Blue Coat School 12/2/2003
1 Corinthians 13
After her parents split up, things changed at Jessica's house. Her mum started working, and Jess had to look after herself and her younger sister. Though money was tight, the girls had the necessities - food, clothing and shelter. Jess worked at weekends to earn some money for herself. What she really missed, though, was family.
One summer Jess worked on a play scheme, helping to organize activities for the children who spent their summer days at the park.
She got to know one little boy, Neil, who lived in a flat across the street from the park. His parents both worked at fast-food restaurants, and she knew that they didn't have much money.
Neil talked about his upcoming birthday and the fire engine he wanted so badly. He said he was going to be a fireman one day. He told Jess all about the engine, every little detail.
Neil's birthday came and went. The next day when Jess saw him, she expected to see a fire engine in his arms. When he arrived empty-handed, she asked about his birthday - did he get his engine?
No, Neil said, his parents were going to have to wait and get it for him later, when things were better. He seemed a little sad.
That afternoon, Jess put her money together and headed for the toy store. She found the engine easily - remembering Neil's descriptions. She bought it, and later wrapped in birthday paper.
Early the next morning, Jess rode her bike to where Neil lived and left the wrapped engine at the door, without a note. When he showed up at the park that day, he was more excited than she'd ever seen him. He showed off his new engine to Jess, then played with it all day long.
That afternoon, Neil's mum came to the park. She walked over to Jess. "Thank you," she said.
Jess tried to act confused, as though she didn't have a clue as to why this woman would be thanking her. "I get up early in the morning, just like you do," the mother said.
Knowing that she'd been found out, Jess started to explain, but the woman stopped her. "We want to pay you back," the woman said.
Though Jess started to say no, the woman went on to say, "We don't have the money to pay you for it, but I want you to come over for dinner tonight." Jess felt she should refuse, but Neil's mum would not take no for an answer.
That evening, Jess walked over to Neil's house. She could smell dinner coming from their window. When she entered their home, she saw that the family of four shared a small and cramped one-bedroom apartment. There were only two chairs at the makeshift table that served as the dining area. Instead of eating at the table, Jess and the family sat together on a tatty couch.
They passed around baked potatoes and cheese, laughing and chatting together as they ate.
Jess had a great time that evening. As she left, it was Jess who was saying thank you. Though they lived modestly, her hosts had given Jess something she had been missing - the warmth of a family.
She learned not only the rewards of giving, but that everyone has something to give. And that by accepting what is given to you, you complete the circle of love.
Adapted from the original story 'The fire truck' by Lori Moore in Chicken Soup for the Kid's Soul
However modest our gifts are - help us to learn the love in giving.
However modest the gifts that are given us - help us to learn the love in receiving.