Here is what I sometimes think about since I’ve begun teaching middle school recently.
Do nice guys really come in last?
The nice guy is the one who does everything right all of the time. He plays by the rules and in the end he reaps his reward.
But then there’s the guy who already broke all the rules, but pulls himself together and applies himself when duty calls.
This “guy” has something the nice guy lacks, and eventually it works to his advantage: The ability to have broken the rules, and to use that same mischievous edge for his own survival, and the good of others one day.
I am writing this now because we are approaching Rosh Hashanah, and I am writing it here, because, on my first trip back to the schoolroom this September, I needed to remind myself of the legends of Washington Heights. I needed to remember that behind every rowdy boy is a future success.
The legend had it that the worst kids in our Yeshiva grade school, the terrorizers – if you will, grew up to be the most successful. I can think of two in my era, and my mother always talked about the grandson of a board member who was kicked out of the school (or almost was?) And then, as life progressed, some of these children found a way to express this excess energy in a way that no one could have ever foreseen. They wound up making their first million while the nice guys continued punching the clock. Now, success isn’t measured in millions, (or it shouldn’t be,) but you can’t call them failures either.
I am trying to keep this in mind when mentally evaluating the different boys in the classroom.
I suggest that we take this approach to Teshuvah. And- at the risk of preaching- I suggest that we look at our own shortcomings as our key to our future successes. We can use this for the good, if we just realign our intentions for the Honor of Heaven. Kesiva VeChasima Tova.