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?
NOTE: THIS IS THE FINAL CHAPTER; PLEASE GO BACK TO CH. 1 TO BEGIN!
It’s Saturday, December 23rd and Rachel and I are spread out on my carpet, reading magazines. School was let out long ago, and we’ve been hanging out more and more since then. We’ve done several other fundraisers and raised tons more money. Though we still have a long way to go, we’ve made great progress. Mom told us to take a well-needed break.
Suddenly, I hear the motor of a vehicle, strangely close to our house. I spring to my feet and go over to the front door to see a white van with the words AKWS News printed on the side parked in our driveway. People pile out of the van, carrying cameras. This is certainly strange. Why would the news station be coming to my family’s house?
I open the door for a middle-aged man with thinning brown hair and a mustache. I recognize him form the nightly local news – Eric Johnston, a reporter. "Good morning," he says in a friendly tone. "Are you Rachel or Mildred?"
"Uh...I’m Mildred," I respond, feeling slightly nervous. "But I prefer Milli."
"Excellent!" he says as more people spill into the house. "Is Rachel here as well?"
"Yep," I say. I turn and holler "Rraacchheell!" into the next room.
Rachel’s there in a split second. When she sees all the people and the flashing cameras, she looks downward shyly.
"Hey, Rachel," the original man says. "I’m Eric, and I’m here to interview you and Milli."
"Interview us? Why? How? When? Wh-"
Eric interrupts before Rachel’s string of questions go on too long. "It was Milli’s mom who set this up, actually. She called us and told you about the wonderful project you were doing. We were instantly interested and we think our viewers on AKWS News will be, too."
Oh. So it’s about our project. Of course – why didn’t I think of that?
Rachel’s still looking at the floor. "So if we do the interview, we’ll be seen on TV? By hundreds of people?"
I’m about to tell Rachel to get a grip – this is good news – but Eric just smiles encouragingly. "Are you a little nervous? That’s okay – why don’t we have Milli talk first? Is that fine with you, Milli?"
"Sure," I say, shrugging.
"Great. You just talk into the microphone, and Katrina here will film us."
Katrina, a pretty brunette in a blue sweater, turns the camera on us.
Eric begins. "We are here with two of this city’s most passionate young change-makers, Milli McTavish and Rachel Brown. These 13-year-old young ladies are working hard to raise money to rebuild the rundown homeless shelter on Oak Street. Their compassion and perseverance is an inspiration to all of us, and today we’re going to hear their stories. Milli, how did you and Rachel come up with the idea for this project?" Eric points the microphone at me.
I take a deep breath. "Well, I met Rachel in the homeless shelter earlier this month. My mom volunteers at it. I was appalled at the dingy state of everything in it. I discussed this issue with Rachel, and we came up with a plan to raise money to rebuild it. Our first attempt at fundraising – a bake sale – wasn’t so successful, but we kept going and have had more success." I pause and look away from the microphone to show Eric I’m done. My heart is thudding. Have I done a good job? Was it disrespectful to say the shelter was dingy? I carefully avoided saying Rachel was homeless – did that come across anyway? Oh no, I think I haven’t brushed my hair! Will I look like a slob on television?
If I do, Eric’s expression doesn’t show it. He smiles politely and beckons Rachel over. "Now, Rachel has a personal story to share that relates to this cause. Rachel?"
I give Rachel what I hope is an encouraging look, while secretly hoping that she doesn’t mess up. But Rachel comes through. "I lost my home about a year ago," she begins shyly. "It happened when my dad walked out on us and my mom lost her job. We were evicted from our house and forced to jump from shelter to shelter. At first I didn’t want to come to the Oak Street Shelter, but now I’m glad I did. I met Milli, the best friend I’ve had. She looked past my outer appearance and saw the true me. Working on this project with her has given me the strength to keep going even in tough times." Tears streak down her cheeks as she wraps up, but I figure that just makes our story more potent.
"Milli," Eric asks, "has this project benefitted you as it did for Rachel?"
"Yes, definitely," I say. "Before I met Rachel, I was honestly kind of shallow. I didn’t care much about important things like love and kindness. But Rachel taught me to look past outward appearances and see the wonderful, kind person inside. I started wanting to make a real difference in the world. This may be a small project, but it will make a huge difference in the lives of Rachel and many other people. You can make a difference, too." I’m satisfied as I finish my short speech. Sure, it may be cheesy, but it shows what’s really important in life.
Eric then comes to my mom and asks her about what she thinks of "her fantastic daughter." Mom’s speech is basically a bunch of gushing about how kind and generous and hardworking and intelligent Rachel and I are, but it makes me smile. My heart swells with love for her and Rachel and all my other family (including my late father) and the news people and the whole world.
Eric finishes the interview by saying, "Thank you for listening to this heartwarming story of two girls who, despite their differences, are using their friendship to help the world. We need more people like these two."
Katrina turns the camera off and starts toward the door, followed by all the other random people (who, to be honest, I don’t see why they’re there). Eric remains and shakes our hands heartily. "Thank you, girls. That was a pleasure."
"You’re welcome," Rachel and I say as he leaves with a final friendly wave to us.
Once the news truck disappears around the corner, me, Rachel, and my mom are left standing around in my living room. None of us is quite sure what to say. Rachel is the first to break the silence. "Well, that went well," she says without a trace of sarcasm.
I suddenly whirl around and envelope Rachel in a crushing hug. Rachel hugs me back. "Thank you, Milli," she says in a choked voice. "You saved my life."
"You saved my life, too," I reply, pushing myself more tightly around her. I realize we really did save each others’ lives. Maybe not literally, but emotionally. We gave each other happiness and helped each others’ characters grow. But there’s someone else who contributed to that, too.
I give my mom one of the same bear hugs. I’m so close I can smell her clean, fresh scent. It’s funny – just a month ago I would have resisted her hugs. But now I’m initiating them.
"I love you," I tell her.
"Oh, Milli," she says, stroking my hair gently. "I love you, too."
Full of happiness, I plop back down on the carpet and pick up the magazine again. Rachel flops beside me, and my mom goes back to her work. But I can’t focus on reading. I’m too busy reflecting on everything that’s happened to me recently.
That’s when I realize – it’s just two days to Christmas, the one-year anniversary of my dad’s death. My eyes start to well up suddenly. Rachel puts her arm around me, and I feel better. It’s just something like that – a simple gesture from a true friend – that makes a big difference.
As I glance out the window, I see the snow falling, light and soft and magical. Christmas lights of many different colours sparkle on the fronts of houses and on our Christmas tree. It’s a perfect just-before-Christmas scene. It fits perfectly with the joy and love that’s spreading through our home right now – and that I hope will spread through the Oak Street Shelter when our project is finished.
In this last month, I have changed in ways I wouldn’t have believed possible. I have gone through setbacks and lost friends. But I also have made a new, truer friend, learned about the value of love, and made a difference in the world. I hope that all the days to come will bring more of the same. But for now, I’m content just sitting back and relaxing with my best friend on a perfect, joyous winter day.
I hope you enjoyed my story, and I want to thank you all for reading it and commenting. I hope my story warms your heart and inspires you to create some change in the world. Remember, just a small effort can make a big difference.