Picking Mushrooms


Picking Mushrooms

Birds were singing in the forest, and the dew-covered flowers sparkled as the early morning sun shone through the leaves of trees. Alena was excited as she and her mother headed into the forest near their home in Ukraine. This was a very special day—she was going to help Mom pick mushrooms. Sometimes Dad would come too, but today he was busy at work.

Alena was only six years old, but her mother had carefully taught her about mushrooms and how to find the ones that were safe and good to eat. Alena had already found several mushrooms and put them in her basket.

There should be mushrooms under that big white birch! she thought as she ran to the tree. At first she didn’t see anything, but when she lifted a small branch and brushed away the old leaves, she saw the little grey-brown caps. “Mom, come here,” she yelled. “I found more mushrooms!” Alena’s mother knelt down beside her.

There were lots of mushrooms—big and small. Some were no bigger than a penny. Alena took a small, sharp knife and cut them as her mother had taught her—being careful not to damage the roots so the mushrooms would grow again the next year. “If we leave the tiny ones to grow, someone else can pick them later,” Mom suggested.

With her basket almost full, Alena stood up. She turned and saw a squirrel watching her. His brown striped back was hard to see against the tree trunk he was sitting on, but he seemed very interested in what they were doing. Alena laughed at his large cheeks bulging with food. Looking around, he took something out of his mouth and held it with his front paws. As he started to chew, nutshells fell at the foot of the tree. Then he cautiously turned his head and slipped into a small hollow in the tree trunk.

“His home is probably in that hollow,” Alena said.

“Yes,” Mom nodded. “And he is storing food for winter.”

They walked on through the forest—wondering at the beauties of nature. Suddenly Alena stopped. In the clearing right in front of her was a huge, brown mushroom! She had never seen such a big and bright mushroom before. Alena carefully moved closer, but while she was still several steps away, she stopped in surprise. It wasn’t a mushroom at all! It had brown fur with little white spots. Alena moved back quickly.

Her mother put her finger to her lips. “Be quiet,” she whispered. Alena was frightened, but when she saw that Mom was smiling, she understood that the animal was not dangerous.

Alena looked again at the “mushroom.” “What is it?” she asked quietly.

“It’s a fawn—a baby deer,” Mom whispered in her ear.

How tiny! thought Alena.

They tried to be quiet, but the fawn had heard them move. He jumped to his feet, and Alena saw how thin his legs were. His eyes were big and beautiful. He was moving his ears and looking around.

“Mommy, he is so small and so lonely here,” whispered Alena. “Let’s take him home with us. Please!”

Mom shook her head no.

“Why, Mommy?” Alena couldn’t understand. Why would her kind mother—who had brought an abandoned kitten and a dove with a broken wing to their home—not want to help a poor fawn?

Alena and her mother moved away from the clearing and back into the bushes.

“I don’t think it would be good for him at our house,” Mom said quietly as she got down on her knees.

Alena looked at the fawn. He lay down on the grass again. Once more, he looked like a big, brown mushroom.

“See, we don’t need to hurry. We have time to think,” Mom said.

“And to pray?” guessed Alena.

Alena’s parents had recently been baptized, and Alena liked having family prayer every morning and evening. Also, her father had taught Alena to pray when she didn’t know what to do. He had told her, “Ask Heavenly Father, and you will receive an answer.”

At first, Alena didn’t understand what that meant. She thought that after she prayed, someone would come and tell her what to do. But now she remembered how to know when Heavenly Father was answering her prayers. She thought about the calm, peaceful feeling she had received when she had prayed about a hard decision once before.

Alena got on her knees and closed her eyes. She was sure Heavenly Father would tell her to take the poor fawn home. She was sure that it was a good thing to do.

Alena quietly told Heavenly Father the whole story and asked what she should do. She finished her prayer and opened her eyes.

There was a beautiful doe standing by the fawn. The fawn nudged its mother’s tummy. He was probably hungry. But as the doe looked around, her ears trembled nervously. Then she jumped into the forest and looked at the fawn from there. He ran after her and, with small jumps, followed her into the trees.

For some time, Alena and her mother stood looking in the direction they had gone.

“Imagine what we could have done!” exclaimed Alena. “I thought he was alone.”

“People sometimes don’t understand,” Mom said. “They don’t know that help can be near. But you made a good choice on how to find the answer.”

Alena nodded. “We prayed, and Heavenly Father helped us when we asked.”

[illustrations] Illustrated by Denise Kirby