When we see or hear about people in need, how do we react? Does our heart open up to feel their distress, or does it close up and push them away? In this week's portion, we learn the value of "removing the barriers from our heart," and being sensitive people who are able to feel for and help each other whenever we can.


In our story, a boy learns how to open his heart.


"Hey, isn't it too hot today for so many people to be out shopping?" quipped Marc, as he and his pal, Kenny, dodged their way along the crowded downtown sidewalk.

The boys had gone out together to spend the day taking care of the 101 errands they still had to do before the start of the next school year.

"Well at least we're almost done," answered Kenny. "Just one more store and we can go home and call it a day."

But Marc shook his head. "Maybe you can, but I still have to stop off at the school building on the way home and drop off this term paper at the office," he said, tapping the thick envelope in his pocket. "I've been working hard on this baby all summer. Mr. Anderson gave me some extra time to finish, but I have to turn it in today if I want to pass the course!"

As the two boys walked on, they heard the sound of jingling coins. Marc looked up to see a short, middle-aged man in tattered clothes. He was holding some kind of sign and shaking a can half-filled with money. People were streaming past the beggar as if he didn't even exist. Marc also put his head down and walked on. Whatever this guy's problem is, it certainly isn't my business, he thought to himself.

But to Marc's surprise, he saw Kenny stop in front of the beggar, and with a smile reach into his pocket and give him some money.

"Sorry," said Kenny, as he jogged to catch up to his friend. "I just had to stop."

"Why?" asked Marc.

"Whenever I see guys like that, I feel bad for them. It's like my heart kind of opens up, and if I can help out, I do."

Marc shrugged. It certainly wasn't the way he felt.

The guys finished their errands, stopped off for an ice cream, and went their separate ways. Marc doubled back down the main street to catch the bus that would take him to the school to drop off his paper. He passed the familiar shops, and once again, the beggar shaking his can. This time too, Marc just passed the guy without a second glance. But as he walked on, the man called out to him.

"Hey, 'scuse me! 'Scuse me!"

But Marc ignored him. "If that guy wants a hand-out from me he can forget it!" he told himself.

But as he moved on, Marc felt a strange pang in his chest. He thought of what Kenny had said about his heart opening up and wanting to help. "Maybe I am being kind of hard-hearted. The poor guy must have been standing out there in the hot sun all day. Would it be so bad if I gave him a little spare change?"

Marc turned around and made his way back to the beggar, who smiled when he saw the boy coming. Marc noticed that the man did indeed have his hand out, but instead of holding a can, he was holding an envelope. Marc's term paper!

"'Scuse, me kid. I think this just fell outta your pocket," the beggar said, handing it over to the astonished boy.

Marc shuddered. If he hadn't turned around, months of his hard work would have been lost forever! He gratefully took the envelope from the man's hand, thanked him, and left him with a nice donation. As he walked on, Marc promised himself to be more openhearted to helping people from now on. "After all," he told himself, "opening my heart this time just saved me from a major heartache!"


Ages 3-5

Q. How did Marc feel the first time he saw the man begging?
A. He felt like he didn't have to give him anything since it wasn't his business.

Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He felt the man's pain and decided that it was good to help people in need. In the end Marc ended up being the one who really received something: it got him back his lost paper!

Ages 6-9

Q. Why do you think so many people were walking past the man who was asking for help as if he wasn't there?
A. It's easy for a person to feel as if he lives in his own world, and not take into consideration the needs of others. The people who passed by preferred to pretend the man and his problems didn't exist rather than face the dilemma of whether or not to open up their hearts - and their pockets - to another person's needs.

Q. Who do you think gets more: the person that gives to another, or the one who receives? Why?
A. At first glance it looks like the one who receives gets more. But really, in a deeper sense, the one who gives gets more - he gets the chance to be a giver, which is one of the main reasons that God put us in the world. Giving is something that will make us into better people and pay us back great dividends forever.

Ages 10 and Up

Q. What does it mean to have an open heart?
A. An open heart is one that is open to feel. This includes feeling other people's pain and joys, not just our own. Being openhearted means not being afraid to take emotional risks, and trusting that God is guiding our lives. When we allow ourselves to feel deeply, we will truly grow from the experience.

Q. Do we need to help anyone who asks? Won't this lead to giving to people who don't really need?
A. There is nothing wrong with evaluating whether someone deserves or needs our assistance before helping them. But we must be careful not to let this become an excuse for hardheartedness or selfishness. When in doubt, it is generally better to err on the side of being too giving than not giving enough. God, the ultimate Giver, wants us to give, and will make sure we don't lose out in the end.