Okay, i would like your help with this one. The following story (i know it’s a long one) is one I told Esther a few weeks ago at bedtime, and is partially based on true events (or feelings). After Beth and I prayed with Esther and Beth kissed her goodnight and left her room, Esther confessed how she didn’t feel important and that all her friends have cool video game players and other cool toys and she doesn’t have anything like that. So I made up the following story to show her that she IS important and her value doesn’t come from having video games and the latest toys. This also came after we returned from Joplin, MO with our youth group (Esther was there too). We spent the week after Christmas helping with clean up and rebuilding projects, so the concept of a storm was fresh in her mind as well.
Here is where I need your help. I just finished the rough draft and I normally print off my stories and pass them around to the ladies in the office and to beth to help with all my grammatical mistakes. But this time I thought I would ask for anyone who reads it to help me out. I would eventually like to have this one published too, but for now I will be content with posting here. (BTW -you won’t hurt my feelings with any corrections, changes or insights.) Enjoy!
“YOU ARE IMPORTANT!”
Esther lived on a small farm outside a small town. She loved living on the farm. She had chores to do in the morning before leaving for school and in the evening before eating dinner. She had sheep, goats, horses, cows, pigs, chickens and rabbits. She also had a dog named Valentine. Esther and her parents tended a three acre garden with many varieties of produce to be sold fresh or canned to enjoy during the winter months. On the hillside behind their farmhouse were many fruit trees. Esther loved walking through the orchard picking pears and peaches in her reach and eating them along the hillside.
It was a Saturday morning and Esther’s dad was working on putting up a new pin for a pair of calves they were getting in later that day. Esther loved helping her daddy and, truth be told; he loved having her help him. This particular job required some difficult work. Esther tried to help her daddy, but this time the job was too difficult for her. This made her frustrated. She threw her hammer down and said, “I can’t do anything.”
Her dad knowing he needed to take a small break to reassure his daughter of her importance. “Esther, you can do so many things. You can do things that I can’t.”
“Like what?” she asked.
“Well, like when we are putting fence up. I can’t be at two places at the same time. I need you to run down the fence row to secure the wire so I can pull it tight. If I tried to feed and care for all of our animals, it would take me all day. You are so important to me.” He reassured her.
“I just feel that I’m too small to do anything big or important.” She still wasn’t convinced.
“Esther, you are too small to do certain things. That’s fine. As far as being too small to do anything important, that’s not true. We have no idea what the Lord has planned for you. You may be doing something that doesn’t seem that important, but because you are obedient, God may be using that for a grand purpose.” Her father encouraged her.
Esther’s dad took a drink of coffee, handed her the empty cup and said, “There is something only you can do that is very important.” He leaned in and smiled.
“You can get me some more coffee.” He squeezed her so tightly she coughed. They laughed together, he told her how much he loved her, and she took the cup inside to fill it up with hot, fresh coffee. When she returned, her dad had raised the wall and was trying to nail it to the corner post but was having trouble. Esther set the cup down with steam rising from the opening. She leaned up against the wall letting out a little grunt as she put her all into holding the wall for her daddy so he could secure it properly.
Monday morning had snuck up faster than Esther wanted it to. She came back into the kitchen after doing her chores. Her mom had a steaming bowl of strawberry oatmeal. “I put the strawberries you picked in your oatmeal. Even though you ate more than you picked yesterday, I thought you would enjoy a few more this morning.” She smiled as she looked at Esther revealing that she saw how many strawberries she ate while picking in the patch.
Esther enjoyed her breakfast, kissed her mom good bye, and walked out to the end of the driveway to wait for the bus. The diesel engine roared as it climbed the hill towards Esther’s farm. The breaks squeaked as it came to a stop in front of their drive. Esther got on the bus. The driver told her good morning then watched in the mirror until she sat down with her classmates. The bus began to roll down the road on its way to the next stop.
Immediately Esther was in the middle of her classmates showing off their latest electronic gadgets. They were passing them around, but only to others with games compatible with their own. Esther tried to join them, but she didn’t have anything to show off. She sat back against her seat and began to look out the window as the bus made its way into town towards the school house. Esther wished she had cool things like her friends had. It seemed like everyone had something neat, except for her.
The school week went by at its usual pace. Esther continued doing her chores in the morning and evenings, but wasn’t as happy as she normally was. It was Thursday evening and Esther had just sat down at the table. Her dad was in the bathroom washing up for dinner. Esther’s mom noticed something was bothering her so she asked her what was wrong.
