May 23, 2024
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May 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Rose put her book down to observe her classmates from her seat in the back of the room. The copy machine in the teachers’ room had jammed for the 50th time this week, so Mrs. Hammer was late for class again, and Rose could tell something was about to happen. She turned to her left. “How long has it been?” Rose asked her friend, Poppy. Poppy looked up at the clock. “It’s been three minutes and fifteen seconds. Sixteen, seventeen…” As Poppy and Rose counted quietly to themselves, Lily started to stir. Rose smiled at Poppy. “Right on schedule!” she whispered. “Not yet!” whispered Poppy in return. “Watch the door.”

The girls looked to the front of the room as Violet walked to the door, opened it a crack, peered outside, stepped into the hallway, and closed the door. “Right!” said Rose. “They need a lookout!” As the door closed, Lily got up on her desk and yelled “dance party!” to nobody in particular. At that moment the phones came out, and the girls began their “Late Teacher Challenge” dance. Rose and Poppy laughed as their classmates twisted, turned and jumped to the tunes of some goofy ‘80s song. After a few minutes, Violet rushed into the room and shouted “she’s coming!” to nobody in particular.

By the time Mrs. Hammer entered the room, all the students were sitting in their seats as if nothing had happened. Mrs. Hammer’s face was red and she was taking shallow breaths, but she had a huge smile on her face. “Sorry, girls. The copier again. I had to extract a tiny scrap of paper by holding two parts of the copier apart with my teeth, and by reaching my hand right between two burn zones…but I got it!” She held the scrap up in the air. “My greatest unjam EVER!” The girls gave her a standing ovation, and the class got to work.

Two days later, Lily was called down to the principal’s office. Lily had a pretty good idea what this was about. The girls’ Late Teacher Challenge dance had received a ton of views, and she was sure Dr. Zizmor heard about it. Sure enough, Lily was exactly right. However, the story had a plot twist Lily didn’t predict. After the usual I-expected-more-of-you speech, asking Lily to hand her phone in, and telling Lily that her parents would be receiving a call, Dr. Zizmor had a piece of news to share. “Lily, I always knew you were a fun kid, but I never knew how much ruach you had in you, until I saw this video. I’d like you to consider applying to work at Camp Gila Rina Ditza Chedvah this summer. It’s a camp for children who come from difficult situations, some of whom are sick. They have a few counselor spots open for high school girls, and I think you’d be a great fit!” With that, Dr. Zizmor handed Lily an information folder and sent her on the way back to class (still without her phone).

By the time Lily made it back to the classroom, class was ending and it was time for lunch. Lily walked in with a half-happy, half-puzzled look on her face. “Lily! Lily! What happened?” asked a bunch of girls. Lily explained everything, including Dr. Zizmor’s suggestion for the summer. Rose and Poppy were packing up as Lily told her story, and this news did not make Rose happy. “Poppy! That’s the opportunity I am applying for! They are only taking one girl per school! I’ll never get it over Lily! They aren’t going to want a Quiet Girl when they can have the Ruach Queen! I’m doomed!” Poppy put a hand on her BFF’s shoulder. “Don’t worry, Rosie. We will figure something out.” Rose looked back at Poppy. “We’d better soon. The interviews are in two weeks!”

The next two weeks passed REALLY slowly, but eventually, the day for interviews arrived. All interested girls were given time slots; Rose had the last one. As the day went on, the girls were called down, until it was finally Rose’s turn. Rose entered the interview room, sat down and smiled. “So, Rose,” began the camp director. “In your essay, you described yourself as one of the ‘Quiet Kids.’ I love the way you take pride in it. In fact, every girl who has walked through here today has had so much ruach that it’s hard to pick one from the group. Let me ask you, what do you think is most important for being an effective counselor at Camp Gila Rina Ditza Chedvah?”

Rose took a second and began her response. “As a Quiet Kid, I have been watching my classmates for years. And I really noticed how important feeling safe is to them more than anything else. Nobody causes trouble without a ‘lookout,’ and even students with the most ruach don’t put on a show unless they know it’s safe—that people will like what they do. Some of the students who are the most fun in class could really do better at school, but they are scared of failing. They don’t feel safe with tests and grades, so they get approval in other ways. As a counselor, of course I will have fun, sing and dance with my campers. Even Quiet Kids can have a good time. But first, I need to make sure my campers feel safe and cared for.” The camp director smiled. “Congrats, Rose. You’re in!”

Moshe Rabbeinu describes himself as someone who has trouble speaking. “How will Pharaoh listen to me?” asks Moshe, “if I have trouble speaking?” Hashem says He will take care of it (with Aharon’s help). If we think about it, Moshe’s speech impediment is not just a challenge to overcome. It may actually be a source of Moshe’s strength. Someone who has a hard time speaking (or who likes to keep to herself, like Rose) has more time to observe and think. Such a person is likely careful with words, and isn’t prone to saying something he or she might regret. Such a person might have a better understanding of human beings. Maybe this is exactly what Hashem wanted in a leader. Someone who will communicate thoughtfully and calmly so that Bnei Yisrael (and Pharaoh) would get the right message. So all you Quiet Kids out there, don’t worry—you are the true leaders of tomorrow! (Just don’t tell anyone)


Yair Daar can be reached at [email protected].

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