by Bethany J. Boone
First Place – Level C (7th – 8th grade)
We’ve seen him on multiple occasions: around town, at a bus stop, in the park, and he’s always alone, with a worried look on his face. Despite my fears, I decided to speak to him the next time I saw him. I don’t think I was truly afraid of him, but a bit apprehensive because when we had been in Tucson with our aunts a month before, we had seen him at the bus stop there. Now, he was here in Wilcox where we don’t have any buses!
The next time I saw him was at the park. My seven-year-old sister, Larisa, was feeding the ducks by the pond.
“Hello, Sir,” I said cheerfully as he walked beside us. “It’s a fine day!”
“What?” he asked sharply.
“It’s a fine day!”
He looked around as if seeing everything for the first time. “Oh. I suppose it is.”
I studied him carefully. He looked to be about nineteen or twenty years old, a few years older than me, with light sandy hair and clear blue eyes. He looked as if he believed life weren’t worth living any longer. After my sister fed a duck a piece of bread, he turned and walked off, his shoulders sagging. Larisa tossed the rest of the bread to the ducks. I held out my hand and we started for home, realizing we had cows waiting to be milked. “Lars?”
“Who was that man, and why did he look so worried?”
“I don’t know.”
“We could cheer him.”
“Perhaps, but how?”
“We should ask Evelina. She’s good at cheering people!”
I laughed as we paced up the walkway to the house. “Well, you can go talk to Evelina because I need to milk the cows.”
Larisa grinned and ran into the house as I headed for the barn. I found Mr. Racken forking hay into the stalls. I lived with Mr. Racken and worked for him too.
“You’re a little late, Lars,” he said, not slowing his rhythmic movement.
I set to milk the first cow. Later, when we were finished with the chores, we headed inside. Larisa met us.
“I think that the next time we see him we should invite him to supper.”
Mr. Racken took off his hat and hung it on a hook. “Who should we invite to supper?” he inquired mildly as we went into the kitchen.
“You invited someone to supper?” Evelina, my twin, asked with alarm.
“I don’t think so,” Mr. Racken said. He was washing up. Evelina turned to me and I shrugged, drying my hands and face with a towel.
“We should invite him to supper!” Larisa insisted.
“Who?” Mr. Racken asked again as we sat down at the table.
“The man that we have been seeing,” Larisa answered. She proceeded to tell him all about the mysterious person we saw at the duck pond.
After we prayed and ate, Larisa spoke up again. “Evelina said that a good way to cheer people is to give them a card, but I think we should invite him to supper instead.”
“I think it would be better to start with a card,” Mr. Racken said, smiling.
“Well, I will then,” Larisa agreed, and was silent for the rest of the meal.
The next morning, when I came in from the barn, I found Evelina busy with the breakfast dishes and Larisa sitting at the table with paper and pencils in front of her. Later that afternoon, Evelina informed me that she had discovered where the mysterious young man lived. She had gone to take some milk to the Hartfords.
“His name is Paul and he’s living with the Hartfords and working for Mr. Hartford to pay his board. He came from Tucson just a month ago, which would explain why we saw him there!”
“Mr. Racken said we could take him the card I made and this box of baked goods Evelina made, but we need to make sure we’re back in time to make supper!” added Larisa, hopping around excitedly. “Let’s go!”
Evelina and I grinned at each other and we set out, with Larisa skipping happily in between us. Before long, we had reached the Hartford’s farm. We went up the walk and I knocked on the door.
“Hello!” Mrs. Hartford greeted us as she opened the door. “Come right in!”
We stepped in and Evelina explained our visit.
“That’s right nice of you to bring something for Paul! He’s lonely, so it’ll do him good.
He’s in the barn – want me to call him or you want to go find him?”
Noticing that it looked as though Mrs. Hartford was in the middle of a project, Evelina assured her that we could find him. We went back outside, making our way to the barn and knocked on the open door. The young man came out of the barn with a pitchfork of hay over his shoulder. “Yes?”
“We just came by to introduce ourselves,” explained Evelina. “I hope that’s all right.”
“It’s fine,” Paul replied, tossing the hay into a stall. “I’m Paul.”
We introduced ourselves and Larisa handed him the box we put together for him. He looked confused.
Larisa piped up. “It’s for you. We thought you needed to be cheered!”
He picked up the card over the box and opened it. I knew exactly what it read:
‘Casting all your care upon him; for he careth for you.’ 1 Peter 5:7
Enjoy the cookies!
Love from your neighbors,
Mr. Racken, Lars, Evelina & Larisa
Paul looked up and whispered. “Cast all my cares upon Jesus? I’ve heard that before, but…”
“Yes,” replied Evelina softly. “He cares for you, Paul.”