“It seems like everyone else has all these cool electronic toys and I don’t have anything like that. They always bring them to school and show them off to each other, but they don’t let me play with them, because I don’t have anything to share with them.” Esther’s eyes began to well up with tears, and her chin began to quiver. She sniffed her nose and looked down. When she did a tear overflowed and ran down her cheek.
Esther’s mom sat down next to her at the table. She put her arm around her and said, “I’m sorry your friends are leaving you out like that. I’m sorry you feel alone because you don’t have any of those toys to share. But Esther, what you have here on this farm is so much more valuable than any video game or electronic gadget or cell phone.”
By this time Esther had rested her head against her mother’s chest as her dad walked in the dining room and asked what was wrong. She filled him in with what Esther had just told her. He sat down next to her putting his arm around both Esther and her mommy. He waited for a moment then gently spoke, “Do you remember the other day when you got frustrated because you didn’t think you could do anything?” She didn’t respond just sniffed her runny nose again.
He continued, “Do you remember what I told you?” She lifted her head trying to remember that morning. “I told you that sometime it feels like you are too little to do anything important, but God has different plans for you. What you think is unimportant may actually be something very important to God’s plan. The same is true when it comes to those video games. You may not have the latest video game or electronic gadget, but what you are able to provide to people from this farm is far more valuable than any video game. One day you may understand that.”
She wiped her tears with her shirt sleeves. Her mother scrunched her nose preferring her to use a tissue. Esther and her mom brought the dinner to the table, her father gave the blessing and they enjoyed another incredible home cooked meal.
The wind was blowing outside. Esther’s dad finished his meal quicker than normal, excused himself as he placed his plate in the kitchen sink. He finished off his drink while standing over the sink and then set the glass down next to the plate. He put his John Deere cap on, snapped up his coat and slipped his gloves on. He was going out to make sure the animals and outbuildings were ready for the coming storm. When he went opened the door, the wind caught the storm door and nearly pulled it from his grip.
The gust filled the house and blew over a lamp. Esther picked it back up as her mom pushed the door against the wind to latch it shut.
Esther was in bed, but not asleep when her daddy finally came back in. She could hear him talking to her mom about the storm. She listened as her eyes searched back and forth in the pink glow from her nightlight. “It’s still west of us, but coming this way and fast. We are under a Severe Thunderstorm Warning right now and a Tornado watch. It looks like the worst of it is going to stay just south of us, but we are going to get some straight line winds and maybe hail.”
Esther was nervous, but clung to her stuffed animal. Esther’s dog Valentine didn’t like storms either so she hopped up at the foot of Esther’s bed and laid down. Esther slipped her toes under her dog’s belly. She liked how that kept them warm. The two friends were braver together than if they were alone. Esther fell asleep but seemed to be woken up immediately. Her dad had picked her up in both arms and whispered that they were going to sleep downstairs in the basement tonight. Esther could hear the tornado siren, but was able to fall back to sleep. There is something comforting about being in your father’s arms when you are in the middle of a storm.
The wind rushed outside. The rains came down hard. Esther slept with her mother on the couch while her dad looked out the window watching buckets tumble across their property. The siren moaned as it faded out. Everything seemed to be okay so far, then just as quickly as the winds and rains roared through they had passed.
Esther woke up on the couch in the basement. She looked confused why she was in the basement. Her mom was upstairs in the kitchen. She could smell coffee brewing and sausage and eggs cooking. She carried her stuffed animal upstairs to the main floor of their home. Valentine had joined the family in the kitchen as well. “Mom, why did I sleep downstairs?” she asked. Her mother filled her in with the previous night’s storm.
“Daddy is outside right now cleaning up if you want to go out and help him. Why don’t you eat some breakfast first. When you go out, take him his cup of coffee.” Her mother told her as she set a plate of scrambled eggs and two sausage links on the table in front of her. Esther quickly finished her breakfast ran upstairs to put on her jeans and sweatshirt. She came clambering back down the steps, leaping from the third step from the bottom of the stairs. She sat on the bench by the door and pulled her boots on. Esther grabbed her daddy’s coffee and went out the front door looking for him.
Sometimes the most violent nighttime storms deliver the most beautiful, sun filled mornings. This was one of those mornings; calm, sunny and cool. Esther found her dad coming out of the barn. She ran over to him, spilling coffee all the way. He hugged her and asked how she was doing. He told her he had a lot of clean-up around the farm and he needed her help. He gave her lists of things to be done, but was interrupted when Esther’s mom hollered from the front porch that he had a phone call.
