Story by Bob Perks
They had been friends forever. Or at least it seemed that way. Jenny and Cathy had attended school together since first grade. Now in 8th grade, they tried desperately to spend as much time together as they could. Next year they would begin a transition into the upper grades, where classes were larger, schools consolidated, and when they would begin to make educational plans that would set the pace for college and beyond.
“Let’s make 8th grade fun!” said Jenny at the beginning of school.
“We’ll have a blast,” Cathy joined in.
The first few months of this school year were just that, everything two girlfriends would want, including boys!
Then suddenly things changed. Christmas was approaching and Cathy seemed to withdraw from the scene.
“Mom, I don’t know what’s going on, but Cathy doesn’t hang out any more,” said Jenny.
“Is she having trouble with her grades?” asked Mom.
“No, it’s not that. I’ve been trying to get her to go shopping with me, like we always do at Christmas. She keeps saying “I can’t.” The Holiday dance is coming and I was hoping she’d be there, but she said she can’t go this year. She didn’t participate in the school play, and she dropped off the committee for the annual food drive. “I can’t”, “I can’t” she keeps saying but won’t say why. I’m tired of hearing “I can’t,” Jenny said in frustration.
“Then she hasn’t told you?” asked Mom.
“Told me what?” asked Jenny.
“Cathy’s mom is a single parent with four kids to raise. I don’t know how she does it. Two months ago she lost her job. The whole economy thing has hurt many families. Cathy is probably just too embarrassed to tell you. I’m sure her mom just didn’t have the money this year to let her do all those things,” Mom said.
“Oh, Cathy. Mom I really didn’t know,” said Jenny.
“That’s why her Christmas has been filled with “can’ts”” Mom explained.
Jenny walked away without saying a word.
Early next morning, before Jenny’s family was awake, she headed down to the kitchen. Her mom was awakened by the sound of someone rummaging through the garbage.
Finding Jenny there mom asked, “What are you doing?”
“I just needed something for…my science project today,” said Jenny.
“From the garbage?” replied Mom.
“Trust me,” she said and headed off to shower for school.
A few days passed. Mom was concerned about how Jenny was handling all of this. But every time she tried to speak with her, Jenny would tell her, “I don’t have time right now. I’m working on a project.” Then out the door she flew.
Over the next few days they saw little of each other. In the hustle of a typical modern day family everyone seemed to pass each other like speeding race cars.
That is until Mom got a call one day.
“Mrs. Jeffries, this is Mrs. Cabrini. I’m just calling to tell you how wonderful your Jenny is. All of us here at the senior high rise have enjoyed her help so much. I don’t know how we ever got by without her.”
“Well,… thank you,… Mrs. Cabrini,” Jenny’s Mom said with some confusion.
After a few questions Mom found out what was going on, but couldn’t understand why. Jenny had been working at the senior center, running chores, cleaning and decorating for many of the residents. Each of them gladly offered her money for all the great work she did. Mom just didn’t know what she planned on doing with that money she made.
Then yesterday Jenny finally confessed.
“Mom, I know I should have told you about it. But I really needed to do this on my own,” Jenny said.
“Please, Mom let me explain,” Jenny nervously interrupted her.
“I was so angry with Cathy for not telling me about her Mom. I was angry because she wouldn’t do all the things we always did at Christmas. She kept saying “I can’t” and I couldn’t believe that Christmas ever meant “I can’t” so I decided to help.”
Jenny then reached under her bed and pulled out a huge coffee can wrapped in red foil. Appearing to be very heavy, she carefully placed it on the table nearby, she slowly turned it around until Mom could read the note on the front. It said:
Then she handed her a flyer that read:
“I have a best friend who can’t find Christmas this year. She “can’t” celebrate, she “can’t” buy her mom a present, she “can’t” even help others.
You see, her mom lost her job and it seems they “can’t” do the things they always did at Christmas.
So I will do chores, run errands, help you decorate if you will help me fill this with “Christmas “cans,” that is any amount you can afford to pay me. It will help me to help them.
There’s a lot of things kids “can’t” do, but I “can” do anything for my friend.
I’m doing this so she “Can” have a great Christmas.
Mom hugged her and as they sat there she thought about all the others in the community and throughout the world who “can’t” seem to find their Christmas this year.
What “can” you do to help others?