Things Get Better!
It's easier to get through bad times when we remember that eventually things will get better. On the day of Tisha B'av, we commemorate all the bad times and suffering in the world. Yet our sages teach that one day things will get so much better that Tisha B'av will become a joyous holiday. So too, we should remember that our 'bad times' will get better, too.
In our story, a kid finds out the bad times don't last forever.
Susan slapped at a mosquito that decided to make her cheek its breakfast. Well, at least IT knows where to get its breakfast, she sighed. Although she thought she'd been following all the signs marking the way to the camp dining hall, she was lost.
Of course, if she'd walked to the dining hall with some friends who knew their way around she would have found her way. But that was just the problem - she had no friends. She didn't really know one person in the whole camp.
"Ow!" Susan yelped as the kamikaze mosquito made its latest dive-bomb attack. She felt a ping of rain hit her forehead, then several more, which soon turned into a steady rain soaking her dark blonde curls.
Of course, she hadn't worn her rain poncho.
Of course, none of the other kids, who had already gone inside to eat, were getting wet.
Of course, she had no idea where she was ... where to go ... or what to do!
Susan looked up at the dark gray sky that was almost as black as her mood. Her tears mixed with the raindrops as she sat down on a big rock.
This was the worst day ever! This was going to be the worst summer ever! It was never going to get any better for...
"Hey there, aren't you getting soaked sitting there like that?"
Susan looked up at the voice which sounded entirely too cheerful for this somber scene and saw a smiling kid her age.
"Do I have a choice?" she grumbled.
"Sure, you can come under with me," the kid said as she swooped her bright yellow umbrella over both their heads. "My name's Linda - what's yours?"
"Um ... Susan."
"Pretty name," Linda smiled. "If you don't mind me asking a silly question, why are you sitting out here in the rain instead of joining everyone for breakfast?"
"'Cuz I don't know where to go ... I don't know anyone to tell me ... and..." the tears she'd hoped would stay hidden gushed out. "I'm so miserable that I really don't even care!"
"Hmm..." Linda looked at her sympathetically, "You must be new here, right?"
Susan nodded silently.
"So at least two of your three problems are already solved," Linda grinned.
"What do you mean?"
"Well, now you know someone - me. And I can show you the way to go. But for your third problem - being miserable - I admit that's a toughie and I know just how you feel."
"You do?" Susan skeptically asked the chipper, cheerful girl who looked like she'd never been miserable a day in her life.
"Oh yeah! Last year, just about this time I knew someone who felt the exact same way - maybe even worse. A kid who thought this camp was an absolute jail of unhappiness that she'd never escape."
"That's just the way I feel!" Susan said. "So did she? Did she ever escape?"
"Sure I did!" Linda beamed.
"What? ... You?" Susan asked, confused.
"Yup. I escaped and you will too. Everyone's miserable at first - who wouldn't be? A strange new place, no familiar faces... But now, I really love it."
"Well, I did come back for another year, in case you hadn't noticed. Come, let's go eat before the cocoa gets cold. I'll introduce you to all my friends. Hey..." Linda pointed to the sky and closed her umbrella, "looks like the sun's peeked up from between the clouds and it's going to be a nice day, after all."
Susan, smiling for maybe the first time since she got there, couldn't have agreed more.
Q. How did Susan feel about her day at first?
A. She felt miserable and felt like it would never get better.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She felt like her sadness was going to pass and things would get better, after all.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Susan learned that day?
A. She'd felt unhappy in her present situation and thought it was always going to be that way. But she discovered that things can get better with time and often do.
Q. Can knowing that things are likely to get better do anything to help us feel better when things are still bad?
A. A lot of our discomfort in a hard situation is the feeling like 'things will always be this way.' When we remember that things often change for the better, we can even feel better, before they do.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Do you think there is any way to 'make' things get better instantly without having to wait for them to change?
A. While patience is generally essential, there is one trick we can use for instantaneous, miraculous results. That is, if we can change our attitude toward our current situation for the better, we'll find that we will feel much better too. This takes practice, but it's a powerful technique for life.
Q. Our sages teach that 'all beginnings are difficult.' What do you think this means and how does this idea apply to our lives?
A. When we start something new, not only are we fighting against our previous inertia, but we're often in an unfamiliar situation. This can all add to a feeling of difficulty. But when we remember that while beginnings are difficult, and that as things go on they are likely be less so, we can gain momentum and motivation to see things through.