What You Have To Do
When it comes to things we have to do, but don't want to do, we have a choice: either to do them the easy way or the hard way. If Pharaoh had freed the slaves the first time God asked him - or at least after the first plague - things would have gone much easier for him and he wouldn't have had to suffer all the other nine plagues before finally letting them out anyway. We, too, don't have to stubbornly wait and face unpleasant consequences before doing what we should.
In our story, a kid has to choose if it's worth being stubborn.
"We caught a turtle in the pond!" Pat and his brother, Mitch, yelled, charging through the door and lifting their latest 'catch' out of the box they'd been carrying it in and waving it in front of their mother, in case she had any doubts.
"We're gonna make it a swimming pool..."
"Yeah, we're gonna feed it and..."
"Whoa, guys!" their mom called out, her voice a mixture of amusement and disgust. "Do not bring that creature into my house. If you must, you can keep the box in the garage until we ask the man from the pet store how, or if, there's a safe way to take care of it. And, speaking of food, it's time for lunch."
"Great - we're starving!" The boys quickly took out the box and plunked themselves down at the table, ready to eat.
"Hold it!" their mom called out. "Nobody is touching any food around here until you go wash all that pond mud and turtle slime off of your hands."
Mitch got up right away, washed his hands and happily dug into the portion his mother set in front of him, while his brother crossed his arms and stood his ground.
"Why do we need to wash?" Pat complained, "My hands aren't that dirty, besides I'll make sure to eat everything with a fork and spoon."
Pat's mom, who knew her kids thought that silverware was there just to decorate the table, shook her head.
"Come on, Mom! What's the big deal? I'm really hungry; just give something to eat, okay?"
"Sorry, Pat. Your hands are filthy with mud and who knows what kind of germs that turtle might have. Please go wash."
"And what if I don't want to?" he snapped.
"It's entirely your choice. But until you do, you may not have anything to eat - including snacks."
Pat stormed upstairs to his room, steaming over his mom's dumb, unfair, ridiculous rule. I can't eat until I wash? Then I just won't eat! He slammed the door, dove onto his bed and turned up his MP3 loud.
But after a while, even loud music couldn't drown out the grumble of his hungry stomach. He looked up at the clock - it was nearly suppertime. He couldn't remember ever skipping two straight meals. But it was still better than giving in to some totally ridiculous rule...
Or was it?
By now it was almost bedtime. Though Pat's mother had come up earlier to check on him and said she would be very happy to reheat his supper, she still said he had to wash his hands, first.
Pat looked at his hands. He had to admit that the pond slime - which by now had hardened into a kind of sticky crust - was gross even to him. He realized there was really no reason not to wash his hands and - as his hunger headache and growling bear of a stomach convinced him - there were plenty of good reasons, yes, to.
"Um, Mom," Pat said, holding up his freshly scrubbed hands, "is there anything to eat?"
As he dug into his first food in a long time, Pat wondered what it was he had gained by spending the whole day eating nothing but 'stubborn pie'?
Q. How did Pat feel at first about washing his hands?
A. He didn't want to, even if it meant he couldn't eat.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He felt like he'd been stubborn for no good reason.
Q. What life-lesson do you thing Pat learned that day?
A. He'd refused to obey his mother's very reasonable request and felt he was somehow being noble for doing so, but in the end he realized that he had only been acting stubborn and gained nothing.
Q. Does that mean we should always do what people tell or ask us?
A. No. We are certainly allowed to use our own judgment and decide what's right. However, we should be sure that we're not simply saying 'no' in order to be stubborn or contrary.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. What do you think a person loses out on by being unreasonably stubborn and oppositional?
A. He wastes a lot of time and misses out on many opportunities. Also, he will often end up doing grudgingly what he could have done easily in the first place.
Q. When do you think it can be a positive trait?
A. There is something to be said for not simply going along with the crowd or agreeing to everything sight-unseen. However, it takes a lot of wisdom to know when to oppose what we are being asked to do and when to simply agree.