had fallen.
"Thanks a lot for s-st-stopping," the boy whimpered. "I didn't know what I was gonna do. I'd been standing there s-so long, so many bikes went by but nobody would stop to h-h-h-help me!" he said through a fresh wave of tears.
In less time than you'd think it would take, Jason's dad had pulled out the dog, who was wagging his tail and licking the boy's face like crazy.
"Mister - you're great!" said the kid with a huge smile, as he and his dog ambled off.
Jason's dad smiled and got back on his bike, with Jason following slowly along behind him, thinking hard. He watched the back of his father's head as he began to pick up speed. Soon they were riding right next to each other -- way behind the pack, but Jason didn't care.
"It really was, Dad."
"What's that, son?"
"It was great that you helped him. Like that kid said. Nobody else's father's stopped or did anything. But you did. And even though you didn't have any fancy gear like the other dads, you just took a rope and some stuff and did what you had to do. "
"Yup," said his dad. "Never had much use for that fancy equipment."
"I guess something doesn't need to be fancy, to be great." Jason added, suddenly feeling like he had the best dad in the whole school - maybe the world. "And you know what, Dad?"
"You're great too!"
Q. How did Jason feel at first about going on the bike trip with his dad?
A. He felt ashamed because his dad wasn't as wealthy or as young as the other kids' dads were.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He felt like his dad was great because he stopped to help a kid in trouble when no one else did.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Jason learned that day?
A. He had been feeling down on his father and his life, because his classmates seemed to have richer, more glamorous parents. But when he saw how only his dad cared enough to help a kid in trouble, he realized that his father was greater than the others, where it really counted.
Q. What do you think makes someone great?
A. Greatness comes from the inside. It's not about looks, wealth, fame, or even talent. It's all about character, kindness and values.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Our sages teach that genuine wisdom is like water and it only flows down to the humble. Why do you think that might be so?
A. A lot of wisdom has to do with being willing to listen and learn. Someone too full of himself won't do that. Also, wisdom and character go hand in hand. A person of haughty character may well be smart, even a genius, but he can never be truly wise.
Q. Our sages also teach that in the future spiritual world of truth, many of those who seem now to be on top are really on the bottom and many who seem to be on the bottom are really on top. What do you think this means?
A. People often value in others external things like good looks, fame, natural talent or the size of his bank account, putting people like that 'on top' regardless of who they are inside. However, in the spiritual reality of the world of truth, toward which we are all heading, those things don't count for much, rather the currency is true inner wisdom, healthy values and good character traits. Someone could walk around full of these things, but still appear 'low' in people's eyes if his externals aren't flashy.