Recognizing the Good
Va'eira (Exodus 6:2-9:35 )
A lesson in gratitude from Moses.
Everyone likes to feel appreciated. And if we think about it, we'll realize that that there are many people in our lives who have earned our appreciation. There are the people closest to us who are always helping us out, and others who help us in ways that are easy to overlook.
Moses, the great leader of the Jewish people, went so far to show appreciation that when God asked him to hit the Nile river with his staff in order to signal the beginning of one of the ten plagues, Moses objected and asked that his brother Aaron do it instead. Moses felt grateful to the river, which had helped save his life when his mother had floated him on a basket to escape from Pharaoh. He didn't even want to hit an inanimate object to which he felt grateful!
We can learn from here the Torah value of trying to recognize even the smallest good that others do for us. Let people know that we recognize and appreciate the good things they have done for us. It makes them feel good about themselves, and encourages them to do more good in the future.
In our story, a girl is able to appreciate the good she has received.
Anne Abramson sat daydreaming at her desk as she waited for the homeroom bell to ring. She turned, glanced out the classroom window, and marveled at the heavy, pelting rain which made the schoolyard look more like a swimming pool.
"I'm sure glad I'm in here and not out there!" she thought. Then she noticed by the entrance of the school that Mrs. Walker, the crossing guard, was still busily at work helping the few kids who were still straggling behind to safely cross the busy street in front of the school.
Anne shook her head as she realized how hard a job it must be for the older woman who had been out there every morning, rain or shine, year after year, as long as she could remember. Anne also thought about how all the kids, including herself, just seemed to ignore Mrs. Walker and treat her as if she wasn't even there...
Just then the bell rang to start the first class and Anne woke up from her daydream and started her busy day.
The next morning Anne met up with her friends, Bev and Marge, to walk to school together. It was still cold and drizzly out but nothing like yesterday's downpour. As the girls crossed the street and approached the front gate they felt relieved to be almost inside the warm building and out of the rain. They were about to walk into the schoolyard when Anne called out, "Wait a minute guys! We forgot something."
Her friends looked at her in wonder. "What did we forget? Whatever it is, let's leave it for later and get into the building!" said Bev.
"No, it's very important," insisted Anne as she turned on her heels
The curious girls followed her. They reached the main street just as Mrs. Walker had safely walked a group of younger kids across the road. Anne went up to the woman and tried to get her attention. "Er, Mrs. Walker..." she said.
The crossing guard looked down, surprised. "What is it, child?"
Anne took a deep breath, and said, "I just wanted to say 'thank you' and let you know how much we appreciate the hard work you do to keep us kids safe."
At first Mrs. Walker didn't say anything. But after a moment Anne could see tears well up in the corners of the older woman's eyes as her face broke out into a great big smile.
"Bless you my dear," she stammered. "In all my years on the job you're the first child who ever thanked me!"
Anne blushed and turned to her amazed friends. "I told you it was important," she told them proudly. Anne felt really happy that she had gone back, and all the girls learned a big lesson about feeling and showing appreciation.
Q. How did Anne feel when she looked out the window and saw Mrs. Walker doing her job?
A. She felt as if the hard-working lady deserved appreciation that she wasn't getting.
Q. How did she feel after she had gone out of her way to thank the crossing guard?
A. Anne felt really glad that she had done it. She realized how good it made Mrs. Walker feel to know she was appreciated.
Q. Why is it important to feel and express appreciation to others?
A. Appreciating people is a great and valuable gift we can give them, which costs us nothing. When people know that their efforts are appreciated they literally feel more alive, good about themselves and willing to do more for others. As we increase our ability to feel and show appreciation, we also give ourselves an important gift, by turning ourselves into more sensitive and loving people.
Q. Why do you think most of the kids tended to ignore Mrs. Walker even though she was doing so much for them?
A. It is a natural human tendency to expect others to do things for us, and to take it for granted when they do. From the time we are infants, who are constantly taking without a second thought, we learn to think this way. However as we grow into more mature, spiritually developed people we can train ourselves to think more deeply, and realize how many good things people do for us. This is what Anne, the girl in the story, was successful at doing.
Q. Who are some people in our lives that deserve our appreciation?
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Mrs. Walker, the crossing guard, was surely getting paid to help the kid cross the street. Since she was merely doing her job, is it really necessary to feel or express appreciation?
A. The fact that someone is receiving a wage, or earning a profit for helping us is not a reason to refrain from feeling and expressing gratitude. Whatever the person's motivation, the fact is that he or she is doing something that benefits us in some way, and it is a positive spiritual value to be aware of and acknowledge the benefits we receive. In cases where people help us without receiving compensation, it is appropriate to feel even a extra higher degree of gratitude.
Q. Does the feeling of being appreciated affect a person's ability to perform a given task? Why or why not?
A. One of the essential components of the human psyche is a person's level of self-esteem, how good he feels about himself. Someone with a high level of self-esteem is much happier, more relaxed and motivated than one who lacks self-esteem. While it is ideal for a person to learn to derive his self-esteem from within, quite often a person forms his opinion of himself largely based upon the feedback he receives from others. When someone feels appreciated and his efforts valued by others he feels good about himself and naturally wants to keep up and even improve his valued performance. Learning to feel and express genuine appreciation is an important motivational tool we can use to bring out the best from ourselves and others.
Q. Who are some people in our lives that deserve our appreciation?