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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Reading (01/25/07)

TITLE: The Cookie Exchange
By Lisa Graham


Settling down on my front porch with a strong cup of coffee, I watched as dusk gently eased the November day away into chilly early evening. I was enjoying a moment of respite from grading papers and writing lesson plans, until the phone rang. It was my neighbor, Mrs. Pfeiffer.

“I made Brunswick stew and biscuits,” she said happily. “Come over and we’ll have a feast.”

More papers awaited my attention, but Mrs. Pfeiffer’s mouth-watering stew beckoned.

In her cozy kitchen, I ladled steaming savory soup into a bowl and buttered a golden brown biscuit.

She held up the newspaper. “I read an article about something called ‘Teach-In’ . . . is this the event when folks from the community come into classrooms and talk to kids about life experiences?”

I nodded, “It’s coming up in a couple of weeks.”

“Do you have anybody lined up for your students?” She gave me a sideways look.

“No,” I said regretfully.

“I have plenty of life experiences I can share.”

I took a deep breath. “Mrs. Pfieffer, I teach high school students . . . they are often mean and disrespectful.”

“Don’t worry! I might be seventy years old, but I can handle it,” she insisted.

I chose my words carefully. “Dealing with high school kids is a daunting task. Very few consistently put forth the effort. I guess that’s why I keep trying. I’m not trying to discourage you . . . I’m just being truthful.”

Her blue eyes twinkled. “Joshua 1:9 says, ‘Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified; do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.’”

As the date of “Teach-In” approached, I secretly hoped she would forget about it, but I was wrong.

She called the evening before and announced. “I’m ready for tomorrow! I’ll see you there!”

I was immediately filled with anxiety, fearing that my students would be cruel or make fun of the tiny lady in large round glasses and tufts of white hair. I prayed fervently for her.

True to her word, Mrs. Pfieffer arrived the next morning. I steeled myself, ready to be her protector, if need be.

The kids snickered as she tried several times to perch on a stool. I shot them a warning look as she settled in. Opening her purse, she drew out a small book and began to read aloud.

“Fun With Dick and Jane? That’s a baby book,” Bradley interrupted. “I read that in Kindergarten.” His classmates laughed.

Mrs. Pfeiffer responded sweetly. “Up until last year, I couldn’t read at all.”

The students looked at each other in amazement. “Are you serious?”

She nodded. “My family was poor. We moved often and I missed a lot of school, so I quit going. Later on, I got married and had kids, so I never had time to learn to read, but I still kept the dream alive. You probably take reading for granted, but to me it is like being given wings to fly. Now, I read everything . . . even comic books!”

“Who taught you?” This question was from a girl who very seldom paid attention in class.

“A high school girl about the same age as you,” said Mrs. Pfeiffer, with tears in her eyes. “I gave her cookies in exchange for reading lessons!”

She reached inside her bag again, and drew out a tattered piece of paper. “You’re never too old to have goals. I have a list of things I want to accomplish. Reading the Bible from cover to cover is one of mine. Making new friends and teaching others to appreciate reading is another. Start your own list . . . set a few goals . . . you may even surprise yourself.”

Flashing a sweet smile, she said, “I’m building my own library. If you’ve finished a book and would like to add it to my collection, I’ll pay for it in cookies.”

Several evenings later, I spotted three of my students emerging from a car parked in front of Mrs. Pfeiffer’s house. I stood up to confront them, but something held me back. Bearing books, they stepped onto her porch and politely rang the bell. A few minutes later, they walked down the sidewalk, munching on cookies.

At that moment, I realized something very important: “Teach-In” isn’t just for students . . . even a teacher can learn a thing, or two.

(Scripture taken from NIV)

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This article has been read 890 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Joy Faire Stewart02/01/07
It was great the way the author intergraded setting goals, using talents and the loving response from the teens. Also I enjoyed the unexpected element in the story!
Verna Cole Mitchell 02/01/07
This is an excellent story. I, too, was holding my breath for the little old lady facing teen-agers. Yet, I know, also, that even the toughest acting teens respect honesty and people who show them respect. The story held my interest--beginning to end.
Jeremy H.02/01/07
Brought some tears to my eyes :) Just the other day I made a quick list of goals but this encourages me to really take some time and set out a game plan of how to get to my goals!
julie wood02/02/07
I loved this story! All the characters came alive for me with the realistic dialogue and descriptions--and I felt the teacher's apprehension at the thought of her old lady friend confronting those teenagers! Beautiful message, too. Great job!

A beautiful, moving message
Marilyn Schnepp 02/02/07
Such a delightful entry! Loved the interaction between generations - and it was written extremely well. Even had a tear well up in my eyes...nice job.
Jan Ackerson 02/03/07
Oooh, really good job! I was charmed by "I'll pay for it in cookies" and the little vignette at the end.
Sharlyn Guthrie02/03/07
Your title is so clever, and you even baited us with the November date at the beginning. This is an inspiring tale, and very well-written.
Jacquelyn Horne02/05/07
Good writing. I am always amazed that people think senior adults cannot "connect" with teens. I've found it to be just the opposite. I know high-schoolers can be harsh, but there's always a bond that can be made after we pass the first hurdle. You captured it very well.
terri tiffany02/08/07
Nice to see you back in the challenge Lisa!! Great story!