Michelle’s Great Idea


Michelle’s dark eyes had lost their usual sparkle as she plopped down beside Katie and cried, “I just have to find a way to earn some money. I just have to!”

“Still hung up on piano lessons, huh?” asked Katie. “Wasn’t six months of playing scales enough for you?”

“I loved it,” replied Michelle. “Every bit of it, including the scales. I didn’t miss a single day of practicing, and the bishop still lets me use the old piano in the cultural hall to practice on. Sister Jackson said I was really coming along too. But Dad’s hours are being cut again, so any money for piano lessons has to come from what I earn. And nobody wants a ten-year-old baby-sitter when there are so many older girls available.”

“Well, it’s not hopeless.” Katie tried to cheer her friend. “There are other things you can do, aren’t there?”

“Not around here. I’ve tried housework, gardening, mowing lawns, walking dogs, and anything else you can name. People either have someone already or they can’t afford it. I’ve prayed for help, and I know Heavenly Father wants us to work out our problems ourselves, but I just can’t think of anything else to do.”

The girls sat in silence for a while, then Michelle got up. “I can’t just sit here and do nothing! Want to come to the library with me? Check with your mom while I get my card and the books I’ve finished.”

The girls walked slowly, finally coming to the old brick library. Katie got a few books for herself as Michelle listlessly pulled books off the shelves, leaving some on the table and keeping some to take home. Maybe they would help take her mind off her problem.

Later that evening Michelle curled up in her favorite chair with one of the new books. It was about a Navajo Indian girl, and it wasn’t long before she was immersed in her reading. Then suddenly she sat up and cried, “That’s it!”

Dad lowered his paper and asked with a smile, “What’s it, Michelle? Did you solve the mystery?”

“It’s not a mystery, Dad. It’s a story about Little Blossom, an Indian girl, and … and my piano lessons!” Michelle hurried to explain. “You know how much I want lessons and that I can’t find any jobs. Well, I just got an idea from my book. Little Blossom is going to … well, anyway, she trades things! Her family traded necklaces for blankets or other things. They didn’t have to have money!”

As Michelle paused, Dad nodded and waited for her to finish her thought.

“Well, couldn’t I do that too? I wouldn’t have to trade some thing would I? Couldn’t I trade something I do?

“Well, honey,” Dad answered, “it might work. Sister Jackson is going to have a baby, so why not walk down there tomorrow morning and see if there’s anything that you can do to help her? But don’t be too disappointed if it doesn’t work out.”

Michelle didn’t think she would ever get to sleep, but morning finally came, her chores were finally finished, and she could leave for Sister Jackson’s house. She was a little nervous, and when Sister Jackson invited her in, the words came tumbling out. After explaining in a jumbled fashion about Little Blossom, she finished, “So instead of paying for the lessons in cash, is there anything I can do in trade for them? I’m a good housecleaner—Mom says so, anyway—and I can iron and do other things too.”

Michelle held her breath while Sister Jackson thought it over.

“You may have solved a problem for me,” the piano teacher said after a moment. “I went to the doctor for another checkup a few days ago, and he said I need to be taking it a little easier. I can still teach and do most of the things I usually do, but I’m not supposed to do any heavy cleaning. I was wondering what I was going to do, but you seem to have provided the solution.”

“Oh, I’d love to do whatever you can’t!” Michelle said breathlessly. “What do you want me to do, and do you want me to start now, and—”

“Hold on a minute,” Sister Jackson interrupted gently. “We need to settle details first.”

Two hours of housework for each lesson seemed fair to both of them, and they would start on Thursday.

“Oh, thank you, Sister Jackson! I’ll work hard, I promise. See you Thursday.” Michelle waved as she ran down the steps.

Michelle was practicing at the church that afternoon when Katie came in.

“Congratulations!” Katie said as she sat down on the piano bench next to her friend. “When I asked where you were, your dad told me all about your trading work for lessons, and I’m glad for you.”

“But there’s more,” Michelle said, her eyes sparkling. “Dad’s going to work on our neighbor’s car in trade for some kitchen cabinets. And he got the idea from me!”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Robyn S. Officer