Don't Get Discouraged!
Nitzavim-Vayelech (Deuteronomy 29:9-31:30 )
When trying to do something, it's important not to get discouraged. In this week's Torah portion (Deut. 30:11-14) Moses urges the people not to feel discouraged about accomplishing their goal, but rather to realize that they can succeed. We will gain so much in life by not getting easily discouraged.
In our story, a kid helps his friend have the courage - not to be discouraged.
"Hey, Scott, aren't you going to come in and join us?" Jay called out from the cool swimming pool to his friend sitting on a deck chair.
"Nah," the boy shrugged, "I think I'd just rather stay out here."
"But it's hot and boring out there and it's cool and fun in here," Jay laughed, giving Scott a friendly splash to make his point. "That's one of the main reasons I invited you guys over this afternoon - to swim in my pool, not just..."
BONK! Suddenly a big, inflatable beach ball that had come sailing from across the pool bounced off Jay's head, turning his attention to the laughing group of guys who'd thrown it. Jay smiled, grabbed the ball and started swimming after them, and Scott breathed a sigh of relief.
The afternoon passed quickly and after some barbecued burgers and basketball, the guys started heading out. Scott, who'd stayed behind to help Jay clean up, was about to go too.
"Thanks a lot," Jay smiled. "How about as a reward, you and I take one last swim?"
"Uh, thanks but I don't think so," Scott said.
"Why not?" Jay asked.
His friend lowered his head. "I ... um, can't swim," he mumbled.
"Really?" Jay said. "No problem, I'll show you how. Come on."
"Uh, uh." Scott shook his head. "I've tried to learn before and it's hopeless. I just sink like lead." He gave a nervous laugh. "I'm just not a swimmer and never will be. Anyway, see you."
Scott started walking to the door when his friend stopped him with his arm.
"Wait a minute. That's it? You've just given up on ever learning something as fun as swimming?"
Scott nodded. "Like I told you, it's hopeless."
"Well," Jay said, "I bet that's because you never tried swimming in a magic pool."
"Yeah, this pool's a magic pool. Everybody who goes in it magically learns how to swim."
"I'm serious," Jay said. "Wanna try and see? Come on, just for five minutes, okay?"
Scott shrugged and followed his friend back out to the swimming pool. He didn't exactly believe him - but Jay was fun to be with and it wasn't as embarrassing as going in, in front of everyone...
"Okay," Jay who'd already jumped in the pool smiled, "come join me - and swim!"
Scott slowly went into the water and tried to swim but just bobbed around like every time.
"See - it's impossible!" he said. "This pool's like all the others."
"Wait a minute," Jay said, "I told you this is a magic pool, and to swim in a magic pool, you have to move your arms like this..." He made some hand motions and waited patiently for Scott to do them properly.
"Perfect!" Jay said.
Scott was about to try to swim again, when Jay said, "Uh, wait. In order to swim in a magic pool, you have to also kick your legs like this..."
Scott watched his smiling friend demonstrate and then tried it himself.
"Excellent!" Jay exclaimed. "You're a natural born swimmer!"
This happened a couple of more times; Jay explaining to Scott how to lift his head ... move his feet...
"Okay, now you're ready to swim like a pro," Jay said.
Scott pushed himself off from the side of the pool - and swam! - for the first time in his life!
"Great!" Jay called out. "See, didn't I tell you this was a magic pool?"
Scott shook his head and laughed. While he wasn't so sure it was a magic pool - he was sure of one thing, that he had a magically encouraging friend.
Q. How did Scott feel at first about swimming?
A. He felt like he would never learn how to do it.
Q. How did he feel in the end?
A. He was glad his friend encouraged him to try again and helped him to succeed.
Q. What life lesson do you think Scott learned that day?
A. He'd felt discouraged and was ready to give up on ever learning how to swim, but his friend - in a fun way - showed him that he could really accomplish things he thought he couldn't.
Q. Do you think feeling discouraged affects our physical ability to succeed?
A. Our attitude toward something has a big impact on our likelihood of success. A person who feels discouraged is unlikely to be able to access the physical abilities he or she would otherwise have.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Why do you think that sometimes others can encourage us more than we can encourage ourselves?
A. It is nearly impossible to see ourselves objectively. Many times, negative feelings can make things that are within our grasp seem to be impossibly out of reach. Someone looking from the outside can often have a clearer picture and encourage us to see things in a different, positive light.
Q. Are there times that we shouldn't encourage someone to accomplish his goal?
A. If we feel that their goal could harm themselves or others, we shouldn't encourage it. But other than that, we do people a big favor by encouraging them.