Every person is important and every person counts. This week's portion takes a detailed census-count of each of the 12 tribes, not just the leaders or 'important' people. One thing we can learn from this is to remember that every person - including us - always counts!

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In our story, a kid finds out that counting is more than just a matter of numbers.


It was the final game of the season and the neighborhood league championship was on the line. And though Mike belonged to one of the two best teams in the league, part of him felt that he really didn't belong at all. That's because his big brother, Rick, who was the team captain, hardly ever let him play.

Whenever Mike had tried to get into a game, pointing out that he was part of the team, too, Rick would just glare at him and say, "But you don't count." Mike would always argue back in protest - "I do too count!" - but Rick would just laugh in his face. The only times he did let him play was when their team had been so far ahead that Rick said he wasn't scared that Mike would blow it. But in a tight game like this, where everything was on the line, Mike figured there was no way he'd see the light of day.

As the innings went on, though the game was close, from his familiar perch on the bench, Mike found it hard to stay interested.

"Hey, Mike," Rick's voice interrupted Mike's thoughts. The boy perked up. Maybe he actually was going to get a chance to play!

"You want me to come into the game?" he asked hopefully.

"Nahh..." Rick waved off the idea like it was absurd. "I just wanted you to go bring a few extra batting gloves from the van, in case we'll need them, okay?" the kid said with a smirk.

Mike sighed, got up and shuffled toward the parking lot. Could it be I really don't count for anything on this team? Rick certainly seems to feel that way, he thought glumly. He got to the van, but instead of getting the stuff, he just kept walking. If so, why should I even bother sticking around? Who's going to even notice if I go home?

And indeed, it seemed as if no one had noticed. That is, until a while later when he heard a frantic knock on the locked door.

It was Rick.

"Hey Mike, why'd you take off? Everyone's been looking all over for you!" he said, panting.

"For me? Why? I didn't know the batting gloves were so important."

Rick gave him a confused look. "Wha ... anyway, grab your mitt and come back with me right away!" He glanced at his watch. "We've only got ten minutes and every second matters!"

"Ten minutes? What are you talking about?" Mike asked.

"Or else we'll forfeit the game - and the championship. You know, a couple of the guys couldn't show up today because of the flu going around, Larry had to run home for some kind of important appointment and Jerry just twisted his knee and can't play."

"Sorry to hear it, but so what?"

"So that means we're down to just eight guys and the umpire said if we can't field the regulation nine guys within 15 minutes, he was going to forfeit the game to the other team - and that was five minutes ago!"

"Gee, that's too bad," Mike grinned, making no sign of getting ready to move. "But I thought you said I don't count? Aren't you afraid I'll blow it or something?"

Rick lowered his head.

"I know I've been pretty obnoxious to you all season. I was thinking about that on the way here. I was wrong. You do count and you always did - and now you count for everything - please come!" the kid begged with a desperate look in his eyes.

Mike thought for a moment - then decided to go. He was happy that Rick realized he counted now, but that's not why he went. Mike had already known that he counted - and someone who counted was someone who could be counted on.


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Ages 3-5

Q. How did Rick feel about Mike at first?
A. He wouldn't let him play and tried to make him feel he didn't count.

Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He realized that Mike counted a lot.


Ages 6-9

Q. What life-lesson do you think someone could learn from this story?
A. There are always going to be people who try to make us feel like we don't 'count' - but we should always remember that we do.

Q. Why do you think Mike walked away from the game?
A. His brother's put downs had almost convinced him that he really didn't count. A person who feels he doesn't count won't feel motivated to take his responsibilities seriously. That's why once Rich realized - and Mike remembered - that he really did count, Mike acted responsibly and returned to the game.


Ages 10 and Up

Q. In your opinion, did Mike becoming the necessary ninth man on his team make him 'count' more than he did before?
A. Maybe in a technical sense, so they wouldn't forfeit the game, but in the ultimate sense, he - just like every person - always counted.

Q. Why do you think that is?
A. Because each of us - every person in the world - is a special creation of God. God made each of us for a purpose and with a purpose in life that only we can fulfill. The world would be lacking if any of us weren't here; therefore, everyone, even if sometimes it doesn't look or feel like it, counts more than we can even imagine.


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