Once, there was a little girl named Amanda who loved to help other people. She helped her Papa David and Papi Caesar to clean the house, she raked up the leaves in her neighbor Jim’s yard when he was in pain and couldn’t do it himself, and she tutored her friend Sara in Math. So, when it came time for her class to do a project to help people in her hometown, she was excited. Teacher Mike assigned each student a community of people that they should help. Some would help people living with illness, some would clean yards for those who could not clean their own—each project was a little bit different.
Teacher Mike told Amanda that he would like her to help people in Walden—the poor part of town- who are hungry. He said, “you can do any type of service project you like, but I want you to help those who are hungry.”
Amanda couldn’t wait! She thought all day about what she could do. When she got home she told Papa David and Papi Caesar about the project. “I want to make sandwiches and take them to the people are hungry!” Papa David and Papi Caesar and their neighbor Jim and her friend Sara made 100 sandwiches for the poor people in Walden.
The next day, Papi Caesar drove with Amanda to Walden. She had placed each sandwich in a bag with a piece of fruit. She tried handing out the sandwiches, but no one really seemed interested in them. Papi Caesar couldn’t explain to her why no one wanted the sandwiches. She offered them to people who were young and old, brown and white, friendly and rude- but the answer was always the same—“oh, I ate earlier, but thank you.”
Then she saw another little girl about her age. The little girl seemed to be watching Amanda—observing her with a look of laughter and curiosity.
Amanda approached the little girl, “would you like a sandwich?”
The little girl looked at her for a moment and then said, “aren’t you going to ask me my name?”
Amanda was a little embarrassed, “Oh, I am sorry. My name is Amanda. What is your name?”
“My name is Tiny.” This name was clearly appropriate- the little girl was tiny. “Why are you handing out sandwiches?”
“Well, it is a class project. I was asked to help those who are hungry here in Walden. So, my Papa David and Papi Cesar and Jim and Sara and I made sandwiches to give everyone.”
Tiny laughed, “Well, we do get hungry here some times, but we never take food from strangers. Some of my neighbors go to the soup kitchen each evening.” She paused to laugh some more, then, “Your teacher really asked you to help the hungry?”
Amanda was a little upset that Tiny thought this was so funny. Without really thinking she blurted out angrily, “Well, what would you do, then!?!” She didn’t mean to get so mad, but she did not like that someone thought her being helpful was funny?
Tiny stopped laughing and looked seriously at Amanda. “You really want to help us?”
Amanda nodded, but didn’t speak because she was too mad.
“Well, we have a garden that the city gave us. They gave us seeds, but most of the seeds were bad or not food that any of us will be able to eat much of- like turnips.” Tiny made a grimace, “Yuck! Who needs one thousand turnip seeds? Amanda laughed.
Tiny explained that what they really needed were healthy seeds for foods her community would eat and tools to help dig up the land and water the garden. Tiny said that if Amanda really wanted to help, she could get her class and her Dads and her friends to write letters to the City Council asking that a grocery store be put in the neighborhood because the closest one was forty-five minutes away by bus. Tiny and Amanda talked for a long time and not just about the needs of Walden. They both liked to jump rope and sing songs and make bird calls. Papi Cesar spent time chatting with Tiny’s mom, and soon, the two families were friends.
Amanda decided that her project would be to ask her church, her class at school, her family and her friends to come down to Walden and ask the people what they needed. They helped the community get the tools and seeds for the garden and shared in a big harvest meal in the fall. It would take a long time, but eventually they would help get a grocery store in Walden. They had a big festival to celebrate their success together.
Amanda learned a big lesson that day. She learned that you cannot decide what people need help with. You have to ask them what they need you to do and then do that. She also learned that sometimes, if you ask a stranger what they need, you might just make a friend.