Esther went to remove fallen limbs from the sheep pen as her daddy went to take the call. He came back from the house and told Esther he had to drive into town and asked if she wanted to come along. She tossed the last batch of limbs over the fence of the sheep pen then climbed over. She ran over to the passenger side door of her daddy’s old brown Ford pick-up truck. She slid over to the middle seat. She loved shifting for him going down the old country roads.
On the way into town, her daddy told her that the storm was a lot worse in town and that some homes had even been destroyed. Esther asked if it was a tornado and he told her that the news isn’t reporting that yet, but the destruction looks like tornado damage.
The closer they got the more devastation they saw. Large tree limbs snapped from their trunks lie across driveways and roofs. Shingles littered yards. Esther stopped counting the leaves that covered the ground instead of the skyline. She sat up as high as her seatbelt would let her to look around. Her daddy was quiet.
They pulled into a driveway, but had to stop abruptly because a tree had been uprooted and crumbled a parked car. The home behind the tree was completely destroyed. It looked like a Lincoln Log house might look after a mischievous boy slapped it with his hand. The roof lay sideways atop leaning walls. Some walls were missing altogether. The inside of this home was exposed. Esther and her dad got out and walked up to the house. Esther held on to her daddy’s hand. The owners of the home came out from behind. The man shook Esther’s dad’s hand and thanked him for coming out.
Esther recognized the boy who stayed back next to his mom. His name was Kenny. He rode her bus and was in her class. She waved at him and he waved back as he leaned his head on his mother’s hip. Esther’s dad and the man talked for a while, she heard her dad reassure him things would be okay and that he would help out anywhere he could. The two men shook hands and Esther and her dad returned to their truck. They backed out and drove down the street. More homes were destroyed. Some were worse than Kenny’s home and some were not quite as bad.
Esther and her dad made their way back to their farm. Esther asked her daddy, “Daddy, what are my friends and those people going to do? They don’t have a home to live in.” Her dad spent the rest of the ride home explaining that some would stay in their homes and others would have to stay in local hotels until they can get their homes rebuilt.
Esther and her family spent the weekend in town helping clean up and remove debris from yards and streets. Everyone in the community had come out to help their neighbors. Some houses that were not as damaged were able to receive their families back, but other homes were completely destroyed. Chainsaws and trucks echoed throughout the small town.
Monday morning Esther got on the bus but there weren’t as many of her friends on this time. She found out that some of them had to move temporarily to a hotel or with family members because their homes were unlivable. Kenny was still on the bus, but he wasn’t showing off his latest gadget. He just sat quietly in his seat. Esther was sitting across from him. She asked how he was doing with their home the way it was. He told her things were okay, but that his room was the worst hit.
School was different. Some of Esther’s classmates seemed sad. Everyone in town was safe from the storm, but many homes were destroyed. Many of Esther’s friends lost all they had. Teachers spent the next couple of days being sensitive and attentive to the needs of their students. Esther began to think of ways she could help her friends.
She remembered what her daddy had told her that even though she is little she has a big job to do. But this time the job seemed too big -too big for a little girl like her anyway. Besides her family didn’t have a lot of money. They didn’t have a lot of things to give. The next couple of days Esther and her mom had to do more of the chores around the farm because her daddy spent most of that time helping those in town rebuild their homes.
On Friday after school Esther’s dad was home. It was the first time he was home that entire week before the sun went down. He was out in their barn cleaning out their horse’s hooves. Princess had been out in the pasture during the storm and had several small rocks wedged in sensitive nooks with the mud. He slowly stood up, as he let Princess’s back left leg down. He stretched his back out by slowly leaning backwards. He walked over to Esther with a little limp from the pain in his back from being bent over.
He gave her a hug and asked her how she had been. He told her how much he missed her the past few days. Esther told her daddy how she wished she could do more to help her classmates. Her dad roughed her hair up and told her how proud he was of her. Then he asked her to help carry the basket of eggs up to the porch.
Esther was surprised how many eggs had been gathered. They already had eight dozen eggs in the refrigerator. She set the basket on the porch than ran back to the barn. Esther’s daddy asked if she would go out to the garden and gather up the tomatoes and vegetable that were ready to be picked. She spent the next 45 minutes in the garden gathering the ripe produce. She set piles of tomatoes on the corner of the garden. She had another pile of cucumbers, and had nearly filled a bushel basket with thick, long green beans.
Her dad had come out by this time with three empty baskets to put the produce in. He told her to take the baskets up to the house and set them on the porch. Esther asked her daddy what to do with the baskets that were already filled with vegetables on the porch. He told her to just set them to the side to make room for what she just picked.
