Aaron sat squeezed into the corner of the big chair. Tears ran down his cheeks, and a bruise was coming out on his arm.
“What’s wrong, Aaron?” asked Mom, looking worried.
Aaron just turned away.
“Ricky again?” she asked, and Aaron nodded. Mom took him onto her lap and wiped away his tears. “What happened?” she asked, kissing him.
“Ricky took my truck. When I asked him to give it back, he hit me with it.” Aaron began to cry again.
Mom sighed. “That isn’t much fun,” she said. “I wonder what you can do?”
“Nothing!” said Aaron, frowning. “Ricky’s just mean. He hates me!”
“He sounds like an enemy,” said Mom.
Mom looked serious. “Aaron, I want you to get rid of your enemy.” she said.
Aaron’s eyes widened. “Mom, I don’t know how to get rid of Ricky!”
Mom laughed. “Don’t worry, Aaron. There’s a secret formula for getting rid of enemies, and it’s harmless.”
“What is it?” asked Aaron.
“Do something nice for them,” she replied with a twinkle in her eye.
Aaron looked puzzled. “How does that get rid of an enemy?”
“Try it and see,” said Mom.
Aaron sat and thought for a while. Then he went into his room, put a racing car into his pocket, and went outside.
Ricky was racing Aaron’s truck down the sidewalk. “Want your truck, crybaby?” he taunted. “Come and get it!”
Aaron walked up to him and said, “Here. This is for you.”
Ricky looked surprised, then suspicious. “You’re giving me your racing car?”
“Yes,” said Aaron.
“Why?” asked Ricky.
Aaron didn’t know what to say. He just stood there holding out his car.
“OK, crazy!” said Ricky, grabbing the car. He shoved Aaron hard, laughing loudly as Aaron fell. “Crazy! Crazy! Crazy!” he chanted, skipping away with Aaron’s car.
Mom found Aaron in the chair, crying again.
“It’s not working!” he sobbed. “I gave him my best racing car. He just called me names and pushed me down.”
“Hard problems take time to solve,” said Mom. “Don’t give up yet.”
“I don’t want to give Ricky all my things!” said Aaron desperately.
“Maybe what will get rid of your enemy is not an object that you give him,” Mom said, hugging Aaron. “Keep trying.”
That afternoon Ricky was digging in a vacant lot. Aaron approached, whistling cheerfully. “Hi!” he said with a big smile. “What’re you making?”
“What do you care, crazy?” asked Ricky.
“It looks like fun,” Aaron answered. He smiled again. “See you later.” He walked on, whistling again.
Ricky stared after him, puzzled.
“I just talked to Ricky this time, Mom. I didn’t give him anything,” Aaron said when he got home.
“Not much, but he didn’t hurt me.”
“You’re catching on,” said Mom. “Keep it up!”
The next day Aaron invited Ricky to climb his big tree.
Ricky cocked his head and looked at Aaron, hands on his hips. Finally he nodded and followed Aaron into the backyard. He was a good tree climber. He showed Aaron how to drop from a high branch without getting hurt.
“I’m making cookies with my mom tomorrow,” said Aaron as Ricky was leaving. “Want to help?”
Ricky looked hesitant. “She wouldn’t mind?”
“Oh, no!” Aaron replied, shaking his head. “She’d be glad if you came.”
Ricky looked relieved. “Great!” he said. “I like cookies. See you tomorrow.”
Aaron ran inside, calling, “Mom! Can Ricky make cookies with us tomorrow?”
“Of course, Aaron,” she agreed. “What a good idea!”
Ricky and Aaron did a lot together after that. One day, as they worked on a fort in the vacant lot, Ricky said, “Let’s go to my house. I have something to show you.”
Aaron was glad. It was his first invitation from Ricky. When they walked into Ricky’s backyard, Aaron’s eyes widened in surprise. “Rabbits!” he exclaimed.
“My dad and I raise them,” Ricky said.
“Can I hold one?” asked Aaron eagerly.
“Sure,” Ricky said, handing him one. Aaron cuddled the silky body against his chest. The rabbit’s nose twitched busily as it sniffed him.
“This one is my special pet,” said Ricky, lifting a reddish brown rabbit from its cage. “He comes when I call him, and he follows me just like a dog.”
“Wow!” said Aaron. “I wish I had a pet like that!”
They played with the rabbits all afternoon. Once Aaron caught a glimpse of some tiny pink babies in a nesting box.
“We can’t touch them, or the mother might kill them,” explained Ricky. “But you can feed the mother these carrot tops.”
“She really loves them!” cried Aaron, as the rabbit greedily nibbled the greens right up to his fingertips.
The boys spent every afternoon that week cleaning cages and watering and feeding the rabbits.
“You’re coming to my birthday party tomorrow, aren’t you?” Aaron asked.
“I wouldn’t miss it!” exclaimed Ricky.
When Ricky arrived, he hadn’t brought a present, and he left when Aaron started to open the ones his mom and dad had given him. But when Aaron ran to answer the doorbell a few minutes later, there stood Ricky, grinning broadly. In his hands was a beautiful little reddish brown rabbit. “Happy birthday, Aaron!” he said.
Aaron whooped with joy. “Thanks, Ricky!”
“I’m glad that you like him,” Ricky said with a big grin. Then he was serious. “Aaron, I’m sorry for all the times that I was mean to you.”
“That’s OK. I’m glad that we’re friends now.”
As Aaron got into bed that night, he said, “You told me a great secret formula, Mom.”
Mom smiled as she hugged him. “It’s a very old secret formula. Do you want to know where it came from?”
“I sure do—it’s really a good one!”
Mom opened the Bible and said, “It was Jesus who gave us the formula in the Sermon on the Mount. Here is how He put it: ‘Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.
“‘But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.’” [Matt. 5:43–44.]
Aaron was amazed. “I did just what Jesus said, didn’t I?”
“Yes, you did. What do you think of Jesus’ formula?”
“It really works! I got rid of my enemy by turning him into my friend!”