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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Lifeguard (11/09/06)

TITLE: A 'Hand Up' for Christy
By Valora Otis


Christy measured the distance from where they slept under the docks all the way to the Mini-Mart. It was exactly two hundred seven steps. She dreaded sitting on that curb so close to her old neighborhood, begging for money to feed her kids. She watched her kids walk the four remaining blocks to school. She sighed with relief as they walked through the double doors.

As soon as she settled in on the curb, a woman sporting a Prada purse snarled, "get a job lady. I work for a living.” Christy was wearing jeans she’d found in a dumpster that morning. Maybe that had something to do with it. She ignored the woman, distracted by the nasty taste in her mouth. The moldy bagel she’d found next to the jeans was giving her a stomachache.

That afternoon, she’d watched her kids play with a ball they’d found on the sidewalk by a used crack pipe. Josh had laughed as Jeni missed the ball. A quarter clinking in Christy's cup on the concrete snapped her back to the present. “God bless.” Her blistered lips spoke the words, but she wondered where God was and why he’d forgotten her babies.

Christy let her guard down. Her shoulders sagged under the weight of her grief. The pitted pavement at her feet blurred as she was sucked into the past. The scene played like a bad horror show in her mind.

She’d been sunbathing on a popular L.A. beach while her husband swam the waves. Sitting there, she watched him being pulled under again and again. She relived the memory of Kyle, the lifeguard, trying to save Jared from the riptide, but he was gone. She watched herself identifying his lifeless body miles down shore. Fresh tears stained her dirty face.

The lifeguard and his father attended the funeral. He said he was so sorry that he couldn’t rescue her husband. He was leaving for the mission field soon and told her he would pray for her. The sad young man had his whole life before him. Startled, she realized she barely existed in hers.

Within three short months, they were broke and sleeping on the beach, near their old home. Numbed with grief, she begged on this dangerous L.A. corner while her kids were in school. Christy gazed at the waves rolling in from her perch on the corner. An older gentleman, dressed in business attire, watched her from a distance. He caught her eye then crossed the street.

“Mrs. O’Conner?”


“I’ve been looking for you for weeks. My son’s the lifeguard that tried to save your husband. He wanted us to find you. May I buy your family some dinner?”

Christy peered up at them, hugging her knees to her chest. “I don’t know…”

“I can meet you at Taco Bell in twenty minutes.”

He looked decent enough. “Okay, but we’ll only eat, that’s all.”

“That’s fine. See you there.”

Christy stood from the concrete curb. She got about five bucks a day begging. She wished people would take a crow bar to their pocket books and show a little generosity. Please super size your offering ma’am; she wanted to scream at the plump woman who dropped a dime in her cup.

Christy pocketed her change. Her children’s enthusiasm over the news of a meal lifted her spirits.

The men were there when they arrived, a feast spread out before them. Painful salivation nearly knocked Christy flat from the aroma.

“We over-ordered.” They looked embarrassed. “Help yourselves.”

Christy was speechless, then finally muttered, “There is a God.”

“Yes, Mrs. O’Conner, Kyle wanted me to tell you that he knows there is a God and that He knows your struggles. I was reminded by my son that when I’m in the service of my fellow man I’m also in God’s service.” He leaned on his elbows. “My son was devastated when he couldn’t save your husband. He asked us to tell you how your family can all be saved.”

Christy had time to think while she ate slowly.

“Would you be interested in letting my family give you a hand up with employment, rather than a hand out?”

“I’ll take the ‘hand up,’ thanks!” Tearfully, Christy turned, taking each child by the hand. “Kids, I was wrong. I thought God had forgotten all about us until this moment. Maybe Kyle couldn’t rescue Daddy, but I believe God is working through him and his dad to save us all.”

Matt 25:40 (KJV)
And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

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This article has been read 803 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Joanne Sher 11/19/06
You did a wonderful job with the detail - I felt like I was right there with Christy. A creative take on the topic - very compelling story as well - with a lesson for us all.
Ann FitzHenry11/19/06
Great story! I especially liked the 207 steps in the beginning and the 'super size your offering.' Very descriptive and well written. I also liked the play on words with hand up and hand out. Well done! :-)
julie wood11/20/06
I loved this story! I could both see and feel with the main character, and the vivid description put me right there in the scene. Great dialog, too! And I loved the message.
dub W11/20/06
This is really quite well written. A real heart tugger. Thanks for sharing.
Edy T Johnson 11/20/06
You definitely know how to give your readers the inside perspective. I love reading what you write. I hope you post your "other" lifeguard story (Winger's story) in regular submissions. That "inside perspective" was so powerful it took my breath away.
Jan Ackerson 11/20/06
Great story--very original!
Laurie Glass 11/20/06
Great take on the topic. Your words painted pictures in my mind. Great job.
Melanie Smith-Taylor11/21/06
This is your best work yet that I have read. Totally awesome! Great emotion, excellent flow, life-changing lesson...terrific.
Jen Davis11/21/06
A touching story with a really wonderful message. This story also resonates with me because we both referenced the same scripture this week:) Nice work!
Allison Egley 11/21/06
This was great. I also loved the "super size" line. I'm glad she'll be getting a hand up instead of a hand out. Woohoo! :)
Sandra Petersen 11/22/06
Val, this was an excellent description of the plight of the desperately poor and homeless. We don't realize often enough that in a few minutes our lives can be irreversibly changed. Very good message.

Just one tiny (maybe it's just me) confusing thing. At the beginning of the story Christy watches her children as they go through the double doors of the school, but then they are with her when she comes to the feast prepared before her at Taco Bell. I'm not sure the time lapse was explained.

But the message of the story rang through, and like I said already your description of the homeless was excellent. Blessings!
Bonnie Derksen11/22/06
I'm adding my "well-done" to all the rest. Very descriptive. Great narration and honesty spoken through your MC. Thanks for this writing.
Val Clark11/24/06
Finally made it to your story. You've done a great job of saying so much in so few words. I love your characterisation of the mum. Details like: 'hugging her knees to her chest' really made it live for me. Well done. yeggy