As a teacher and camp director who has worked with children and families for many years, one of the biggest changes (and most worrisome) is seeing children with a sense of entitlement — “It’s all about me!” Judaism has a lot to say about this and, as we enter the New Year, it would be good for all of us to remember the lessons of our sages.
One wonderful way to teach this is to share this message from the rabbis: We should always carry two pieces of paper in our pockets. In one, the message is “For me the world was created!” And the other is, “I am but dust and ashes.” There must always be balance. A good exercise is to write down the values or qualities that you hold important and then try to narrow down the list until you have your top three (or maybe top 10). Is being humble on your list? How about being grateful or thankful? How has our society created the “me-generation” and how do we get back to balance?
We do want our children to know that they are unique and special (especially to us) but along with that comes responsibility. I have just discovered a new children’s book: Only One You by Linda Kranz. This is a book that I now add to my list of gifts to special people in my life of all ages. The book is simple and beautiful, with wisdom throughout from a mother and father fish to their young child heading out to the world.
The final lesson is so Jewish, it could have been written by a sage from the past or present: There’s only one you in this great big world — make it a better place! As we enter the New Year, let us remember that we are part of the world, yet unique is what we have to share, and we have the obligation and opportunity to make the world a better place — tikkun olam!
Shalom…from the Shabbat Lady.
Laura Seymour is director of Camping Services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.