Tasking Without Asking
We don't have to wait to be asked to be helpful - we can volunteer. In this week's Torah portion (Ex. 25:2) we learn what happened when the people found out that Moses needed money and supplies to build the Holy Tabernacle to worship God. They didn't wait to be asked to contribute, rather they stepped forward and voluntarily gave generously. Whether giving of our possessions or of ourselves to help others, we do a great thing when we volunteer to help even without being asked.
In our story, a kid shows you don't have to wait to be asked.
Kelly was new at camp Maplewood this year, so her two old friends, Jenna and Val who'd been there before, decided to show her the ropes.
"Now make sure you always sign up right away when there's an optional trip you like, or you'll miss out," Val said as the kids lingered over their desserts in the dining hall after lunch.
"Yeah," Jenna agreed, "there's always limited places. Also, always send your laundry in to the cleaning service on Monday and not on Wednesday. That way you'll for sure get it back by the weekend."
"Good point, Jen," Val nodded, "and another important thing..." but her sentence was cut off in the middle as they heard the squeaky door from the kitchen opening up.
"Quick, run!" Jenna whispered to Kelly as she and Val popped up from their seats like a couple of jackrabbits and with Kelly trailing only a footstep behind.
"Hey, false alarm!" said the now-laughing Val to her friends, as she peered between the dining hall's screen doors. "It was just the wind," she added, breathing hard. "Let's go back in and finish our dessert."
"Hey, what was that all about?" asked the confused Kelly, as the girls sat down.
"One of the most important things you should know about this camp," Jenna said with a grin, "is that whenever you're still in the dining hall after almost everybody's left and the kitchen door opens - you run!"
"'Cuz that means Mrs. Gold, the clean-up lady, is on her way out."
"So? Is she mean or something?" Kelly asked.
Jenna shook her head. "No, not really."
"So, what's the problem, then?"
Kelly's two friends looked at each other and giggled.
"The problem is..." Jenna went on, "that she always asks the kids who are still around to help her clean up."
"You know," Val added "like help clear the tables and stuff - yuck!"
"Like, she's really old and everything - so if she 'catches' you, it's hard to just blow her off and say 'no'..." Jenna said.
"So that's why you have to run," Val explained, "that way you never get caught. It's really not right that she asks kids for help - don't you agree, Kelly?"
Just then, kitchen door opened - this time for real - and Kelly could see a frail looking gray haired woman pushing a big clearing cart. She felt a poke on the side.
"Run!" Jenna said as she and Val darted for the door.
Kelly ran too ... but in a different direction.
"Um, hi. I'm Kelly," she said, looking at the older woman with a smile. "I have some extra time now, maybe I could help you clear the tables?"
As she helped the grateful woman, Kelly realized that, in a way, she did agree with her friends. It wasn't right for the woman to ask for help - especially when kids could volunteer to help her, without being asked.
Q. How did Kelly's friends feel about helping the clean-up lady?
A. They didn't want to help and certainly not to volunteer.
Q. How did Kelly feel about it?
A. She wanted to help even without being asked.
Q. What life-lesson do you think someone could learn from this story?
A. There are different ways people can react to the chance to help others. Some run away - others will only help if asked. But the highest level is to offer our help even before we're asked.
Q. Do you think Kelly's friends behaved correctly?
A. While we can understand their feelings, it is more noble and spiritual to look for ways to help people rather than to avoid it.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Is it greater to help someone voluntarily or because we are asked?
A. It is certainly meritorious to respond to someone's call for help rather than to walk away; however, to go out of our way and volunteer to help is something very special.
Q. Which of those two ways do you think would make the recipient feel better?
A. People are often embarrassed to ask for help even when they need it. When we volunteer unasked, we not only help, but we preserve people's dignity.