Amauri pushed the bicycle up the long hill. At the top was a small Catholic church with a little building behind where the padres lived. In back of this building was a little shack that Amauri’s family called home. “Mamãe (Mother)!” he called out when he neared his house, and his mother appeared at the door.
“Where have you been, Amauri?” she asked, her back still bent from the day’s work of cleaning in the tall office building downtown. Then she saw the bicycle. “What do you have there, Amauri?” she asked, and her eyes looked worried.
“A bicicleta (bicycle), Mamãe,” Amauri answered.
“Where did you get it?” his mother questioned again, and Amauri knew that she was afraid he had stolen it, because many of the poor people in their neighborhood sometimes stole things to get money to buy food. Amauri’s mother was grateful that her five children didn’t steal.
“A man gave it to me, Mother,” Amauri answered proudly. “I’m going to be a delivery boy! I’ll ride the bicycle from place to place, delivering lunches to the businessmen and groceries to the ladies in fine houses!”
“You mean you have a job?” And Amauri’s mother smiled with joy.
Amauri told her about how he had walked up to a man and said, “Do you need a boy to work for you?” The man had thought for a few moments and then invited him inside his store. They talked for a while, and he told Amauri that he would pay him fifty centavos an hour.
“How many hours will you work?” his mother asked.
“Eight hours every day,” Amauri answered. “That means I will get four cruzeiros a day or more than twenty cruzeiros a week. I can buy food for the family!”
Amauri hugged his mother and she hugged him back. “What a good nine-year-old son I have,” she said gratefully. “Now you are truly the man of the family. Ever since your father died I have been the only one earning money. Now you will help me buy beans and rice for our breakfast and dinner. Enough talking for now, son. Remember, the elders are coming tonight, and we must get the house ready.”
Amauri got water from the well, and his little sister Cecilia cooked the beans and rice for dinner. The other children made the two beds they all slept on, while Mother carefully swept the cold, hard-packed dirt floor.
When the missionaries came, they stood outside the door and clapped their hands together, because that is the way people announce themselves in Brazil. Cecilia ran to open the door.
“Boa noite, elderes (Good evening, elders),” she said. “Come in.”
The tall elders shook hands with everybody. Elder Samson was blond and showed many teeth when he smiled. Elder Bonner had red hair and freckles all over, even on his arms. Although they were Americans, they spoke Portuguese, but sometimes it was hard to understand them.
The elders and Amauri and his family sat on boxes around the table, and then the elders told them all about the commandments of God, including one that asked them to give the Church one-tenth of all the money they earned. Mother was thoughtful when the elders told her this, because she barely made enough money to feed the family. But then she smiled. “Of course,” she said. “That is why little Amauri got a job today. We can pay tithing to the Lord and still have enough to eat.”
Amauri felt very proud to tell the missionaries about his job. “Who knows?” Amauri said, “maybe someday I will deliver a lunch right to the building where my mother works.”
“But what about school?” asked Elder Samson.
“School is not for poor people,” said Amauri’s mother sadly. “We do not have the money to buy books.”
And then Amauri remembered something awful. His face turned white. “What’s wrong, Amauri?” the elders asked.
“I just remembered,” Amauri said. “I only have three days to learn how to ride the bicycle.”
“What?” asked Elder Bonner, surprised. “Nine years old and you don’t know how to ride a bicycle?”
Amauri shook his head. “We are too poor to have a bicycle. Now I will have to learn before Thursday. How can I learn that fast?”
Everyone looked worried now. Learning to ride a bicycle wasn’t easy.
Then Elder Bonner said he had an idea. “We will teach you how to ride!” he shouted, and Elder Samson nodded in agreement.
The next morning the missionaries came back. They could hardly wait to get Amauri out of bed and onto his bicycle.
It was harder than Amauri had thought it would be. He fell down again and again. Even on a grassy field it hurt to fall, but he kept thinking: The Lord got me this job so that my family can pay tithing. And I’m going to get back on that bicycle.
The next day Amauri rode for ten meters all by himself before the bicycle started to tip over, then he stopped it from falling by sticking out his foot. At the end of the riding lesson he told the elders, “It’s time for me to go home. And you’ll have to hurry—I’m going to ride this bicycle all the way back home. And I’m going to ride it very fast.”
Amauri got on the bicycle and pedaled as fast as his legs would go, the elders behind him shouting and cheering him on. When he arrived home, Cecilia and the other children ran out of the house laughing and clapping their hands.
“Como Deus me abencoe (How God is blessing me)!” he shouted to the elders when they came into the house. “First a job, and now you have helped me learn to ride a bicycle so I can do it well!”
The elders just laughed and shook his hand. And then the children hugged him in their excitement.
The next day was Thursday, and Amauri rode the bicycle all alone downtown to the store. He took the lunches and delivered them, and later took fresh meat to housewives and cabbages to restaurants. He was exhausted when nighttime came.
When he got home he tied the bicycle to a tree. Then he knelt beside it and said a prayer, thanking Heavenly Father for his help. When he was through he patted the bicycle seat.
“Oi, bicicleta (Hey, bicycle), que amigo você é (you and I are going to be good friends)!”