Winnie Wins

Winnie flung her fifth-grade math book across the buckling boards of the front porch and hunkered down, peering into the deep recesses of the crawl space beneath the weathered frame house.

“Here, Barney. Come here, boy,” she called.

From the dusty darkness a black and tan hound lazily emerged. Winnie sat down on the bottom step as Barney stretched out at her feet. She stroked his long silky ears.

“Barney, do you know what happened to me in school today? Miss Benson asked the class which South American country is long and skinny and famous for its farm products, and Arthur Mosely yelled out, ‘Winnie Wainwright,’ and the class burst out laughing. Barney, I could have crawled right under my desk and died! Well, Arthur Mosely won’t get the best of me anymore! I’m going to see that he gets what he deserves!”

Later, when Winnie’s dad came in from the barn, she had steaming potato soup ready for supper.

“Hey, Punkin, how’s my girl?” asked Mr. Wainwright.

“Oh, I’m OK, I guess,” she muttered.

Dad hugged the tall thin girl and said, “Let me wash up for supper, and we’ll talk about it.”

Ever since Mother had died of cancer two years ago, Dad had tried to be a special friend as well as a father to Winnie.

They sat at the table and bowed their heads as Dad said a prayer and blessed the food: “Dear Heavenly Father, we give Thee thanks for our home, this food, and Thy love. Help us to live in such a way that we’ll bring honor to Thy name. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”

When they raised their heads, Dad asked, “Now, Punkin, what’s troubling you?”

“I’m tired of Arthur Mosely making fun of me, that’s what. And I’m fixing to teach him a thing or two!”

“Now, hold on, Winnie,” Dad admonished. “You know it’s not right to be revengeful. Arthur will get what’s coming to him one of these days, and you won’t have to lift a finger.”

“Well, I already have a plan, Dad. The day after tomorrow Miss Benson is having her annual geography contest. The person with the best score will win a globe that revolves on a stand. Oh, Dad, wouldn’t it be nice to have a globe of my own?”

“Yes, Winnie, that would be nice,” replied Dad. “How stiff is the competition?”

“Well,” said Winnie, “that’s where Arthur comes in. He’s the best geography student because his dad is in the service. Arthur’s lived in Germany and Japan, and he knows a lot about geography. But I’m going to beat him!” she declared.

“Well, just do your best, dear, and do it for the right reasons,” cautioned Dad.

At school the next day Winnie took advantage of every available minute to study. When she got home, she looked at the map of the world in her geography book. It looked like a big jigsaw puzzle.

“If all those pieces were jumbled up in a box, I couldn’t put them together in a million years,” Winnie grumbled. Then she thought of Arthur. “Well, I’ll do it—one way or another!”

Winnie grabbed her geography workbook, tore out the world map, taped it to a sheet of notebook paper, and placed it in her book bag. She’d beat Arthur even if she had to cheat!

As Winnie read her Bible that night, she came to Luke 18:14: “For every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”

With her Bible still open, Winnie closed her eyes and prayed, “Dear Heavenly Father, does abased mean that Arthur Mosely is going to be brought down a notch or two, and does exalted mean that I’m going to finally get a little honor? Well, Heavenly Father, I’m going to help You do just that! In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.” Winnie shut the Bible, turned out the light, and went to sleep.

In class the next day Miss Benson finally said, “All right, students, clear your desks and get ready for the geography test.”

Winnie’s heart pounded, and her hands were moist.

The first question was to list the states on the eastern seaboard of the United States. That was easy. Number two asked for the countries that bordered Vietnam. Winnie thought and thought, but she just couldn’t picture Vietnam in her mind. I’ll have to use my map, Winnie thought. She stared at the test. As she reached for her notebook paper with the map on the back, she remembered the words of Dad’s prayer, “Help us to … bring honor to Thy name.”

Winnie stared blankly at the test for a minute. Then she lifted her head, straightened her shoulders, and breathed a sigh of relief. She left number two blank and proceeded to answer all the questions she could without the use of the map. Her hands became dry and steady, and her breathing slowed to normal.

When Winnie went to bed that evening, she said her nightly prayers. “Thank you, Heavenly Father, for helping me not to cheat on the test. If I had cheated, we’d both have been disappointed in me, and Dad would have been disappointed too. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.”

The next day Winnie watched Miss Benson award the prizes to the winners. Even when Arthur Mosely was presented with the globe, Winnie knew that in the things that really mattered she was a winner.

[illustrations] Illustrated by Karl Hepworth