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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Gifts (of the Spirit or service) (11/22/07)

TITLE: A Home for Teresa
By Charla Diehl


Summoning her elementary students with the wave of her arms, Mrs. Miller motioned for them to sit on the floor by the Christmas tree. It was time for the Sunday School story lesson. “Children, as you listen to the story, see if you can recognize gifts you can give but cannot buy.“
The night wind bit at the frayed edges of the young girl’s coat. She pulled the fabric closer to her shivering body and tucked her hands into the worn pockets. This wasn’t the first time she tried to run away, but she vowed to herself she wasn’t going back to another foster home. Dark strands of hair stung her face as the winter winds grew angry. Her eyes filled with tears, partly from the cold but mainly from the loneliness that filled her young and aching heart. She wanted a family to love her--parents she could give her heart to. In and out of foster homes for the majority of her eleven years left her wanting what she feared she couldn’t have.

Teresa lifted her head into the wind. She thought she heard music coming from the quaint little church she passed on her way to school. She ran as fast as her frozen legs allowed and quietly let herself in through the carved wooden doors. She sat in the last pew and bathed in the warmth of the radiator. Men and women were hanging wreaths, while others were decorating a Christmas tree with white glittery Styrofoam ornaments. Children were practicing songs under the direction of a robust woman sitting at the piano. The little church was filled with liveliness and a feeling Teresa couldn’t identify. Close by a man bent from age directed a group of costumed children. Teresa rested her chin on the pew in front of her and watched the scene unfold. There were wisemen with fancy robes and crowns, shepherds with crooked canes, little girls dressed in white with angel wings and gold pipe cleaner halos.

“Mrs. Labinski, let’s start with "Away in the Manger," he instructed. Sweet voices and music filled the room while Teresa closed her eyes to enjoy the moment. In the middle of "Silent Night" she was startled by a tap on her shoulder. It was the pastor who had been directing the children.

“Would you like to join us?” His eyes were kind and his smile filled his face.

“I just came in to get warm, if that’s okay.” Teresa whispered.

Putting his arm around her, the pastor led her to the front of the church. “Children, please make our new friend welcome. Katie, can you find another angel costume for ______? “

“Teresa, my name’s Teresa.”

After the rehearsal some of the mothers set out cookies and cocoa for all to enjoy. Within minutes parents and children made their way to the refreshment table. All but Teresa. She was making her way to the carved wooden doors.

“Child, where are you going? Didn’t you hear there were goodies waiting for you?”

“But I don’t belong here.” By the time Mrs. Labinski caught up to her, Teresa was crying.

“Now, now child. Don’t cry.” Wiping Teresa’s tears with the hem of her apron, the jolly woman drew the young girl into her chest. They stood silent for a moment and then Teresa confessed she had run away.

“Well there’ll be no more talk of you not belongin’. Come now and let’s join the others before they gobble everything up.”

Hand in hand they entered the room filled with chatter. Mrs. Labinski’s daughter, Katie kept Teresa company while her parents had a private moment. When they returned they invited Teresa to come home with them. Leaving the church, Teresa was able to identify the feeling that had surrounded her all night. She called it love.

Mrs. Miller drew a breath, paused for a moment, and concluded her story. “Children, God gave me a wondrous gift that cold wintry night. The Labinski’s loved me like their own and Katie and I became as close as real sisters could ever hope to be. Now, how many gifts did you recognize?”

Hands sprung into the air. “Love,” shouted Susie. “Kindness and friendship,” said Henry. “Can your time be a gift too?” asked Emily.

“Yes, it most certainly can.” Always remember children, the most valuable gifts you can give are the ones you cannot buy.”

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Member Comments
Member Date
LauraLee Shaw11/29/07
Sweet story with what I hope was the beginning of a happy ending for precious Teresa.
Jan Ackerson 11/29/07
Ooh, the prequel/sequel framing the story were a great touch! Very tender, and a lovely read.
Laury Hubrich 12/01/07
Very good writing. This would be very good for upper elementary age kids to read.