Follow Your Own Mind
Without even knowing it, we can be swept along by other people's opinions, and do, say, and think things we don't even believe. In this week's Torah portion, a lot of good people were swept away to join Korach in his unjust rebellion against Moses and had to pay a heavy price. The Torah wants us think independently and speak our own minds - not just follow the crowd.
In our story, a kid finds out how much better it feels to follow his own mind instead of the crowd.
One thing I really like about the zoo is when the displays - like this poisonous snake exhibit - are behind thick glass so you get to see the dangerous animals right up close and don't have to keep your distance. And it's a good thing, because who has time to keep my distance from pythons and boa constrictors when I'm so busy keeping my distance from Larry?
Now you're probably wondering what's so bad about Larry, right? Well, I'll tell you the truth, there is really nothing so bad about him. Actually, if this class trip was just a few weeks ago instead of today, I would probably be spending most of my time right next to Larry, laughing and joking around because he and I are - or I should say were best friends.
Uh oh, wait a minute - here comes Larry now. Let me get out of here and move over to the next display then I'll tell you more.
Yeah, so as I was saying, Larry and I were once best friends but something changed. What changed was me. I don't know - just a lot of the cool kids - the kids who everyone sort of follows and wants to be like - they started saying Larry wasn't cool and was actually a nerd.
I guess I could hear it. He doesn't really dress the style or keep up with the latest music or anything. None of those things really ever bothered me about him and besides, he's just so fun to talk to and joke around with - really smart and nice too ... but since the crowd thinks he's a nerd and I sure don't want them to think I'm a nerd too, I started keeping my distance from him.
Oh, here he comes - time to move on again. Rodent exhibit - why not?
Yeah, that's what I did. At first, he seemed really confused. I can't blame him. How would you feel if your best friend started avoiding you like the bubonic plague? Then I think he got the message a couple days later when he saw me hanging out with the cool crowd and heard some of the nasty names they threw his way. I didn't call him any names, but I didn't really act like it bothered me, either.
Hey, what are these funny little animals behind the glass? 'Lemmings' What in the world are those? Hang on a second, while I read the sign:
Wow, talk about stupid animals! Who in his right mind would jump off a cliff just to follow the crowd? Who cares what the crowd does? Man, if Larry were here, he and I would be rolling on the floor laughing at these idiotic rodents. Of course, Larry's not here, because like I told you, I stopped hanging out with him because the crowd ... um, the crowd said...
Now wait a minute. I know what you're probably thinking - I'm acting like one of those lemmings, just following the crowd, right? Well, I'm not! They follow the crowd to do something stupid - something they would never do if they used their own brains. But I ... I just decided to drop Larry, because ... well, because ... um...
Hey, we'll talk later. Here comes Larry now...
Sorry it took me so long to get back to you. I just had to do something first. I had to wait for Larry to come so I could tell him I'm sorry and ask him if he wanted to do the rest of the zoo together. He said 'sure' so I've gotta go. Why should I give up a good friend like him just because of some dumb crowd? After all, I do have a little more brains in my head than a rodent!
Q. How did the kid in the story feel about dumping his best friend at first?
A. He felt it was the right choice, because all the kids said his friend was a nerd.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He felt he was being dumb for giving up a friend he really liked just because of what the crowd said.
Q. What life lesson do you think someone could learn from this story?
A. A lot of times we pay too much attention to what other people think and don't do what we really believe in. This kid got over that and made up with a friend he really liked and had only dropped because of the crowd.
Q. Do you think he made the right choice? Why or why not?
A. It's not easy to put your reputation at stake by doing something unpopular. But a brave person - like the kid in the story - is willing to risk even that to be true to what he really feels inside.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. How can we know if we're living the way we really want to inside or just following along with the crowd?
A. It's not always easy to know. But one test is to ask ourselves if we would be doing this even if no one was around or if it wasn't what the people around us were saying or doing? Sometimes it helps to explore this question in a journal, to talk it over with someone we trust-or even to spend some time alone and talk it over with God.
Q. In your opinion, is there anything potentially positive about giving in to peer-pressure or conforming to the crowd?
A. While often it's a negative force that stops us from being real-it has one good use: If we know we want to behave a certain positive way or live up to a certain positive value, but find ourselves blowing it and giving in to negative drives, we can put ourselves in with a crowd who value and live up to what we want to achieve and let their pressure become a set of wings to lift us to where we want to be.