It was almost time for dinner but her daddy had one more job for Esther to finish. He told her he wanted her to ride on the tractor with him up to their orchard to pick apples, pears and peaches. The tractor was pulling a hay wagon with several empty apple crates around the sides of the wagon. Esther’s daddy stopped the tractor in the middle of the orchard on a lane just big enough for the wagon to pass through gently brushing against the growing branches.
Esther took two crates to the row of peach trees. Her daddy took four crates over to the taller apple trees. They quietly got to work plucking ripe fruit from the trees and carefully laying them in the crates. Esther could only fill her crate about half full. She knew if she filled it any higher she would not be able to carry it back to the wagon, let alone lift it back up on the wagon.
Esther quickly filled her two crates and grabbed two more. She filled one more with peaches then slid it out to the lane for her daddy to carry back to the wagon. She took the other crate to a row of pear trees. The pear trees were Esther’s favorite. Esther knew the most ripe, ready-to-eat pears would already be on the ground. So she carefully stepped on patches of grass then squatted down to pick the ripe, yellow pears within reach.
She quickly filled her crate and dragged that to the lane and ran back to the wagon to get more crates. Her daddy interrupted her gallop which slowed to a stuttering jog. “Just fill up one more crate. It’s time for dinner.” Her daddy told her. Esther sent a thumb in the air to acknowledge his command. She grabbed the crate, tried to balance it on her head as she made her way back to the pear trees. She might have made it all the way, if it wasn’t for a rogue branch that caught the crate and tipped it off her head.
Esther again quickly filled the last crate with pears. She tried to carry the last crate back to the wagon, since her daddy had already picked up the lonesome crates waiting in the lane. Esther had a pear clutched in her mouth as she leaned back holding the crate to her belly for more leverage (Her daddy taught her how to use her belly to help carry things. He was able to carry very heavy objects using this method. Esther giggles when he does that.).
She made it almost all the way back to the wagon, when her daddy came over to her and said, “Here, let me help you out.” He reached out and grabbed the pear in her mouth and took a big bite on the other side of the fat pear. He left the heavy crate for her to carry. “Daddy!!!” Esther said cocking her head to the side. He smiled, shoved the pear back in her mouth and took the crate from her.
Esther rode on the hay wagon back to their farm. He pulled the wagon next to his old brown truck. Esther hopped off before he had turned the tractor off and ran up to the house. “Take your boots off before you go inside.” Her daddy reminded her. She sat down on the steps of the porch and took off her boots. She jumped up. One sock had come off in her boot and the other sock was about to fall of her foot. She clamped her toes down to keep it from falling off.
Esther sat down at their kitchen table for a simple meal her mommy prepared. Looking around at the spread of fresh produce and steaming roast Esther’s daddy put his hand on her back and said, “Esther, everything on our table tonight came from our farm. The Lord is good. Let’s thank him.” Esther took her daddy and mommy’s hands as they bowed their heads.
Esther softly spoke pure words of appreciation and continued help for her friends at school. When she finished praying, her mommy began to take scoops of food out of the bowls and pass them around. Esther finished filling her plate as she passed the basket of warm rolls to her daddy. Esther’s dad filled the family in with updates on those who lost their homes and electricity in the storm.
“The rebuilding is coming along just fine, but so many of the families don’t have much for food to eat and what they have is all canned because no one has power yet to cook.” Esther’s dad said this for an audience of one. And Esther heard it loud and clear. No one spoke for the next few minutes then Esther broke the silence, “Daddy, what about all the vegetables and eggs and fruit we have on the porch? Can we give that to those families who don’t have much to eat?”
“Esther, I think that would be a great idea. How about after supper you and I load up the truck and we will go in to town tomorrow to deliver it to your friends.” Her daddy said with a proud smile on his face.
Esther hurried through her dinner and asked to be excused. Her mommy said to finish your milk, then you can go outside and load up the truck. Esther drank her milk so fast she had a wet, white milk mustache. She wiped it off with her sleeve. Her mother tried to stop her, but it was too late. Her mother smiled, but shook her head and looked at Esther’s dad and said, “She gets that from you you know.”
Esther’s dad had just finished his milk and wiped his mouth with his sleeve when he realized he was busted. He smiled at her, kissed her on the forehead and said with a dirt eatin’ grin, “Sorry.”
