The Strategic Camel Test

November 23, 2017
In Parshat Chayei Sarah, we learned about Eliezer’s task to find a wife for Isaac and his strategic camel test. Eliezer took his camels to the well, and when Rivka offered to draw water for both him and his camels, he knew he had found the right partner for Isaac.  The quality he was looking for was kindness.  Eliezer knew in Biblical times what modern psychologists have come to discover: where you find kindness, you will most likely find other positive traits.
Under the umbrella of Positive Psychology, modern psychologists have investigated happiness, optimism and kindness as well as the relationship among the three.  Many different studies over the past four decades have documented the relationship between kindness and optimism.  More recently, studies have proven a relationship between kindness and happiness.  From these investigations, therefore, one could suppose a strong relationship between kindness, optimism and happiness.
Our children are young.  The time they spend here at school is foundational to the adult lives they will lead.  We can all concur that we want our children growing up to be happy and productive members of our society, and that their success in life will be about more than just their academic prowess.  During parent-teacher conferences, it was certainly important to speak about academics, happiness and character.  Work samples in the areas of reading, writing and arithmetic informed you of where your child stands in relation to Ontario Curricular Standards.  However, our teachers also wanted to share anecdotes about your child’s character development at school — his/her kindness, optimism and happiness. This cluster of characteristics will contribute so positively to the person that your child becomes.
I read a quote this week from Maria Popova, a contemporary writer and blogger, that stuck with me: “If we are so busy being successful that we don’t have time to be happy, then we need to seriously consider our definition of success.”  This statement resonated strongly with me as I have found the balance of priorities at Paul Penna DJDS to be just right.  There is no question that success, as measured by a rigorous academic program, is important here.  But just as important is ensuring children are kind, optimistic and happy.
I believe that if Eliezer was sent to Paul Penna DJDS and conducted his strategic camel test, both he and his camels would be well fed, watered and cared for.   My wish is that all of the teacher meetings were meaningful and gave each parent a full picture of the child we see each day — the reader, the writer, the mathematician, the scientist, the engineer, the actor, the dreamer, the artist, the kind spirit and above all else the happy child.