“The Popsicle Race,” Friend, Aug. 1987, 2
Eight feet dragged downstairs to Mom’s sewing room. “Mom,” said Johnny, as he, Benjamin, Katie, and Miriam opened the door, “we’re bored. What can we do?”
“Go swimming?” Mom answered.
“We did that yesterday,” said Katie.
“Why don’t you ride your bikes?” suggested Mom.
“We did that this morning,” Johnny answered.
Mom smiled. “Then catch some monkeys.”
“What?” Benjamin jumped.
Mom laughed. “I just wanted to see if you were listening.”
“Sure we’re listening,” said Benjamin. “We don’t have anything else to do.”
“OK,” said Mom, “how about having a Popsicle race?”
“A Popsicle race?” Miriam asked.
“You mean, see who can eat one the fastest?” asked Katie. “We always race each other in everything. We want to do something different.”
“Oh, this is different,” Mom said. “Eating the Popsicles is just the first part. The fun part comes when all you have left are the sticks.”
The children frowned. “What do you mean?” asked Benjamin.
“Here’s how it works,” Mom explained. “Everybody gets a Popsicle and goes in a different direction. Then you have to think of an unusual and interesting thing to do with your Popsicle or its stick. It’s a race because you have to be back here within an hour.”
“You mean, we try to do something with a Popsicle or the stick that we’ve never done before?” asked Johnny.
“That’s right.” Mom nodded. “And there’s one more rule. Whatever you do must make someone else happy. Whoever comes up with the best idea wins. How does that sound?”
The children looked at each other for a moment. “I think that it sounds like fun,” Benjamin said.
“Me, too,” Miriam and Johnny agreed.
“Let’s go!” shouted Katie, and eight feet pounded up the stairs toward the freezer.
A few minutes later Mom looked through the window and smiled at four excited children with four brightly colored Popsicles dashing off in four different directions.
Nearly an hour had passed before Benjamin came running downstairs, grinning. “Hi, Mom,” he said. “Anyone else back yet?”
“You’re the first,” Mom answered, looking out the window. “But here comes Johnny, and Katie is right behind him. And I see Miriam down the street.”
Within minutes the children all gathered in the sewing room. The girls were laughing, and Johnny was so excited that he could hardly stand still. “I did it!” he said. “Let me tell first!”
“No!” shouted the girls. “We want to tell!”
“Hush, now,” Mom said. “You can tell your Popsicle stories in the order of your return. Benjamin, that means that you’re first.”
“OK,” said Benjamin, jumping up. “Well, I ate my Popsicle while walking down the sidewalk and trying to think of something to do. When it was gone, I sat down on the curb to think some more. I was sitting across from Mrs. Taylor’s house. I remembered about Mr. Taylor dying last year and about Mom and Dad saying what a hard time Mrs. Taylor’s been having trying to do everything by herself. I wished that I could help her. Then I noticed that her garden patch was full of weeds—and I got my idea. I went over and asked Mrs. Taylor if it was all right, then used my stick as a tool to dig weeds out of her garden!”
Mom hugged Benjamin. “I’m proud of you,” she said. “What a great idea! I know that it made Mrs. Taylor very happy.”
“My turn!” Johnny called, jumping up and down.
“Yes, Johnny,” said Mom. “What did you do with your Popsicle?”
“First I ate it.” Johnny giggled, showing his red tongue. “And I had to think for a while to get an idea too. As I was thinking, somebody called to me. It was Jeffrey—the boy in my class who has to stay in a wheelchair. He was on the porch of his house and asked me to come over. He seemed pretty sad. I thought that if summer vacation gets boring for me, it must really get boring for him: no bike riding, no baseball, no swimming. So when I went over to his house, I knew what I was going to do with my stick. His mom got me a piece of heavy paper and a pin, and I folded a paper airplane. Then I worked the pin through the middle of the Popsicle stick and stuck it into the nose of the airplane to make a propeller. I gave it to Jeffrey, and do you know what? Even though he has some pretty neat toys, he thought the airplane was great.”
“And you’re pretty great, too,” said Mom. “Good job!”
“I came back next,” said Katie. “Does my idea count even if the someone I made happy wasn’t a person?”
“I don’t see why not,” answered Mom.
“OK. Then I can tell you. After I ate my Popsicle, I ran over to Mrs. King’s house. Her yard is full of things for birds, and I wanted to see if there were any hummingbirds at her feeder. There weren’t, but I saw two sparrows having trouble eating from the seed bell that hangs in the tree. There weren’t any branches close enough for them to sit on while they ate, and they were too small to reach the bell from the branch it hung on. So I asked Mrs. King for two pieces of string. I tied a piece to each end of my Popsicle stick and tied the other ends of the strings to a branch. Now the stick hangs next to the seed bell, and it’s a perch for the birds to sit on while they eat!”
“Terrific!” exclaimed Mom. “But I know someone you made happy besides the birds: Mrs. King. Now there will be more birds for her to watch. You did very well.” Mom turned to Miriam. “Now it’s your turn, honey.”
Miriam looked at the floor. “I think I goofed,” she said. “I didn’t come up with a good idea like the others.”
“I’m sure you did fine,” Mom said. “Please tell us what you did.”
“Well, I didn’t eat my Popsicle,” began Miriam. “I saw Tony on his front porch. I said, ‘Hi,’ but he didn’t say anything. Then I remembered that he had his tonsils taken out Monday. That really makes your throat hurt. So I gave my Popsicle to him, and I sat by him and told him stories and jokes until I saw everyone else coming back here. When I left, he still didn’t say anything, but he smiled.”
“Miriam,” said Mom, kissing her, “that was a good idea. You made someone just as happy as Benjamin and Johnny and Katie did. In fact, now we have a problem.”
“What?” asked the children.
“I don’t think I can decide which idea was best. They were all wonderful.”
The children looked at each other. They were smiling. “That doesn’t matter, Mom,” answered Benjamin. “I think we each got a prize anyway. We all feel great!”
And eight feet skipped up the stairs and outside to play.