By the time Esther’s dad got out to the truck Esther had loaded up the eggs, green beans and tomatoes from their porch. She stood in the bed of the truck as her daddy handed her the crates of fruit they had just picked. The truck was loaded with fresh produce and eggs. “We’ll put some canned beef in tomorrow before we head into town.” Her daddy told her. The two went inside as the first stars began to appear in the sky.
The next morning, Esther woke to the usual smell of coffee brewing in the kitchen. Her mom and dad were already downstairs boxing up canned beef and other canned items from their pantry. Esther got dressed, went downstairs and asked if she could have some coffee. Her mom told her just a minute then opened a cabinet and pulled down a Winnie the Pooh coffee cup. She filled it half way with milk then put a splash of coffee in. It was just enough to tint the coffee a light cream color. Esther took a sip and said, “Ah, I love coffee.” The three laughed as Esther’s dad took the last box out to the truck. “I’m ready if you are Esther?” He said as the screen door clapped against the frame behind him.
Esther gave her mommy a big kiss, ran out the front door and climbed into her dad’s old brown truck. Her dad had just started up the old truck and nursed the gas peddle to get the old truck up to a smooth idle. The pair made their way back into town taking the same route they took one week earlier. They pulled into Esther’s friend Kenny’s house first. The tree that blocked the driveway a week ago was gone and most of the heavy debris was gone. The house that exposed its inner rooms was boarded up with plywood and two by four temporary supports.
Roofers were already at work putting on a new roof. Esther followed her daddy out the driver’s side door. When she slid off the seat, her elbow tapped the horn on the steering wheel surprising the roofers with a quick, sharp, “beep.” Esther said oops as she landed on the ground, twisting herself in the direction of the tailgate.
She climbed up and started lifting out crate of food. Her daddy told her to slow down. Your friend doesn’t want a basket of tomatoes. He unfolded a brown paper grocery bag and said, “Okay, hand me a few cans of canned beef.” Esther handed him the pint jars of canned beef. Although it didn’t look very good, canned beef was Esther’s favorite snack to take with her on fishing trips.
“Now put some canned carrots and tomato sauce. Then put some fruit, fresh tomatoes and green beans on the jars. Then put that carton of eggs on top.” Her dad ordered as he pointed what items he wanted. Esther filed the bag with all she could. It was too heavy for her to carry, so she creatively slid the bag with the side of her foot to the lowered tailgate. Her dad scooped it up and headed for the house, Esther leaped off the tailgate like she was jumping off a dock into a lake on a hot summer day.
She caught up to her dad in just a few bounds. They had to enter the house from the side. Kenny and his family were able to stay in their home, but so much of it was still under construction. Kenny opened the door after Esther knocked on it. His mom walked up behind Kenny and invited them in. She was surprised to see Esther and her dad with such a big bag of fresh food. Esther told Kenny that she picked some pears and tomatoes for them.
Kenny’s mom truly appreciated the gesture, but tried to refuse the offering. Kenny looked at his mom and Esther looked at her dad. (Sometimes children can give and receive a gift so much more willingly than adults can.) Esther’s dad explained how they have been blessed with more than they will ever use and they have so much more in the back of the truck to give out. “If you don’t take it, I’ll have to feed it to the pigs because it’s gonna spoil.” Esther honestly explained.
Kenny’s mom smiled and nodded at Esther’s dad. “Thank you so much. This means so much to us. You have no idea.” Kenny’s mom said as she took the bag from Esther’s dad. “I guess we never really appreciated the simple things in life like fresh veggies and a roof over our heads. It’s hard to appreciate our needs when we are so consumed with our wants.” His mother continued.
Esther looked up at her dad. Even though she is only eight years old, Esther understood what she meant. Video games and the latest toys are neat, but there are some things so much more important. Esther had a whole truck bed full of necessities that her friends and their families would need. She also knew the right thing to do is to give all she can to those who are in need.
Esther and her dad climbed back in their truck and made their way through town stopping at the homes of families in need. It was about one thirty when Esther realized they hadn’t eaten lunch yet. “Daddy, I’m hungry.” She confessed –she wasn’t sure if she was allowed to be hungry when so many of her friends don’t have food to eat. Her dad reassured her that is perfectly fine. They pulled over along a lane leading to a corn field off the country road they were on.
The sat on the tailgate and ate from the jar of canned beef and other fresh leftovers in the back of the truck. They each finished with a fresh pear. The juice ran down Esther’s chin so she wiped it clean with the sleeve of her shirt. She looked up at her daddy awaiting a “you-know-better-than-that” look, but to her surprise, he was wiping the dripping juice from his chin with his sleeve too.
She smiled, but shook her head, “Daddy!!!”