Chayei Sarah(Genesis 23:1-25:18)
Each of us is unique, and each of us has a unique way we can be great. In this week's Torah portion we learn about the second of our forefathers, Isaac. Isaac's personality and way of doing things were very different from his father, Abraham. Yet in his own unique way Isaac became great and we can too!
In our story, a kid discovers that the greatest thing to be is himself.
A DIFFERENT STORY
Maya glanced at her watch. The little kids would be showing up any minute. The girl felt a little nervous. Her sister, Jill, had asked her to fill in for her as leader of her babysitting playgroup while she was away for a month, and Maya knew she had big shoes to fill.
Her big sister's playgroup had the reputation of being the best in town. And no wonder - Jill was a one-girl, high-energy ball of fun. Whenever Maya would assist her, she'd be amazed at how Jill kept the kids busy and happy with a non-stop barrage of games, songs and activities. Frankly, Maya, who was a much quieter, dreamy kind of kid, would feel exhausted just watching her.
But she had taken notes and written down everything Jill would normally do with the kids. She figured she'd just do the same things and hopefully everything would go smoothly.
She didn't have much time to think about it because the carpool arrived and the quiet room instantly turned into a beehive of activity.
Hmm, let's see my notes, thought Maya, Now I have to do the good morning jumping-jack song.
"Jump, jump, jump! Don't sit there like a lump...," she sang, trying to have the same enthusiasm in her voice as Jill always did. But somehow she didn't and somehow it wasn't working. The kids who would usually be jumping up like kangaroos were all just kind of fidgeting.
Okay, forget that. Let's move on to the second activity on my note card, 'horsie-romp,' she thought.
But that didn't go either, as Maya's slow trot didn't nearly excite the kids as much as Jill's usual gallop would.
"This isn't fun!" one girl pouted.
"Yeah, where's Teacher Jill? This is boring!" complained another. Some kids were starting to wander around and a couple of them were crying to go home!
Maya's thoughts raced, This never happened with Jill. I'm such a failure. What am I gonna do?
She looked at the note card and sighed. The next activity looked just as impossible to her as the others did and so did the next one! She just wasn't Jill. She knew it, the kids knew it and ... suddenly a thought flashed in her mind:
Who says you have to be Jill? Be yourself and do something with them that you enjoy.
"Okay kids," Maya took a deep breath and sat down on a pillow she had placed on the floor, "Whoever gathers around is going to hear the most fantastic story they've ever heard."
Maya loved telling stories; long, magical tales she made up in her head as she went along.
"Once there was a kind and handsome king..." at first only one kid sat down, but as she went on more and more drew near.
"...and that's the story of the servant girl who discovered she was really a princess in disguise." Maya, whose eyes had drawn closed like they always did when she told her most enchanting stories, opened them to find the whole group sitting quietly around her, looking very calm and happy.
"Tell us another one, Teacher Maya. Please!"
Maya smiled inside. She knew she had plenty of stories, songs and other great things to do with the kids. Not Jill's way, but her own, which she and the kids had discovered could be very good, too.
Q. How did Maya feel at first about running the playgroup?
A. She felt she had to do it just like her sister did.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She felt she and the kids would be happier if she did things her own way.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Maya learned from what happened?
A. She had thought that the only way to be successful was to imitate her high-energy sister, but in the end discovered that she was much more successful when she decided to use her own talents and be herself.
Q. Why do you think the kids weren't happy when Maya tried to do things Jill's way?
A. When a person is being herself, the light of her soul shines through and people want to be around her. As long as Maya was trying to be someone else, it was just an act, and the kids could feel that too.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Do you think everyone has the potential to be great?
A. True greatness can be defined as fully applying one's unique talents and personality to a worthwhile cause. This is something we can each reach in our own way.
Q. Does 'being oneself' mean never conforming to what others are doing?
A. For a community or society to function in a healthy way there has to be a certain degree of conformity and cooperation. However, even then one should seek a way to do whatever he is doing in a way that best reflects and expresses who he is inside.