We had an interesting experience today while sitting enjoying our frozen yogurt at Lazy Bean.
A group of four teenagers, two boys and two girls, entered the store. Not all of them ordered something to eat. Nina noticed that one of the girls casually took a cup from behind the counter and proceeded to walk over to the place that the milk and sugar are kept for people to add to their coffee. This young girl poured herself three quarters of a cup of milk and sat down with her friends to drink it. Obviously she did not have enough, as she returned to the same place and poured herself another glass of milk. At this point Nina asked the girl what she had just done.
Her response was that the milk was there for everyone to take. When Nina tried to explain to her that it was not the case, although we knew that she was aware of that, she boldly asked one of the girls working behind the counter whether or not it was ok for her to have taken some milk. The worker looked at her and mumbled something about not really understanding what she had said. The girl then turned to Nina and said, “See, she said it’s ok.” Nina suggested that perhaps she should ask the owner of the store instead. Annoyed with us, the girl poured the milk out and she and her group of friends left the store.
Are we slightly crazy or is this sense of entitlement becoming so perverse that it is being passed on to children at younger and younger ages? The most amazing factor, to us, was that because we had the audacity to even bring it to someone’s attention we were looked at as scoundrels.
What scares us the most about the above-mentioned actions is that this type of behavior has the potential to blossom into something much larger. Taking something when no one is looking is a game played by many young people. Just how much one can do to challenge the system becomes a thrill. Glancing at another student’s test paper while taking an exam, nonchalantly walking ahead of people while waiting in line to enter a theater, buying clothing and returning it after wearing it several times are all silly but true examples of the personality of someone who early in life begins committing little indiscretions. We are not even going to mention how subtle beginnings can easily turn into much greater consequences.
For those reading this and thinking that what we saw today was extremely minor, we implore you to think differently. Every child in every family has the temptation set before them, especially when they are with a group and watch their friends doing unreasonable things. The power of acceptance is great among young people and surprisingly enough their need to be “one of the guys” in some situations supersedes their beliefs and what they were taught from a young age. We have been discussing with each other how as parents we are able to dissuade our children from befriending a child who we feel is not a good influence. In many cases the child is in the same class and his parents are davening in the same shul. The solutions are not simple and we do not have the answers. Yet it is necessary to be alerted to the fact that not every child in the neighborhood has the midot that we would want to instill in our own children.
Who ever said that it was easy to be a parent? Once you become one you realize the challenges that become more and more evident and daunting each day. Yet we all know that except for certain unbearable days we wouldn’t change it for anything. It is a job with no vacation, lots of overtime, lots of benefits (we hope) and no sleep, and requires total selflessness. You are allowed to every once in a while question your sanity for taking the plunge!
By Rabbi Mordechai and Nina Glick