Choosing to Get Along
Lech Lecha (Genesis 12-17 )
In this week's portion we learn about a quarrel between the shepherds of Abraham and his nephew, Lot. Even though there was really plenty of space for everyone, since they weren't getting along, it seemed too crowded and they each had to go their separate ways. Our sages teach that when two people get along, they can be happy together sharing the tiniest space, but when they don't, the whole world can seem too small. By working at getting along with the people around us, we can make our whole world seem bigger and brighter.
In our story, a girl learns a unique way to make her space expand.
"How much clothing can one person own?" asked Susan, annoyed, as she tried to squeeze her sweater into the tightly packed closet, amidst the rows of her sister's skirts, sweaters and blouses.
After a struggle, she managed to hang up her clothing, and headed toward her bed, tired, and ready to end a long day. "Ouch!" she cried out in pain, as she stubbed her toe on her sister's dollhouse that was in the middle of the floor.
Susan just couldn't take it anymore. It was bad enough having to share a bedroom with Liz, her bratty kid sister. But now that her sister was getting bigger and starting to get more stuff, the room simply wasn't big enough for the both of them! Limping in pain, the girl made her way across the cramped obstacle course of a room, and flopped into bed.
The next day, the sisters made it to the bus stop just as the school bus arrived. Susan grabbed the last remaining empty row of seats, and of course Liz plopped down right next to her.
"Hey, leave me a little space, will you?" cried out Susan, giving Liz a good shove, just to get her point across. The older girl pressed her face against the window of the bus and tried to get some air. These seats are so tiny, she thought, especially when you have to squeeze in with your sister.
Thankfully, Liz got off only a few stops later, at the old school building, and Susan was able to relax and enjoy a seat to herself while the bus brought her to her new school building across town. She had just sat back in her seat when she spotted two of her best friends boarding the bus.
"Hey Claire, Jill, over here!" she called out, and happily slid over to let Claire sit down next to her, as Jill huddled over the two of them. They started to chat, when Susan looked up. "Hey Jill, take a load off your feet, there's plenty of space, right Claire?" The girl nodded her head, and they moved over to 'triple up' on the bench. It was a bit tight, but nobody seemed to mind.
Sue wanted to show her friends her cool new library book. She lifted up her book bag and groaned. Her sister's math notebook had somehow slipped underneath the bag. How did that get there? She thought. It must have been when I pushed Liz over to make some room...
Suddenly something funny occurred to her: I felt so cramped when I was sitting with Liz, and now with TWO other bigger kids, I feel like I have all the space in the world?
Just then, as if on cue, she happened to look up and see the sign hanging over the bus driver's head: "PLEASE DOUBLE UP. THERE'S ALWAYS ROOM ... FOR A FRIEND."
That was it! She didn't feel crowded because she was sitting with her friends who she liked being with. Susan felt a bit embarrassed when she realized she couldn't really say the same thing about her kid sister. Could that be why I feel so tight in my room too? Susan smiled as she got a brilliant idea. An idea that just might make her room start to grow.
That afternoon, she began to put her plan into action. When Liz came into the room, instead of screaming at her and telling her to keep her stuff on her side, Susan went out of her way to act nice and friendly. She even offered to share some of her stuff.
Liz, of course, was thrilled at her big sister's new attitude, and started to act nicer too. She was careful to put her things away and give Susan some space.
As the days passed, the two of them started to really get along. That crammed-in feeling Susan always had in the room disappeared, and she started to actually enjoy sharing it with her sister. It's really true, she thought to herself, that there's always plenty of room ... when you're sharing it with a friend.
Q. How did Susan first feel about sharing a room with her sister?
A. She felt upset because there wasn't enough room.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. Even though the room didn't get any bigger, she felt like there was more space because she had made friends with her sister, and with friends, it always feels like there's enough room.
Q. Why did Susan feel so cramped when she had to share her seat with her sister, but later when Clair and Jill sat with her, she felt like she had plenty of space?
A. Since Susan and her sister didn't get along so well, having to share a small space with her, she didn't want to give up even an inch of her 'rightful' space. Later, since the two other girls were her close friends, she was happy to make room, and the crowded seat didn't bother her.
Q. Wouldn't Susan have accomplished the same goal of feeling less cramped if she succeeded in forcing her sister to stay on her side of the room, move her stuff, etc.?
A. Not really. True, she would have had more physical space, but with an attitude of being 'at war' with her roommate, she never would have really felt like she had her own space. The best way to feel good about our personal environment is to learn to feel good about the people we share it with.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Why do we feel so much less crowded around people we like?
A. When we genuinely like someone we want to give to him, therefore even if he takes up our space, we don't mind since we are fulfilling our goal of giving. If we don't like someone, we may view him as trying to take something from us that we don't want to give. In such a case, it's only natural that we will feel our 'space invaded' over every little thing.
Q. Is it possible to learn to relate as a 'giver' even to people we don't like? A. It takes work, but if we come to see ourselves as givers, eventually our giving will have little to do with the recipient, whether we like him or not, or even if he is deserving. Once we reach that point, we will be acting similar to, and therefore very close to God, who only gives, even to those who are unworthy of His gifts.