Care To Be Right
Pinchas (Numbers 25:10-30:1 )
Being responsible and caring means not only caring about what will be best for ourselves, but also what will be best for the others. In this week's portion, we see how when God told Moses he would soon die, Moses' main concern wasn't about himself, but rather that the people should have a good and worthy leader to take over for him (27:17). Moses and the Torah teach us how to be people who care.
In our story, a kid has to decide if she cares.
"Hi Max! Hi Janna! You guys ready for a fun-filled afternoon with Aunt Amy?"
"Yeah! Aunt Amy came!"
"Thanks for coming on such short notice, Amy," Max and Janna's mom said gratefully. Amy was their favorite aunt, probably because she was still pretty young herself.
"You know I love these little munchkins, Alisa. You go out and have a great time, and don't you worry about a thing. They're in good hands!"
Amy rolled up her sleeves and got to work. After two hours, they'd fingerpainted, modeled clay, played horsie, baked cookies and even managed a massive clean-up. Everyone was exhausted, but happy. Max and Janna took a nap without complaining, and Amy sat down to catch her breath.
She'd barely inhaled when her cellphone, which had been quiet all afternoon, began to hum its merry tune. "Hello?"
"Amy, hi! This is Paula! Look out the window!"
Sure enough, Amy could see a yellow car parked down below, packed with kids, with a volunteer father sitting behind the wheel.
"How'd you know where I was?"
"We ran into your sister a while back. She told us you were here. C'mon, we're going swimming at the pond."
"If you knew I was here, then you also know I'm babysitting. I can't leave the children... although ... they are sleeping at the moment."
"Great! Your sister said you're only going to be here another hour - so the kids will sleep and they'll never know you left. You can leave a note for your sister that all was quiet, so you left. She'd understand!"
Amy thought about it ... she'd love to go, but...
"No! I can't do that! I'm responsible for them."
"So wake 'em up and bring them along!"
The parent at the wheel honked a few times, halfheartedly, hoping it would inspire Amy to make a decision so they could get going.
Amy was so hot and uncomfortable - the air had been brutally warm the past few days, and the thought of a dip in the cool, crystal clear pond was almost impossible to resist. She could wake up the kids, but they needed the rest, and they were just getting over colds. Would it be the most responsible thing to do?
"NO! I mean, no thanks, Paula. Thanks so much for thinking of me, but I'll have to stick it out here. My sister is counting on me."
"Oh-kay! Whatever you say! But you're missing out! Bye!"
Amy watched the car drive away and felt her heart sink to the floor. Don't you think I know what I'm missing? she grumbled to herself. She fixed herself a tall glass of iced water and sat down in front of the tiny fan, determined to make the best of a now-turned-bad situation.
Not long after, about the time it would have taken for the kids to get to the pond, jump in, and start swimming, all the lights started to flicker and blink, and it got real quiet outside. The fan started to slow down, and suddenly, BOOOM! The loudest clap of thunder Amy had ever heard split the air like a thousand strikes from a thousand bowling balls. The lightning bolt that followed was so strong that Amy felt her hair stand up on end for a moment. Almost as loud as the thunderclap was the sound of Max and Janna's hysterical screaming as they ran out to take shelter on Amy's lap.
She didn't even want to think about how scared they would be if they would have woken up when she wasn't there - and how bad it would have been for them to be caught outside in this storm. Amy held them close till the storm passed over, but her own heart didn't stop pounding until very long afterwards.
Not from the storm. Not from the lightning. But from pure and total relief. Never had she been so thankful for giving up a great time. She realized now that nothing could compare to the amazing feeling of caring enough to be just where she was supposed to be, at exactly the right time.
Q. How did Amy feel at first about missing out on the trip to the pond?
A. She felt kind of bad about it.
Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She was really grateful that she had done the right thing and stayed put.
Q. What life lesson do you think Amy learned from what happened?
A. Though she knew she had a responsibility to watch the little kids, she felt tempted to put her own wants first, and go swimming. However, in the end, she cared enough about the kids to do what was best for them and not just what was best for her - and the huge thunder storm made her glad she did.
Q. Do you think a caring person should always put the other person's need in front of his own? Why or why not?
A. No. Sometimes a person's own needs are very legitimate and take priority. However, neither should we automatically put our own needs first, either. Rather, we should try to act responsibly and do for others as much as we reasonably can.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. What, if anything, do you think a person might gain from becoming less self-centered?
A. Although it sounds like a paradox - a person actually gains the most spiritual pleasure and wisdom from becoming less self-centered and more focused on the needs of others. Of course this should be done in a balanced way, but one thing the world's greatest spiritual people have in common is they'd rather give than take.
Q. Do you think a person could learn to become less self-centered?
A. It takes a lot of patience and a lot of practice, since people are self-centered by nature. However each of us also has a spiritual soul within that craves to help us become super-natural and if we sincerely try, we will certainly start to taste the special pleasure that comes with truly caring about others and not only ourselves.