When we see that someone is feeling down, we should reach out and try to pick him up. In this week's Torah portion (40:6-7) Joseph noticed that his roommates in prison were feeling very low and sad. He asked them what was wrong and tried to help, and by doing so, he himself was eventually freed from being unjustly jailed. A caring person reaches out to others and tries to help.
In our story, a kid reaches out and finds more than she imagined.
Hillary could have walked the bumpily paved paths in her sleep. It was already her fourth year at Camp Shalom and she knew the camp, campers and counselors like the back of her hand and had seen it all.
At least that was what she thought until she walked out of the dining hall after breakfast on the second day of camp and saw a kid dragging - or it seemed more like wrestling with - a duffle-bag nearly bigger than she was, along the pot-holed path.
She didn't recognize the kid and thought maybe she got to camp a day late. But then why was the girl dragging her bag away from the cabins and not toward them?
Hillary's first reaction was to just shrug and walk on past her like everyone else was doing, but then as she looked again, she noticed that the kid really looked upset.
"Um, excuse me," she said "is everything okay? I mean, do you need help or something?"
The girl looked up at her through red and puffy eyes. For a moment she was quiet, like she was deciding whether to talk or not, then she said, "This bag is so heavy."
"No problem!" Hillary smiled, "I can help you." With that, she grabbed onto one of the handles and began to tug. Between the two of them, it actually started to move at a reasonable pace.
"What's your name?" Hillary asked as she pulled.
"Marissa," the other girl answered quietly.
"Wow, that's such a pretty name! I'm Hillary, nice to meet you. Y'know, Marissa, I really don't mind helping you at all - but are you sure we're going in the right direction? I mean that camp bunks are, you know, the other way."
The girl, whose eyes had lit up a bit as they were speaking, went dark again. "I know, but I'm leaving this dumb camp, I'm going home."
"Home? But why? Camp just started." Hillary let go of the duffle bag handle.
"Well, for me it's finished. I'm … just so lonely. I'm the only new kid in bunk six, everyone else is old friends and nobody talks to or even looks at me."
Hillary nodded her head. "Wow, that must feel pretty rough. But it takes a while to make friends. You look like a great kid I'm sure you'll do fine. Are you sure you want to pack up and go home?"
"I don't want to," Marissa sighed. "I begged my mom to let me go to camp and she paid so much money and she's really not happy about me leaving now. Plus, home is so boring. But what can I do? Should I stay in a camp where I don't have a single friend?"
"Absolutely not," Hillary agreed.
"Then you agree with me - I should go."
"What?" Marissa asked, confused.
"Because you're not in a camp without a friend anymore - are you? I'm your friend - aren't I?"
The girl half nodded through smiling eyes.
"And," Hillary said "I know all the kids in bunk six, I can help you mix in. Now are you still sure you want me to help you drag your duffle-bag?"
"Absolutely!" Marissa said.
"What?" Hillary's eyes flew open.
"I mean I want you to help me drag it the other way, back to the bunk." Marissa giggled, joined by Hillary once she caught on. "Thanks to you, I think I'm going to stay."
Q. How did Marissa feel at first?
A. She was lonely and ready to go home.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. Once Hillary reached out to her and was friendly, she felt much better and was ready to stay.
Q. What life-lesson do you think someone could learn from what happened?
A. When Hillary first saw Marissa looking upset and dragging the duffle-bag, it would have been easy for her just to pass by and ignore her, but by reaching out and trying to help she saved the girl from having a terrible summer. We can do so much if we're willing to reach out.
Q. Why do you think Marissa changed her mind?
A. She was feeling sad and lonely and was leaving even though she knew it wasn't going to be good for her at home. Hillary's act of caring was just enough to pick her up and give her the courage to stick it out. One small act made a big difference.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. What's the difference between reaching out and butting in?
A. Reaching out is an act of caring, offering of ourselves and letting the other person decide whether or not to respond. Butting in is selfishly pushing oneself into others' affairs whether it's wanted or not.
Q. Can a self-centered person help others?
A. Certainly not effectively. To truly help others we have to be sensitive to others and really see how they are feeling. If one's too full of himself, he'll walk by someone in distress and never even notice.