TITLE: Walking to a Worthwhile Afternoon
By Teresa Lee Rainey
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The rock bounced twice before rolling out of Aaron's reach. He wondered whether Nikki would notice if he walked off their path to kick it once more. At least the rock had kept his mind occupied for a moment, but the moment passed when he heard her sigh.
What was she thinking, he wondered. There was a nervous silence between them on this walk that was unusual. Should he break the silence with a joke? If only he could think of something witty to lighten their mood. Typically, Nikki would be chatting about something, nonstop, but not today. Surely she was as uneasy about their destination as he was.
Two years ago, Nikki had been the girl-next-door who was brazen enough to introduce herself by telling him, “If we're going to be friends, as well as neighbors, I need to know that you have a relationship with Jesus Christ”. They had quickly become best friends. Hardly a day had passed without at least a phone call that first year.
This last year had been hard on their friendship. Everyone around them seemed to be changing. Groups were forming clicks.
Nikki was determined to be popular. It was easy for her. She was cute and petite. Her determination had taken her to the top of the popularity pole.
Although Aaron was quite intelligent, he wasn’t nerdy. He was certainly not hard to look at, but being part of a click wasn’t what he wanted. Their relationship had become strained.
Last month, during a car-pool to youth group, the tension between them escalated and boiled over. He was annoyed by her desire to climb the social ladder. She was annoyed by his determination not to.
The lesson that night had been on the need for a support system of Christian friends in today’s world. Glances of regret passed between them as the lesson ended. The ride home was full of request for forgiveness and a promise to rekindle their friendship.
They both understood their separate social status during school was unlikely to change. However, it hadn’t taken long for their friendship to reform. Walking to school together had become their time to talk. They had come to accept that their lives were different now, but the one thing that had sealed their friendship initially was still common ground.
A week ago, they had discussed the desire to do something worthwhile with their time. Their initial hopes of working a real job had been destroyed after a few phone calls. Apparently, no one was interested, or legally able, to hire thirteen-year-olds. Once the disappointment of realizing there would be no steady, part-time paycheck in their near future set in, Nikki had come up with an idea.
Her suggestion had seemed so fun. It seemed like the perfect solution to relieve the boredom in their lives. After only a few phone calls, her idea became their purpose.
Each time they had passed in the school hallway that week, her face seemed radiant with the anticipation of discussing their plan. Every walk to school and back was filled with conversations of what today would bring. Now each step they took brought them one moment closer to making their dream of a worthwhile afternoon a reality.
Nikki sighed once more and looked at Aaron as their walk ended at the entry to their destination. He could tell that she was still as nervous and speechless as he was. After a moment’s hesitation, he reached for her hand. She didn’t resist. Aaron led her inside and toward the front desk, where they had been told to sign in.
He stopped her before they were ushered into the nursing home’s main office and asked “Are you sure about this?”
Nikki was surprisingly calm when she finally answered, “We came to be volunteers today. I think it’s going to be fun.”
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