Take Success In Stride
Ekev (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25 )
We shouldn't let success go to our heads. This week's Torah portion (Deut. 8:11-14) reminds us that when things are going our way, we shouldn't get haughty or snotty over it, but should feel humbly grateful to God.
In our story, we see how a couple of kids react differently to good news.
Sherri was tucking the corners of her blanket into her camp bunk bed, when her friend, Gail, came bursting into the cabin.
"Guess what!" Gail said with her head held high.
"Guess!" Gail insisted. "I'll give you a hint. An incredible, amazing thing just happened to me."
Sherri looked at her, "Um, you saw some Martians land from outer space on the soccer field?"
Gail frowned. "No something real. But since you're not being serious, I'll tell you. I, me, yours truly, was just appointed to be the assistant-red-team-captain for this year's color war!"
"That's terrific," Sherri said with a smile.
"It's more than terrific," Gail went on, "It's an honor. It shows that the staff feels that I'm an excellent camper, with special leadership qualities, don't you agree?" Sherri nodded, as Gail continued. "Don't think I didn't notice the funny look you gave me when I first told you the news. I can tell you're jealous of me – and you should be – not just anyone has what it takes to be assistant captain of an entire camp team..." she looked down her nose at Sherri "...does she?"
Sherri drew in her breath, like she was about to say something, then she stopped and just shook her head.
Later on, as the kids lined up on the dock for their row-boating period, Sherri came over to Gail.
"Are we sharing a boat as usual?" she asked.
"Gee," Gail said, "I'm not sure. After all, when color war starts any day now, I'm going to be a very important person, you know. But I guess – for now – I'll do you a favor and let you join me."
"Thanks," Sherri said simply and climbed into the boat.
After rowing around the lake, Gail bragging non-stop about her good fortune and the talents that she had which made her deserve it, they got back to the dock. "Well it was fun rowin' and chattin' with you," Gail said, "but I don't know how much free time I'm going to have soon to talk to you once I start my important..."
Suddenly an air-raid siren-like tone started wailing over the camp loudspeaker system. At first the kids got scared, but seconds later, when a voice came over the speaker announcing that all campers immediately take their color war 'battle-stations' in the main assembly hall, the kids burst into cheering laughter.
Everyone scrambled to the assembly hall to get her team assignments. Gail, in her position as red-team assistant captain stood up on the stage. Suddenly she noticed that Sherri was standing next to her.
"Hi Sherri," she said, "it's great that you came up on stage to congratulate me, but I'm not sure that they allow regular campers..."
Suddenly the counselor in charge walked over, holding an official looking clipboard. "Okay, red-team captain, here's your complete list of activities and team members."
Gail started to reach for the clipboard, but the counselor walked right past her and placed it in Sherri's hands.
"You? You mean, you're the red-team ... Captain?"
Sherri nodded as Gail's mouth dropped below her chin. "Actually, I'm the one who suggested you as my assistant after they appointed me."
"But ... why didn't you put me in my place when I was doing all my dumb bragging?"
"Well, you seemed to be enjoying it so much," Sherri grinned to her assistant, whose red face perfectly matched her red-team visor cap. "Look on the bright side – at least we'll be having plenty of time to talk with each other this week, after all!"
Q. How did Gail feel when she found out she would be assistant captain?
A. She felt very proud of herself and wanted to brag.
Q. How did she feel when she found out that Sherri was captain?
A. She felt silly that she had been so braggy, when her friend, who had even more to brag about, had been so humble about it.
Q. What life-lesson do you think Gail learned that day?
A. She had become very full of herself when she found out she'd been selected as assistant captain, but she saw how conceited she'd been acting, especially when she saw how Sherri had taken even a bigger honor humbly and in stride.
Q. Do you think it's okay to brag about our accomplishments or what we have?
A. We certainly should feel good about ourselves, especially about when things go our way, but bragging can make others feel bad, which is something we shouldn't want to do.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. In your opinion, is haughtiness a sign of self-confidence?
A. It might come off that way, but generally, it's a sign of the opposite. A person who's confident inside doesn't feel the need to broadcast his or her talents or achievements.
Q. Is it ever appropriate to brag?
A. If our motivation is to spur others on to reach higher goals that are within their grasp and for their genuine good, then perhaps it's a positive thing. Other than that – no.