A Returned Reward

“She’s my friend.”

She sat at the picnic table alone. Her shoulders were slumped. Recess was in full swing, and while the rest of the third- and fourth-graders were racing around with unabashed freedom, the new girl was once again excluding herself from the mid-day celebration.

Even though school had been in session for several weeks already, and the opportunity to make friends had presented itself many times, she remained awkward around her classmates. She seemed unsure of what to do or say, yet I could see her eyes pleading for acceptance. Many students had already decided that her friendship would not be worth the energy required to overcome the awkwardness. Others teased her. Most ignored her — except for one.

Brianna, the class clown, was standing near the playground making the other students laugh, as usual. So, when I interrupted her fun with a finger motioning for her to come speak with me, her irritation was understandable.

"Yes, Mrs. D?"

"Brianna, do you see Molly down there?"

I pointed. She nodded. I continued.

"She looks awfully lonely. Would you mind walking down there and inviting her to come up here with the rest of us?"

Brianna sighed. I could tell she didn't want to sacrifice precious minutes of her own recess to do what I was asking of her, but I also knew her heart. She was sweet and kind, and often thought of others before herself — a rare trait for anyone, much less a kid. I had specifically selected her for this task, and she knew it. She looked at her friends, then at Molly.

Knowing this choice was paining her, I reached into my pocket and pulled out a D-buck, our class currency. Though bribery was not the ideal way to handle this situation, I was the only teacher on duty and unable to venture far from the other kids. I needed to ensure her cooperation.

"Here, I'll pay you for your time."

She offered an insincere smile, grasped the green paper, and headed down the hill.

As the rest of the children screamed and laughed, my eyes locked on Brianna as she neared the picnic table. I hoped I hadn't just sent her on an impossible mission. Molly could be difficult, and I wouldn't have been surprised if she sent Brianna back alone, refusing her invitation.

I watched closely as they talked. Molly rocked back and forth awkwardly as she sat. When she propelled herself to a standing position, I sighed with relief.

The girls walked back up the hill together, and I turned my attention back to the other students.

A minute later, I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned to see who it was.

Brianna.

"Here, Mrs. D." She handed me the D-buck.

"What's this for?" I asked.

"I shouldn't keep this." Her eyes fell to her feet, guilt radiating from her quiet voice. "I don't want Molly to think I only went to get her so I could earn a D-buck." She lifted her big brown eyes to mine. "She's my friend."

She's my friend. Her sweet voice echoed through me as I slid the D-buck back into my pocket. Brianna skipped back to her group, ready to resume her place as their comedic ringleader. A moment later, they were all laughing hysterically again, and who should I see amongst them, laughing for the first time that week? Molly.

Cover image via Lopolo I Shutterstock

This story is from Chicken Soup for the Soul: Inspiration for Teachers: 101 Stories about How You Make a Difference © 2017 Chicken Soup for the Soul, LLC. All rights reserved.

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