Dirk’s New Soccer Ball

By Leo D. Hall

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    Dirk crossed the cobblestone street. Only ten more vranken, he thought, and I’ll have enough. He turned the corner at Kerkstraat and looked down the row of houses and the black iron fences enclosing the small front yards. The terrace houses behind them were typical of many other Belgian houses. They were three and four stories high, all joined together to form one long building.

    Dirk opened the gate of house number 27 and rang the bell. Last year when he was here he had to stand on his tiptoes to reach it. But now that he had grown some, he could ring it easily.

    The bell tinkled softly inside. A window opened overhead and an old woman called down. “Oh, good afternoon, Dirk. Kom binnen (come in).”

    “Good afternoon, Mevrouw Peeters,” he greeted her when he had climbed to the third floor. She handed him a shopping list and some money.

    Dirk ran many errands for Mevrouw Peeters to the groentemarkt (vegetable market), to the bakkerij (bakery) and to many other shops. Each week she gave him five vranken. On his errands Dirk usually passed his favorite store, a sports shop, where he stopped to gaze intently in the window.

    The shiny, white soccer ball was still there—the one he’d been saving for all year. Winter would soon come to the northern Belgian town where he lived, but that would not stop him from playing his favorite sport. Each time he passed the store he was a little afraid to look for fear the ball might have been sold.

    After my errand today I’ll only need five more vranken, he thought.

    Dirk delivered the aardappelen (potatoes) and bloemkool (cauliflower), to Mevrouw Peeters. Looking at the coin in his hand, he imagined himself kicking his soccer ball high in the air for a goal.

    He rushed home to count his money. Sure enough, two hundred vranken. “Surely waiting until next week to pay tithing won’t make that much difference,” Dirk told himself. He ran down the stairs and out the front door. The soccer ball would soon be his!

    But as Dirk skipped along, he remembered how careful Mama and Papa were to pay their tithing the first thing whenever they received any money. “We always manage,” Mama often said. And Papa truly meant it when he said, “We have been blessed in many ways, and we have a good feeling in our hearts when we do as the Lord commands us. We are grateful to be able to contribute our share to help with the Lord’s work.”

    Dirk stopped. The sporting goods store was just around the corner. In his imagination he already held the soccer ball. But a feeling even stronger than his longing for the soccer ball made him turn quickly around and run home. He counted out the tithing he owed and put it in an envelope to give to the branch president on Sunday.

    Several days later Dirk’s errand for Mevrouw Peeters took him in a different direction from his usual route, so he didn’t pass the sports shop. The following day when he went to Mevrouw Peeters’, she said, “I’ll need some more aardappelen today, Dirk. Will you get them for me?”

    Dirk nodded and hurried off to the vegetable market.

    Mijnheer Vandecasteele wrapped the two pounds of potatoes in some newspaper. “Do you have enough money saved for your soccer ball yet?” he asked.

    “Tomorrow,” replied Dirk with a wide grin, “I’ll have the five vranken I need.”

    On the way back with the potatoes, he stopped to look in again at the sports shop window.

    The soccer ball was gone!

    Tears filled his eyes as he turned away from the shop in disappointment.

    When Dirk reached Mevrouw Peeters’ house, she said, “Oh, Dirk, I forgot to have you get me three pompelmoezen (grapefruits). Could you go back to the market for me and I’ll pay you now instead of tomorrow?”

    Dirk took the five vranken and started down the stairs. What good is the money now? The soccer ball is gone, he thought as he walked slowly back to the market.

    As Dirk neared the sports shop his pace quickened. He started to turn his head away but something caught his eye. There was another soccer ball, a better one than he had ever seen before. And the price marked on it was not much more than the ball he’d been saving for. Before long he would have enough money to buy it.

    He was glad now that he had paid his tithing instead of buying the other ball. But best of all was the good feeling he had.

    Dirk ran up Kerkstraat so fast that he was almost out of breath when he handed the grapefruit to Mevrouw Peeters. “Boy! I’m glad I waited,” he said, half talking to himself.

    “What?” asked the old woman, a puzzled look on her face.

    “I have a good feeling just like Papa said,” Dirk explained. And he ran happily down the stairs.

    Illustrated by Jerry Thompson