The Gift


As Sarah walked quickly down the street, she thought about her problem. Mother’s Day was only a few weeks away, and she wanted to give her mother a present. She already knew what she’d like. At the garden shop Sarah had seen her mother admiring the illustrations of some beautiful irises above a tangle of iris roots. But today when Sarah counted the money in her china bank, she realized that she didn’t have enough for the iris roots. How can I earn some more money? she wondered.

“Oh, well,” she sighed, “maybe I’ll think of something. It’s only Monday.” Then she hurried into the thrift shop where her mother volunteered her time one day each week.

“Hi, sweetie,” Sarah’s mother greeted her. “How was school today?”

“Fine as usual,” answered Sarah. “Did you get any interesting new donations?”

“Yes we did, and I’m glad you’re here to help me. You can sort through that big box in the corner. Put the dresses on hangers and match up the shoes. You know the routine.”

Sarah enjoyed looking through the boxes of rummage items that had once been treasured by someone. The new box seemed to be full of old clothes, shoes, and kitchen gadgets. Near the bottom Sarah spied a black leather purse that looked quite new. She picked it up and examined it carefully. As she opened the clasp, she saw a five-dollar bill tucked into a side pocket.

Without stopping to think, Sarah took the money out and put it into her skirt pocket. She laid the purse aside and finished sorting the clothes. Now I have enough money for mother’s present, she thought. But for some reason she couldn’t explain, she didn’t feel very happy about it.

“You’re quiet today,” Sarah’s mother said coming up behind her daughter.

“Mom, where did this box come from?”

“It was picked up at Mrs. Peterson’s. She’s a widow who lives over on Green Street. Why?”

“Well,” said Sarah, “I found this purse in the box and it doesn’t look old like the rest of the things.”

“I’ll call Mrs. Peterson and ask if she meant to give it away,” Mother said. During the telephone conversation, Mrs. Peterson explained that she had misplaced the black purse that morning and had been looking all over for it. She guessed it must have fallen into the box she was preparing for the thrift shop.

“My daughter Sarah found your purse, and she will bring it over to you,” Mother promised Mrs. Peterson on the phone.

As Sarah walked to Mrs. Peterson’s home, she argued with herself. I could just keep the money. She would never know where it went. Mother would love to have the iris starts. But then Sarah remembered what they had been studying in Primary—Jesus would know, and I’d know too! She opened the purse, replaced the money, and closed it. She felt so relieved that she skipped the rest of the way to Mrs. Peterson’s house.

“You look happy,” said Mrs. Peterson when she opened the door. “And I’m happy too, because you found my missing purse. Thank you very much.”

Sarah noticed that Mrs. Peterson had a hard time walking. Suddenly she found herself asking, “Do you need any help around your house? I’m a good worker and can do all kinds of jobs.”

“What a dear child,” responded Mrs. Peterson. “I do have a hard time with my arthritis, but I couldn’t pay you anything. I only have a small pension.”

“That’s OK,” said Sarah with a smile. But she was really disappointed. Instead of finding a paying job, she had agreed to work for nothing.

Sarah offered to help Mrs. Peterson after school each Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. She swept the walks, washed windows, vacuumed, and carried trash. Afterward she’d have juice and visit with Mrs. Peterson. They quickly became good friends, and Sarah enjoyed listening to the wonderful stories that Mrs. Peterson told of her youth. One day Sarah felt glum as she realized Mother’s Day would soon be here.

“What’s your problem, Sarah?” asked Mrs. Peterson. “You seem preoccupied today.” Sarah slowly began telling Mrs. Peterson about her plan for a Mother’s Day gift that hadn’t worked out.

“I think I can help you there,” Mrs. Peterson suggested happily. “My iris bed hasn’t been cleaned in years, and the roots need dividing. If you could do the digging, I could help you separate them. Some of them are pretty enough to be show winners.”

Sarah placed a chair for Mrs. Peterson beside the flower bed and found a hand trowel and a box for the roots. She carefully dug into the dirt and lifted clump after clump of the bulbous roots, and Mrs. Peterson helped her sort and divide them. Then Sarah replanted many of the roots in Mrs. Peterson’s flower garden.

In the house, Mrs. Peterson found a pretty box and some pink ribbon. Carefully they prepared the gift for Sarah’s mother. As they worked, Sarah counted the roots and was excited to see that she had over two dozen, more than she had ever hoped to buy.

“Thank you so much for helping me with my spring housecleaning and garden work,” said Mrs. Peterson as Sarah prepared to leave.

“Thank you!” said Sarah happily. “You have given me far more than I ever hoped to earn, and besides, now I have a wonderful new friend!”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Phyllis Luch