Paddy loved to collect string. Whenever he found even a short piece, he rolled it onto his ball of string. This ball was as big as an orange, and each day it grew bigger and bigger.
One Saturday morning Paddy found a long piece of red string. He sat down on the front steps to wind it onto his ball. But just as he picked it up, he heard his mother calling him.
“I’ll leave my string here on the step,” he said to himself. “Then I’ll come right back and finish.”
Paddy ran into the house and found his mother in the kitchen.
“Paddy,” she said, “would you please take out the garbage for me.”
Quickly Paddy picked up the paper sack of garbage, ran out the back door, and tossed the sack into the garbage can.
He was gone only a few moments, but when he went back to the front steps, the new piece of red string was gone.
Paddy looked all over the porch. The big ball of string was right where he had left it, but he couldn’t find the new red piece of string anywhere. He looked up and down the sidewalk. He looked all around the steps.
“Mike,” Paddy asked when his best friend walked by, “did you see a piece of red string anywhere?”
“No,” Mike said. “I haven’t seen any red string. I’d help you look for it, but I’m on my way to the store for my grandma.”
Tabby the cat was lying nearby under a rosebush. Paddy walked over and looked under the cat and all around the bush. But there was no red string there either!
“Well, I guess someone must have taken it,” Paddy decided sadly.
A few days later Paddy’s father asked, “Did I hear you say something about a missing red string?”
“Oh, yes!” Paddy replied. “Did you find it?”
“I think so,” his father said. “Come with me.”
They went out in the backyard together, and Father put a ladder up to the top of the willow tree.
“Climb up the ladder,” he said, “and look around to see if you can find your string.”
Paddy climbed up the ladder. When he reached the top, he saw his red string! It was making a beautiful lining for a robin’s nest.
As Paddy climbed down the ladder, his father said, “If you still want your string, you better take it now before the robin lays her eggs.”
“Oh, no!” Paddy cried. “I wouldn’t want to spoil Mrs. Robin’s nest. She needs the string more than I do.”
His father smiled. “Good!” he said. “I was hoping you’d feel that way.”
While his father was putting the ladder away, Paddy thought about his ball of string. It’s fun to find pieces of string and watch my ball get bigger all the time, he decided, but it’s even more fun to share with someone who needs it.