I (Allison) am a grade eight student in the Challenge program at Calvin Park Public School. I wrote this story for a project called Challenge for Change which is meant to raise awareness for a global issue. My story is about two girls, one wealthy and one poor, who meet at a homeless shelter. Will their different backgrounds keep them apart, or bring them together?
It’s getting harder and harder to think of Rachel as a poor person. When I look at her, I no
longer see her pale face, her stringy hair, or her torn and tattered clothes. Instead, I see a kind and caring person who likes the same kind of music as me. I see my friend.
That’s why, after we’ve both devoured our scrumptious cream cheese brownies, I immediately tug Rachel’s hand and say, "Let’s go outside."
Rachel just stands there.
"What?" I say, slightly annoyed.
"I–I’d rather not," she mutters. "It’s cold."
"It’s not..." Then I remember that Rachel has no hat, no gloves, and only a thin, worn fall jacket. "You can borrow some of my winter clothes," I say, embarrassed.
"Sure," Rachel says, not looking mad. I run and get her a purple fuzzy hat, matching purple fuzzy gloves, and a purple-and-blue fuzzy coat. I outgrew them a year ago, but they should fit Rachel, who’s a little shorter.
Once we’re both bundled up, we run outside to the beautiful untouched field of snow that sparkles like diamonds. We flop down in it. Our arms and legs windmill back and forth, bumping into each other. We jump away at the same time and admire the perfect angel-shaped holes in the snow, their hands blending together, as if they’re clasping each other.
"Let’s make a fort," Rachel says, picking up a clump of snow and getting down on her hands and knees to roll it. When the one ball reaches a good size, she rolls another, and stacks it on top of the first one. "C’mon, Milli. Help me here."
I start rolling my own snowballs, two at once to move more quickly. Rachel copies me, and pretty soon we have a good-sized snow pillar. I place another snowball a couple of metres away from the first one to start a new pillar.
"Hey, hey, hey!" Rachel yells. "Don’t cover the snow angels! We want to preserve them as a token of our friendship!"
"Sorry," I say sheepishly, moving the ball.
"Now there’s a weird circle in the middle of my angel!" Rachel says, frantically (and jokingly) jabbing her finger at the snow angels. She picks up a lump of snow, shapes it into a ball
–and, instead of placing it on the fort, lobs it at me.
"Hey!" I shriek. "You cruel girl! You ruined my beautiful coat! Do you know how much that cost me? Prepare for sweet revenge!" Grinning, I throw a snowball back in her direction.
Rachel dodges, and the ball only grazes her side. "Sweet revenge, eh?" she teases. More snow explodes on my coat. Some of it slips down into my boots, wetting my socks. Ugh. I hate that feeling.
"Look! It’s Justin Bieber!" I yell, because one thing Rachel and I have in common is that we both have major celeb crushes on Justin Bieber. When Rachel’s turned around, frantically scanning the area and saying, "Where? Where?" I grab a handful of snow and pour it down Rachel’s coat.
Rachel whirls around instantly, glaring. "What, you dirty trickster!" She picks up bunches of snow and sprinkles it over herself, so she’s covered in it. "I am the Abominable Snowman! I will eat you alive!"
"Aieee!" I scream, pretending to be scared. I run away, knocking over the pillar we built, and stamping the snow angels into oblivion. (So much for a token of our friendship. Oh well, the snow would’ve melted soon anyway.) I finally trip and plunge headfirst into the fluffy white snow, my hat falling off and landing somewhere beside me. Rachel lands on top of me, giggling.
Mom’s voice calls from the porch. "Girls, I’m glad you’re having a good time, but I think it’s time to come in now."
"Aw, Mooom," I pretend-whine. Rachel’s already untangled herself from me and is tramping up the stairs. Snow flies everywhere.
"You girls!" Mom laughs. "What are you, snow monsters?"
"No, but close," Rachel says, smiling mysteriously.
I grin and head inside, shaking the snow from my clothes. It’s been a long time since I’ve made snow angels or had a snowball fight. Me and my friends usually spend winter recesses perched on the bleachers, looking cool and keeping dry. And I love acting crazy and immature and just having a good time like this. My friends’ favourite ways to have fun include laughing at that guy’s ugly sweater or how that girl’s wearing too much makeup.
"Want to go up to your room?" Rachel asks, once we’ve both taken off our winter clothes. "We can spill secrets."
Okay, that’s more the kind of activity I’m used to doing with my friends. I lead Rachel up the carpeted stairs to the upstairs storey. "Just be warned–my bedroom’s a bit of a disaster area. Mom usually makes me clean it up once a week, but lately she’s been slacking off."
Rachel doesn’t seem to mind the messiness of my room. Instead, she looks around, taking in everything–the fancy white canopy bed with its fluffy pillows, the celebrity posters on the walls, the magazines tossed on the floor, the rack of CD’s–with awe. Poor girl. She’s really lost track of what a normal life looks like.
