“Just Like Sarah,” Friend, June 1989, 20
Everyone in the third grade class likes Sarah. She always has someone to eat her lunch with and is the first one chosen for team games. She has pretty, dark brown hair and can draw beautiful pictures. I wanted everyone to like me the way that they liked Sarah. I thought about it as I walked home from school. Maybe, I decided, if I was just like Sarah, everyone would like me too.
The next morning I had my mother put my hair in braids just like Sarah’s. I tied a red ribbon bow at the end of each braid—red was Sarah’s favorite color. Then I put on a sweater. Sarah always wore a sweater.
When it was time for art class, Mrs. Williams wanted us to draw a picture of summer. I watched Sarah, then drew frogs and ducks and kids swimming in a pond just like in Sarah’s picture. The kids liked her picture, but nobody said anything about mine.
At recess, Sarah was playing jump rope with a bunch of girls, so I went over and joined in. But I don’t really like playing jump rope, and I was glad when the bell finally rang.
At lunchtime, Sarah ate with Sally and Anna. I ate by myself. I’m not trying hard enough, I thought. Tomorrow I’ll do better.
The next day, I brought my purse to school just like Sarah does. I wore jeans and sneakers like Sarah wears too. I even brought a peanut butter sandwich for lunch because that’s Sarah’s favorite kind. When Sarah volunteered to help clean the chalkboards after school, I did too. At recess, I followed Sarah to the kickball field. She got picked first. I was chosen second to last. I didn’t like playing kickball any better than I liked jump rope. At lunchtime Sarah ate with Jenny and Michael, and I ate by myself again.
When we had music class, I played the xylophone like Sarah. And when Sarah helped Billy during math class, I told Mrs. Williams that I could help too. She said, “Thank you for offering, but you need to finish your own work first.” Some of the girls giggled at me, and Mrs. Williams told them to get busy. I felt horrible. Being like Sarah was hard.
After school I stayed and helped Sarah clean the chalkboards because we had volunteered. Everyone else went outside to play while they waited for their buses. The sun was shining, and I wanted to leave too.
“Which board do you want to clean?” Sarah asked.
“I’ll do the front one,” I said. It was the smallest, and I wanted to get done fast.
“OK,” Sarah said, and she got out two clean erasers. Sarah hummed the new song that we had learned in music class as she worked. It was a catchy tune. Pretty soon I was singing the words.
Sarah stopped working. “Katie,” she said, “you have such a pretty singing voice—and a good memory too. I could never have learned all those words yet.”
I looked up in surprise. “Thanks,” I said. “I guess music is my favorite class.”
All the way home, I thought about what Sarah had said. I am good at remembering and singing, I thought. Then I figured out that each person was different but that everyone was the best at something. I also realized that I couldn’t really be like Sarah—except maybe in one special way that I hadn’t tried yet.
The next day, I wore my favorite shirt to school. I had my mother fix my hair in a big ponytail, and I had a bologna sandwich for lunch. At recess, I played volleyball—I love playing volleyball.
At lunchtime, Sarah ate with Susan. I looked around and saw Andy eating by himself. Not many people talk to Andy. I walked over and smiled at him. “Could I eat my lunch with you today?” I asked. “You can tell me about the farm that you visited.”
Andy smiled. “Sure,” he said, moving his lunch sack over to make room.
I sat down to eat, and I felt happier than ever. Being friendly and kind was the best way to be just like Sarah.