Rays of Praise
Pekudei (Exodus 38:21-40:38 )
Don't just tell people when they've done something wrong - tell them when they've done something right! In this week's Torah portion (Ex. 39:43), Moses takes note of the great job the people did in building the Tabernacle/sanctuary and blesses them for it. We, too, should make a point to notice the good things people do and make them feel good by praising them for it.
In our story, a kid discovers the power of praise.
CALLING THE 'PRAISE'
"Get everyone over here right away!" Mitch, the captain and quarterback of their neighborhood-league football team, barked at Andy, his assistant. "The time-out's almost over!"
The kids gathered around Mitch in a huddle. "We're already behind and if we're going to stand a chance to catch up, you've guys have gotta wake up and start playing better. Frank," he said turning to one kid, "you let that guy you were supposed to be blocking run right past you on that last play." The kid hung his head as Mitch went on, "And you," he said, pointing to Rich, "don't think I didn't see you trip over your own feet as you ran down the field. Could you try to pay a little attention from now on?"
The whistle blew and the rest of the kids breathed a sigh of relief that Mitch hadn't had time to criticize them too ... at least this time. The team lined up for the next play. The ball was snapped into the quarterback's hands, but before Mitch could pass it or hand it off to someone to run with, he was tackled hard.
"Owww!" Mitch groaned. He tried to stand up, but as soon as he put weight on his ankle he twisted back down to the ground.
"Sprained ankle," the league medic, who was always on hand at the games, announced. "I'll take you to go get bandaged up and you'll be okay, but forget about the rest of this game."
"If I had a half-decent team behind me this would have never happened!" Mitch glowered. "Andy, take over as quarterback," he said over his shoulder as the medic helped him hop off the playing field.
Andy saw the dejected look on his teammates' faces as he called them into the huddle-circle. Without our star captain what chance do we possibly have now? he could almost hear them thinking.
He whispered the plans for the next play. "Oh, and by the way, Frank..," he added. The kid, wincing, looked up at him, obviously afraid of the criticism to come. "Good job. I saw how the guy you were blocking didn't get anywhere close to tackling Mitch this last time."
"Thanks," Frank said, flashing a grin through his helmet.
"And Rich," Andy said to the boy who at hearing his name called began to squirm, "you ran like the wind just now. You were wide open to catch the ball - if Mitch hadn't got tackled he would have thrown you a touchdown pass!"
The game went on, and each time between plays, Andy made sure to compliment a couple of the guys on something good he'd noticed that they'd done. Soon, a lot of the kids found themselves going out of their way to play extra well, knowing that if they did, they'd hear about it from the quarterback.
Later that day...
"How bad did we get slaughtered?" Mitch asked Andy who came to visit him at home, where he laid with his ace-bandaged foot up on a pillow.
Andy didn't answer.
"No really, tell me the bad news," Mitch said. "I can take it. How many points did we lose by in the end?"
"What?!" Mitch sat up straight. "You're joking, right?"
"No joke," Andy grinned. "We won by 14 points." Thanks to the good points, Andy thought, that he was able to see in his teammates - and help them to see in themselves.
Q. How did the kids on the team feel when Mitch was speaking to them?
A. They felt scared and upset because he would always put them down.
Q. How did they feel once Andy took over?
A. They felt good about themselves since Andy would point out what they were doing right and not what they were doing wrong.
Q. What life-lesson do you think someone could learn from what happened?
A. When we criticize and put people down - even if we think it's for a good reason or for their own good - we usually only make them feel worse about themselves and hardly ever motivate them to do better. However, when we point out the good things about them and that they do, not only do we make them feel good, but we inspire them to be even better.
Q. Do you think the team would have won if Mitch had stayed in the game?
A. Very unlikely, because his criticism was only making the team feel less able to win, whereas Andy's praise gave them new hope.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Is there ever a place for put-downs and criticism?
A. At times, there can be a need to let someone know where his behavior is lacking, but even at these times, we should do our best to inform him in a private and gentle way - couching our word with others of sincere praise.
Q. Is there something praiseworthy to be found in everyone?
A. While in some people it is easy to find and in others it is harder, every person has at least one good point that we can build him or her up with by identifying and praising.