Not Giving Up
When things go wrong it's tempting to throw up our hands and just give up - but almost always we'll be glad if we pick ourselves up and try again, instead. In this week's Torah portion after the world is devastated by a great flood, Noah and his wife, practically the only survivors, instead of giving up, worked hard to rebuild, raising children, planting crops, etc. and because they didn't give up, we, their descendants are all here today!
In our story, a kid faces the choice of giving up or going higher.
BIRD IN THE HAND
Janet held the charcoal drawing she had just made at arm's length in front of her and felt proud. She'd worked hard and really captured the scene of the bird building its nest in the big oak tree across from her bedroom window. She couldn't wait to bring it to art class tomorrow and enter it in the mid-term exhibition. Maybe she'd even win a prize.
She knew how easily delicate charcoal drawings could get rubbed out, so she went downstairs to get the special fixative spray to spray her drawing and keep it in good shape to bring to school. She'd grabbed the spray and was about to go back upstairs when the phone rang - it was Miriam, her favorite cousin from the West Coast! Well, as it always was with them, a quick 'catch-up' chat had soon turned into a long, heart-to-heart talk and it was nearly an hour before Janet got back to her room.
Unfortunately, the clock wasn't the only thing that changed in the last hour. A windy rainstorm had brewed up and some of the rain had blown in through her open bedroom window. It wet Janet's desk - but that could be wiped up. What couldn't be fixed was her precious charcoal drawing that had now turned into a muddy-looking charcoal mess!!!
"Oh no! This is a disaster!" Janet cried out. "All that work - all that beauty - ruined!"
As the girl slammed her window shut, she noticed that the strong, rainy wind had blown the half-built bird's nest she had been drawing right off the branch.
She leaned her face against the cold glass, and began to cry. She felt miserable and there was nothing she could do about it. There was no way to fix the drawing and she had no time or energy to make another one. She'd just have to explain what happened to her teacher and hope for the best...
Suddenly she felt something warm on her cheek. The rain had stopped and the sun had come out again and was shining brightly through the window. Too little too late, Mr. Sun! The damage has been already done.
As she sadly wiped off her desk, Janet noticed the bird she'd been drawing was fluttering around the branch where its nest used to be. She's probably as depressed as I am, Janet thought. No more nest for you. Hey, what was that in the bird's beak? A twig? She watched amazed, as the bird kept flying off and coming back with another twig, then another until soon the nest was nearly rebuilt.
Wow, Janet thought, that bird is no quitter. She looked down at her now dry desk and her charcoal pencils and drawing pad.
Working quickly and with sure pencil strokes, Janet outlined, then filled in the tree, the branches, the new nest and the heroic bird, who wouldn't give up - and taught her not to give up, either...
Janet smiled widely at the finished drawing. In her eyes it was even nicer than the first one! She sprayed it, and carefully rolled it up, ready to take to school. She didn't know if she would win a prize, but she did know that by not letting the setback bring her down - she was already a winner.
Q. How did Janet first feel when she saw her drawing was ruined?
A. She wanted to just give up and not bring any drawing to school.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She saw how even after the bird's nest was ruined, it didn't give up - but started over again, and she did too.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Janet learned that day?
A. She was ready to quit after the rain ruined the drawing she had been working so hard on. But she was inspired by the bird to pick herself up and learned that you can begin again even after a very hard set-back.
Q. Why do you think Janet felt so good after completing her second drawing?
A. A lot of times set-backs come our way to teach us how to be strong and persevere. When we do - as Janet did - we feel a great sense of accomplishment.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. What advantage do you thing someone could gain from having to overcome numerous setbacks while trying to reach a goal?
A. Though it may not be pleasant - encountering setbacks, and overcoming them is one of the most powerful ways to grow and realize our hidden potentials. When things come too easily, we never have to reach back and discover what we're really made of.
Q. Is there ever a time when it's appropriate to give up and quit?
A. While usually perseverance is a virtue, there are times - especially if we are uncertain whether what we are trying to accomplish is actually worthwhile - that we should make a reasonable effort and if it doesn't work, move on to something new. It takes wisdom to know when to quit and when to try again. This can come with experience and by discussing our situation with experienced people we trust.