Amy shuffled along the sidewalk. Her hand measured the spaces between the slats of the picket fence that outlined Sister Pedersen’s yard. It’s not fair, she thought. Why do I have to be cooped up inside reading the news to an old blind lady while everyone else is going to the movie with Emily. And how can I ever be Emily’s friend if I can’t go to the movie with her?

Grudgingly Amy unlatched the gate, trudged up the sidewalk to Sister Pedersen’s porch, kicked the newspaper off the steps, then relented and picked it up before rapping on the door.

The door swung open, and there stood eighty-year-old Sister Pedersen.

“It’s me, Amy, Sister Pedersen.”

“Bring the Chronicle, and come in, Amy. Sit down here in this armchair. I believe in business first, pleasure afterward. Shall I pay you a dollar each day?” Sister Pedersen asked, reaching for her purse.

“No, ma’am. Mother said that I shouldn’t take money. In family home evening we agreed to work on serving others, and you’re my assignment.”

Sister Pedersen snapped her purse shut, nodded her head, and said, “You may read now.”

Amy struggled through the newspaper’s front-page articles. She wondered how anyone could consider this a pleasure.

After about forty-five minutes, Sister Pedersen interrupted, “Let’s stop now, Amy. Do you like treasures?”

“I guess so. What kind of treasures?”

“Follow me upstairs, and you’ll see,” Sister Pedersen told her.

“My treasure room,” Sister Pedersen announced, ushering Amy into a small room with several curio cabinets. A pedestal table loaded with beautiful small figurines stood in front of the window.

Amy gasped with delight. Her eyes danced from one lovely object to another. Each cabinet was crammed with collectibles: red goblets, silk flowers in painted vases, tiny dolls in native costumes, crystal paperweights, and bright blue plates. “It’s like an antique shop!” she exclaimed, rushing from one cabinet to another to peer at the treasures.

“You probably wonder why a blind lady keeps so many knickknacks,” Sister Pedersen said. “You see, when I touch the smooth glass objects or the soft silk fabrics, my fingers experience beauty.”

Amy watched the old lady gently rub a delicate bird fashioned of blown glass. She traced the china roses on a pink vase. Then she picked up a crystal ball etched with an intricate geometric pattern.

“Go ahead. Touch them, Amy,” Sister Pedersen coaxed.

Fascinated by the beauty of the bird, Amy timidly picked it up from the table. It was a swan with its neck arched proudly and its wings spread wide, anticipating flight.

“This swan is wonderful!” Amy whispered.

“A glassblower made it for me when I was very young. He fashioned liquid glass into that lovely bird by blowing through a long metal tube. He let me feel all the glass figures in his booth, and he even helped me blow a glass bubble. Since that day, whenever I touch my swan, I know that I, too, have seen beauty. Now, you look around, and don’t be afraid to handle everything. I’ll go fix us some refreshments. I remember how hungry young people are after school.”

Amy held the swan and imagined herself a young blind girl. Hearing peals of laughter outside, she set the swan down and leaned over the table to look out the window. Emily and all her friends were returning from the movie. Amy didn’t feel as bad about missing it as she thought she would. As she turned away from the window, Amy’s hand accidentally bumped the swan, knocking it to the floor. She scooped up the pieces and frantically shoved them into her pocket.

Sister Pedersen called, “Come downstairs, Amy, and have some biscuits and milk. Then you’d better hurry home, or your mother might not let you come again.”

Amy gulped down her snack nervously. She was too afraid to say anything about the precious bird. She said good-bye and raced down the sidewalk.

What should I do? she wondered. I can’t go back, no matter what Mother says. As Amy shut the gate, she looked up and saw Sister Pedersen waving to her. It made her feel worse, somehow.

Walking home from school the next day, Amy passed Sister Pedersen’s house and sighed with relief. At least she wasn’t supposed to read to Sister Pedersen until next week. But she still felt awful, and when she got home, she dumped all the money out of her old tin-can bank onto her bed and counted it carefully. “I hope it’s enough,” she muttered as she went to find her mother.

After school Monday, Amy slowly approached Sister Pedersen’s porch, clutching a white box. When the door opened, she said, “It’s Amy, Sister Pedersen.”

“Come in, Amy. I didn’t think this was the day for your visit, but you’re welcome anytime.”

After they sat down, Amy carefully opened the box and placed the new swan in Sister Pedersen’s hands. Swallowing nervously, Amy said, “This is a replacement for the one that I broke. I’m awfully sorry. It was an accident.”

“It’s all right, Amy. I heard it break. I’m glad that you told me, though,” Sister Pedersen said, adding, “I’m sure that this bird cost you dearly, and I want you to keep it. Keep it and its beauty—you have given me something more beautiful. You have been an honest and good friend.”

When she left to go home, Amy happily walked down the sidewalk and turned at the gate to wave good-bye to Sister Pedersen, her new friend, who stood in the doorway, waving back.

[photos] Photos by Craig Dimond; Photo styling by Shauna Horne