"Who should spill their secret first?" Rachel asks.
"You go," I say.
"No, you go," Rachel urges.
"Oh, all right." After all, I already know what I’m going to say. It’s embarrassing, though. I’m chewing my lip–I really need to stop doing that.
"Spit it out," Rachel tells me.
"Uh–okay. But mine’s really embarrassing."
"Yay!" Rachel teases. "I love embarrassing. Go on."
"Well, my name..."
"It isn’t short for Millicent."
"Well then, what is it short for."
Rachel stares at me for a second, then her face contorts and she bursts out laughing. "Mildred? I know old ladies named Mildred!"
I bury my head in my hands. "I know. I hate my name. I was named after my dead great-aunt. My friends have never let me live it down ever since they found out."
Rachel laughs some more. "Mildred. Ha, ha. Well, I guess I shouldn’t be talking, considering what my middle name is."
"Ooh, what is it?"
Rachel hangs her head. "Must I tell you."
"Well, I told you mine."
"Oh, okay. Gertrude."
"Gertrude?" I shriek. "That’s even worse than my name?"
"Yeah, but it’s my middle name, not my first name like yours."
"You know it, Mildred."
There is a stony silence. I decide this is the time to bring up an issue that’s been nagging at me all day.
"Gertrude?" I say hesitantly. Rachel nods me on, so I continue. "Have you ever noticed how rundown the Oak Street Shelter is?"
"Yeah," Rachel says frowning. "I mean, at this point I’m happy just to have a warm place to sleep. But it’s a little bit–I don’t know–depressing to see all that dirt and grime everywhere."
"So, I was thinking..."–I pause for effect–"that the city should rebuild it."
"Yeah, they should," Rachel agrees. "But they don’t. I think they have more important matters to deal with than helping people who don’t have a home." I detect a tinge of sarcasm in her voice, and I feel guilty as I realize that was how I used to act.
But that was then and this is now, and I’ve changed. "Well, I think we should get the message out," I say determinedly.
"Yeah, good idea," says Rachel. "Except...what if they don’t want to listen to a couple of kids?"
"They will," I say, hoping I sound more confident than I feel.
"I don’t know," Rachel says. "I think you should ask your mom first. She’s probably an expert on this kind of stuff."
I don’t really want to–must I ask my mom permission before every important decision?–but Rachel urges me downstairs, giving me little taps on the shoulder to keep me plodding down the steps. When we’ve reached the bottom, Rachel gestures toward Mom. I move a few steps closer to her and she turns around, smiling.
"Yes, girls? How can I help you?
I describe the plan to Mom, with Rachel guiding me, telling me what to say. (It’s a little annoying, actually.) When I’m finished (and can finally breathe again) Mom’s face breaks into the biggest smile I’ve ever seen on a human being before. The corners are practically touching her face.
"I’m so glad that you’ve finally taken an interest in improving the life conditions of others," she says, still grinning. "You’ve changed so much–in a positive way–since you met Rachel."
But then her smile fades, to be replaced by a worried glance. "But, girls, while your cause is very admirable, it will cost thousands of dollars to implement. The city just doesn’t have that kind of money., considering that most of it goes into health care and education and environmental issues. And, of course, their own selfish purposes." For a second she sports the same bitter look that Rachel had. "I’m sorry, girls, but I’m just not sure..."
I glance at Rachel, whose eyebrows seem to insinuate "I told you so". But I won’t give up that easily.
"Then we’ll raise the money," I say confidently.
Rachel’s staring at me, like "Have you gone insane?"
"Don’t you see?" I persist. "If we raise the money, they’ll have to say yes. It’s perfect."
"Yeah, but..." Rachel tries to say, but Mom cuts her off.
"That’s a great idea! I love to see this kind of determination in a young person, especially in my own daughter! Go for it!"
Rachel still looks a little doubtful, but she goes along with my idea of holding a bake sale. In fact, she even looks excited. "I love baking!"
"Then you’ll love this!" I say enthusiastically. "We’ll make lots of scrumptious treats, and maybe some yummy hot chocolate, and make awesome posters, and charm everybody with our natural beauty, and make tons of money for the brand-new and improved homeless shelter! It’ll rock!" I spin my arms in the air and almost fall over.
"Okay, okay," Rachel says, grabbing my arm to steady me. "Calm down and let’s get to work."
We start sketching out the posters on a piece of poster board. As I work, I think about how I can’t wait for the day when we wrap up the hot chocolate sale and whatever else we’re doing to raise money, and the new homeless shelter finally starts getting built! It’ll help those people so much to have a clean, spacious place to stay. I’m finally starting to see why my mom takes so much pleasure in helping others.
Chapter 7 is coming!