"Mother," asked Amanda one evening after school, "why don't Joanna and Mary like me?"
"What makes you think they don't?" Mother asked.
"We went on our hike today, and Sister Sarah asked me to help with the younger children. You know she is so busy with all those lower graders. Then on the way home I heard Joanna and Mary talk about me. They said they don't like me, and that I'm bossy."
"Do you think you were perhaps?" Mother questioned gently.
Amanda looked her mother in the face. "I honestly don't think so. I hope not, anyhow."
"Maybe you should talk it over with Sister Sarah sometime. She may know what really is the matter. Be careful you don't give the girls reason to dislike you, and do try to cultivate love for them."
"I'll try, Mother," Amanda said. "I just wish I could change their feelings toward me."
"That is natural," Mother agreed, "but it is better to work on your own attitudes and actions. Praying for them is the best thing you can do."
"Am I doing something wrong that Joanna and Mary don't like me?" Amanda asked her teacher hesitantly.
"Not that I know," Sister Sarah replied softly. "Maybe they are a bit jealous of the privileges and responsibilities you get. Since you are the only girl in seventh or eighth grade, I do ask frequently for your help and I really appreciate it. I think Joanna and Mary would like to help me more, but they seldom have time. And, as fourth graders, they couldn't do everything you do either."
Amanda nodded. What Sister Sarah was saying made sense.
"The best thing I can advise you is to show a true love for Joanna and Mary. Love can work miracles, you know."
The remainder of the day Amanda pondered Sister Sarah's advice. How could she show her love for the fourth grade girls? She knew it wouldn't do any good to walk up to them, put her arms around them, and say, "I love you." She needed to show them in some more concrete way.
Several days later Amanda came across an interesting story at school. She read the last part over several times. A little girl and her infant brother wished to enter the garden called Happy Life, but a huge gate blocked the entrance. The little girl soon spoke the special word, love, that lifted the latch of the gate. But before the gate would open enough to let her through, she had to show what love meant, and she did not know how. Her little brother began to cry, begging to go home. She lifted him up and spoke kindly to him, but he would not be consoled. So, sadly she turned away from the beautiful garden to take the boy home.
At that moment the gate opened.
That little girl showed what love means without trying to, Amanda thought. She gave up her own pleasure to please her brother. That must be the key. "Help me to do that for Joanna and Mary when I have opportunity," she prayed silently.
Fall faded into winter. Amanda tried hard to be friendly and kind to Joanna and Mary, but it seemed to no avail. While they were not outwardly unkind, Amanda could feel them avoiding her, and that hurt. Many times she shared her frustrations with her mother, and always she received the same kind of response.
"I know it is hard not to be discouraged, but don't give up. Love will win in the end."
After Christmas Sister Sarah gave the pupils one craft period each week. One Friday afternoon Amanda seated herself quietly beside Joanna and Mary. They were discussing the slippers they were knitting.
"I'm making mine for Mother," Joanna was saying, "but I'm afraid they're not good enough."
Amanda looked at Joanna's work. "Oh, that's nicely done. You certainly don't have to be ashamed to give them to your mother." Joanna beamed and knitted with renewed vigor.
Then Mary held up her work for inspection. "How is mine?"
Carefully Amanda appraised the slipper. "You've also done well. Keep it up."
Happily the two fourth graders continued their work. They were pleased, but not more so than Amanda. For once she felt the girls did not resent her presence. She, too, began to knit rapidly.
"What are you making, Amanda?" Joanna asked presently.
"For yourself?" Mary wondered.
"No. I want to give it to Grandmother for her birthday. She'll be 80 next week." Amanda bent over her knitting with eagerness. She had almost forgotten she wanted to complete the sweater this week. Not much remained to be done, but she hoped no one would disturb her the rest of the period.
Suddenly Joanna exclaimed, "Something is wrong!"
"What?" Amanda wondered.
"I don't know. It doesn't look right anymore."
Amanda glanced toward Sister Sarah and saw that she had her hands full with the younger children. Suppressing a sigh she laid down her work and took up Joanna's. "Let me see if I can help."
In a few minutes Amanda had corrected Joanna's mistake. Handing the slipper back to her, Amanda picked up her own work. As she knitted, she kept an eye on Joanna, stopping every so often to give the younger girl guidance.
"How do I do it now, Amanda?" Mary asked a few minutes later. Patiently Amanda explained the next step to her. When Amanda was sure Mary understood, she turned again to Joanna. "How are you getting along?"
"I wish you'd show me once more. I think I'd have it then." Carefully Amanda demonstrated the method to Joanna. As she again picked up her sweater, Sister Sarah spoke, "It is time to put your things away now."
Surprised, the three girls looked at the clock. None of them had realized how quickly time was passing. As they put their knitting away, Joanna said to Amanda, "You didn't get far today, did you?"
"No, I didn't."
"I'm sorry. You helped me too much," Joanna apologized.
Mary added, "Too bad you didn't get done. Thank you for helping me."
"That's all right," Amanda smiled. "I did it gladly."
A week later Amanda paused beside Sister Sarah's desk following dismissal. "Joanna and Mary seem different," she began. "They're really friendly to me now. I wonder what happened."
Sister Sarah smiled at Amanda. "I think I know. I overheard them talking of how you left your own knitting in order to help them with theirs. What really impressed them was that you did it so willingly when it meant you had no chance to finish your sweater in time for your grandmother's birthday."
Thoughtfully Amanda picked up her schoolbooks to leave. She remembered the story of the little girl and the gate, and her own prayer for help to show love. "Thank You, Lord, for helping me use my opportunity," she breathed, as she turned toward home. She was eager to tell her mother how love had won in the end.
From "Partners" Vol. 28 Jan. 5, 1997
A Bible-centered paper for Junior/Intermediate boys and girls
© Christian Light Publications, Sunday School Division
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This material was typed in by Dick Sullivan. Thanks a lot, Dick!
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