Think For Yourself!
We shouldn't let people talk us into doing something we don't want to. In this week's Torah portion (Num. 16:1) Korach talked a lot of people into doing something wrong and caused them a disaster. We should always try to think for ourselves and not let others talk us into what we don't think is right.
In our story, a kid has to decide whether to follow the crowd ... or her mind.
"And we just won't talk to her at all," Kelly giggled.
"Like she's invisible - like she's air," Dana nodded with a grin.
Janet leaned in, listening to her bunkmates as they plotted to give Kim, a shy, awkward kid who they'd dubbed 'the bunk loser,' the silent treatment when she joined them at the camp breakfast table that day.
"You hear, Janet?" Kelly said, tapping her on the arm. "That's what we're all doing today to the loser. If she asks for the milk, we won't hear her. If she asks us why we're not answering, we'll look right through her!" Kelly said, laughing. "It will be hilarious - don't you think?"
Janet had a hard time hearing what would be so hilarious about it - it actually sounded rather cruel. "Gee, I don't know..."
"Come on, Janet, don't be a goodie-goodie," Kelly coaxed. "It's just the normal kind of fun all kids have at camp."
"Yeah," Dana added. "It's harmless. It's not like we're actually hurting her or anything. You should have seen what they did in my old camp to kids like that - then again, maybe it's better that you didn't!" she giggled.
"Besides, you have to play along," Kelly said. "The rest of us all agree and it will only work if everyone goes along. It would be mean of you to spoil it for everybody."
"Yeah!" a couple of other kids chimed in.
Janet didn't know what to think. Kelly and the others seemed so sure. If it really was just 'normal harmless fun,' she certainly wanted to be normal. And it didn't seem nice to spoil it for everybody else...
"So you agree, right?" Kelly whispered quickly, pointing with her eyes that Kim was walking their way.
Feeling outnumbered and under pressure to go along, Janet nodded softly.
"Um, h ... hi everyone," Kim said, barely balancing her breakfast tray, its banana rocking like a boat on a stormy sea.
Nobody answered. Janet squirmed as she noticed the extra-uncomfortable look on the kid's anyway usually uncomfortable face.
Kim sat down at the empty chair at the middle of the table that the kids had especially cleared for her so they'd all be able to get in on the 'fun.'
"Uh ... um, is there any orange juice left in that p ... pitcher?" Kim asked hesitantly.
Janet noticed Kelly and the others shoot each other silent, smirking looks as Kim looked puzzled why nobody seemed to hear her. Is this really called fun? Janet asked herself. Is this really a normal, harmless way to treat someone?
"I ... um, asked if there's juice in..."
"Here you go, Kim!" Janet said behind a glowing smile, as he handed her the half-full pitcher that had been sitting in front of her.
"Th ... thanks," Kim said, obviously relieved.
Ignoring Kelly's burning look, Janet went on. "Sorry, I wasn't on the ball with the juice. You know how it is in the morning - it takes a while for the brain to wake up, but thankfully I'm thinking a lot more clearly now."
Q. How did Janet feel when her bunkmates asked her to play along with them?
A. Even though she didn't think it was nice, she let them convince her to go along.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She decided to think for herself, and not do something that was mean and not right.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Janet learned that day?
A. She had let her friends convince her to do something against her better judgment, but then she woke up and realized she didn't have to do that and could trust herself to do what was right.
Q. Do you think it was easy for her to do that?
A. Not at all. Everyone wants to be part of the crowd and go along with what they say. It takes a lot of courage to think independently and stick to our values even in the face of peer-pressure.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Are there times when it's appropriate to go along with what someone's trying to convince us to do, even if we disagree?
A. It depends on the situation. Compromise - not always doing what we feel like - is a normal part of social interaction and can be a positive trait. However, if someone's trying to get us to do something wrong, or harmful to ourselves or others, it's time to draw the line.
Q. How do you think Janet's bunkmates will feel about her now that she didn't go along?
A. While they may be initially upset, deep down most of them knew what they wanted to do was wrong, and will ultimately respect her more as someone who thinks for herself and doesn't compromise her convictions.