Just Ask

July 31, 2011

6 min read


Devarim (Deuteronomy 1:1-3:22 )

We don't have to be embarrassed to ask for help. In this week's Torah portion (Deut. 1:9-13) Moses mentions how he'd asked for help when leading and organizing the nation had become too much for him to do alone. So too, we should feel comfortable asking, when there's something we need help in or don't understand.


In our story, a kid discovers that it can be less embarrassing to ask for help than not to ask.


Judy walked with a happy spring in her step to her camp's beginner's art class. It would be so interesting to finally learn how to paint and draw. Since she was new to this camp, she wasn't sure which room to go to, but when she saw a room set up with artist's easels, she knew she'd made it to the right place.

Most of the kids had already arrived and the class was just about to start, but fortunately there was one easel left for her, complete with its own kit of various pads of paper and other art supplies.

"Okay, everyone," the instructor said with a friendly smile, "each of you now take the pad of newsprint paper and place it on your easel, so we can begin our first drawing exercise."

Judy was sure the instructor was going to tell them which of the several pads of paper in front of each of them was the 'newsprint' one - but she didn't. She was about to ask, but then stopped herself, feeling embarrassed, especially since all the other kids just seemed to somehow know.

Cranking her head to the side, Judy peeked at the kid next to her, whom she sort of recognized from her bunk, and then took the pad of paper that looked most like the one that kid had taken.

"Next, everybody take the piece of soft charcoal from your tray and we'll begin," the instructor went on.

Now Judy was really stumped. Charcoal? Were they about to make a barbecue or something? She was about to laugh, assuming the instructor had made a joke, but looked around and saw that no one else in the class was laughing. Rather, they all had picked up one of the little black sticks from their drawing kits. She looked at the sticks in her kit. They did sort of look like charcoal and made her fingers black when she touched them. But which one was the 'soft' one? They all seemed pretty hard to her. Feeling frustrated, but too embarrassed to ask, Judy picked up one of the little sticks too.

But things only got more frustrating, when the instructor gave more instructions, which everyone - except for Judy - seemed to be able to follow easily. At one point, when the instructor told them to use their 'gum' erasers, Judy had almost pulled the bubblegum she'd been chewing out of her mouth and was only saved at the last moment when she noticed the kid next to her pick up a square rubbery block.

Although the art class was only 45 minutes, it felt like hours to Judy and when it finally ended, she was so frustrated that she wasn't sure whether she felt more like laughing or crying.

"So what did you think of the class?" asked a friendly voice behind her. Judy looked up to see the kid from her bunk.

"It was okay, I guess," Judy said with a shrug. "But I wish the instructor would have explained more what she was talking about. You know, this was supposed to be a 'beginner's' art class, after all."

The kid gave Judy a funny look. "Um, did you say 'beginner's' class?"

"Yeah," she pulled the schedule sheet out of her pocket. "Beginner's art class, studio room 'A'."

"But this is studio room 'B' and the advanced art class," the kid exclaimed. "Studio 'A' is the next room. We'd all taken that class last summer - that's when we learned what all that stuff was and how to use them. No wonder it was so frustrating for you. But why didn't you just ask someone - me, or the instructor - for help, when you didn't understand what was going on? For sure, we'd have figured out which class you were really supposed to be in."

Judy nodded with an embarrassed grin. It certainly would have made more sense than just standing around and 'drawing' blanks.


Ages 3-5

Q. How did Judy feel about asking for help when she hadn't understood, at first?
A. She was embarrassed to ask, because she didn't want to seem dumb.

Q. How did she feel in the end?
A. She felt even more silly for not asking and she wished that she had.


Ages 6-9

Q. What life-lesson do you think Judy learned that day?
A. Even though she needed help, she was embarrassed to ask for it and was very frustrated. If there's something we don't understand or feel we can't do, there's no reason not to ask for help.

Q. Why do you think she was embarrassed to ask?
A. A person can feel as if it's somehow 'bad' or 'wrong' not be able to do, or not understand, something. But that's not so. There are things we all don't understand, or can't do. The only way to grow is to ask.


Ages 10 and Up

Q. A wise person has said that 'the only dumb question is the one not asked.' What do you think that means?
A. When a person doesn't know something, it is a way of acquiring wisdom to ask. If we don't ask, we are giving up a chance of gaining wisdom - and that's dumb.

Q. Do you think someone can reach a point where he never needs help?
A. While we can (and should) try to grow in independence, there is no one who doesn't, in some way, need help from others - and certainly from God.


Next Steps