Having a 'good eye' means more than 20/20 vision. This week's Torah portion tells us about the period between Passover and Shavuot. The highlight of this period is a day called L'ag B'Omer. Hundreds of thousands of people gather every year that day on a mountain in northern Israel at a music-filled festival to celebrate the life and teachings of the great Jewish sage and kabbalist, Rabbi Shimon Bar-Yochai. One of the most important things Rabbi Shimon learned and taught was the value of having a 'good eye' by seeing the good points in everyone.
In our story, a kid gets a chance to see things from a different angle.
CHANGE OF SCENERY
Mike jogged up the dirt path leading from the camp dining room to the nearest payphone. He couldn't wait to call his parents and tell them what an absolutely terrible time he was having and why they just had to let him come home.
He turned the corner and sighed. He'd have to wait. Glen, another kid from his bunk, had beaten him there and was already dialing. Well, Mike thought, I might as well use the time to go over the list of complaints I've written down to make sure I haven't forgotten any.
Let's see, he thought, going down the list:
1) My counselor's way too strict. Every morning he won't let us come to breakfast until our bed is made.
2) We have to do everything as a group, like sit at the same table at meals instead of with friends from other bunks.
3) The lifeguard is really mean. He won't let anybody swim if it's cloudy out.
4) The guys in the bunk always make so much noise talking at night it's impossible to get to sleep.
He was starting to go over the rest of the list when he couldn't help overhearing Glen talking on the phone...
"...Yeah, Mom, camp's really fantastic.... Well, for one thing, thanks to our counselor I'm finally learning how to take care of myself. You know, be neat and stuff. He's teaching us how to be disciplined - I actually make my bed every day before breakfast...."
Mike's ears perked up as the kid went on:
"...And I'm really starting to bond with the other guys in the bunk. I think it's because we do everything together, you know, like eating at the same table..."
Hmm, Mike thought. He hadn't looked at it that way. Glen continued:
"...Another great thing is that they're really on top of safety here.... For one thing, the lifeguard really keeps his eye out to make sure there's no chance anyone will be caught in the pool during one of those flash lightning storms they have around here..."
They actually do get a lot of those sudden storms around here, Mike had to admit.
"But you know, the best part," Mike heard Glen say, "is how relaxed the guys are with each other. At night, we all get into these nice long talks that are so much fun..."
Glen spoke some more and Mike continued to listen. When he finally finished, Mike stepped up to the phone and began to dial. He felt a tap on the shoulder.
"Um, sorry Mike," Glen said. "I noticed this by your feet and thought you might need it or something." He waved a list written on a crumpled up piece of paper.
"Nope," Mike smiled, taking it and tossing it into the trash. "I have no use for it at all."
Q. How did Mike feel about camp at first?
A. He saw lots of bad things about it.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. Hearing his friend's good way of looking at things made him feel good about it too.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Mike learned from what happened?
A. He'd been looking at things at camp in a negative way, which he was sure was the truth. But hearing his friend's positive viewpoint, helped him to look at things with more of a 'good eye' too.
Q. Whose way of looking at things was right?
A. While both ways were based on the same facts and could be considered technically 'right,' Glen's 'good eye' and positive viewpoint certainly were a key to a happier life.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Does having a 'good eye' mean closing our eyes to reality?
A. Not at all. It means opening our eyes to the good to be found in whatever reality we're in.
Q. How can a person develop a more positive way of looking at things?
A. Practice makes perfect. Just try to look at something that happens - even if you've already labeled it bad - in a way that makes it good. It might feel stilted at first, but if you keep it up you can find your outlook - and your life - changing for the better.