A Time to Act


Sarah gulped down the last bite of toast and took a last swallow of milk before she grabbed her books and ran out the door. If the kitchen clock was right, she’d be late for school again, and her good citizenship grade would fly right out the window.

Until recently Mom had always awakened her by shouting, “Sarah, if you don’t get up this minute, you’ll be late for school!” But since Mom had had to start working and had to leave for the office so early, Sarah had only herself to rely on. If she were to grade her own efforts at good citizenship so far, she’d give herself an F.

That’s what Mrs. Buskirk said she was going to give her, too, if she was late one more time. The teacher had already sent a citizenship report home, and Dad had lectured Sarah about her deportment. “Your mother has accepted the additional responsibility of a job,” Dad had told her firmly, “and there’s no excuse for you not to accept the responsibility of getting yourself to school on time.”

Sarah shoved her bike out of the garage and pedaled down the driveway, adjusting her book bag on her shoulders as she went. She tore down Highland Avenue and turned onto Main Street.

As she rode along, she wondered why the biggest grade school and the only junior high school in town were built next to one another right on the city’s busiest street. Even though there was a sidewalk and a wide shoulder on the road, riding a bike in the morning traffic wasn’t easy.

Sarah passed the bank and glanced at the big clock inside. Only seven minutes until the tardy bell rings, she thought. The lights will have to be with me the restof the way if I’m going to make it. If they weren’t, she’d better forget about being captain of the volleyball team for the year, because no one with citizenship grades below a C was eligible. And she knew what would happen at home—no movies and no television.

Volleyball was Sarah’s whole life. Her grades were sort of ho-hum, but she could play volleyball quite well. When she practiced her spikes on the court and knew that the other kids were watching, she wanted to throw her arms around the world and hug it. Oh, if she lost that feeling, she’d just die!

Pedalling harder, Sarah welcomed the cool morning air that stung her cheeks as she approached Washington Avenue. Nearing the intersection, she saw that the cars were backed up, waiting for the light to change. Come on lights. Be on my side, she agonized.

The lights changed, yet nothing happened. The cars weren’t moving. Oh, no! Now what? she wondered. What she didn’t need was an accident on this corner so that the cars would be backed up in every direction.

Sarah pulled to a stop as far into the intersection as she dared. Then she saw the problem: A little girl, maybe seven or eight years old, had wheeled her bike into the center of the crossing. When the lights had changed, she had stopped, probably wondering if she should continue or go back. Now several drivers honked, anxious for her to move out of the way. Sarah watched as the little girl looked uncertainly from the cars on Main Street to the cars on Washington Avenue. Then her lunch box slid from her grasp and fell to the pavement. The lid opened and an orange rolled over to the curb.

Sarah fidgeted. While all the drivers were busy watching the little girl, maybe she could try to make it across the street against the red light.

Cautiously she looked around for a policeman but found only the faces of angry motorists. They were frowning and tapping their steering wheels; some shouted out their windows.

If they’re so anxious to get going, Sarah wondered, why doesn’t somebody do something? Why doesn’t someone act responsible and help the kid across the street?

As Sarah watched, the little girl tried to reach her lunch box while still holding her bicycle upright. But her arms just weren’t long enough.

Why doesn’t somebody do something? Sarah thought again. Then she realized that she was somebody!

Sarah lifted her bike up onto the parkway grass and laid it down. After shrugging off her book bag, she hurried over to the little girl. As Sarah neared her, she could see tears rolling down the child’s cheeks.

Good-bye volleyball, Sarah thought as she picked up the books and lunch box and guided the little girl across the street. Who wants to be captain, anyway? There are other things in life. Maybe next year …

After Sarah put the little girl’s bike up on the sidewalk, she bent over to look at her. The younger child’s face was blotchy and covered with leftover tears. Sarah handed her a tissue. “I’ll get my bike, and we’ll ride the rest of the way together, OK?”

Inside, Sarah felt the same warm rush of emotions that she did when she served or spiked for the volleyball team.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Jenae S. Westhoff