Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 - Advanced)
Topic: Rich (04/26/12)
TITLE: A Different Kind of Wealth
By Steve Uppendahl
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After the story was over, she thanked her father, gave him a hug, and turned to go to bed. But, he held on, and had her sit back down.
“Dad, what is it?” she asked.
“I was going to ask you the same thing. Something’s been bothering you all night. Talk to me.”
She sighed and bowed her head.
“Remember I told you about the new boy in class, Enrique?”
“Yeah,” he answered cautiously, his dad alarm beginning to heighten.
“Well, we were in Social Studies. Mrs. Kent was talking about how in old times the rich were mean to the poor, when Enrique said his family was very rich, but they were nice. Dad, everyone laughed at him.”
“Enrique’s only been in class about two weeks. He wears the same clothes almost every day. His jacket has holes in it. Everyone knows he’s not rich.”
“Did, you laugh, Grace?”
“No! I didn’t say anything. You should’ve seen his face, Dad. He was so sad the whole day. I didn’t know what to do. I felt bad. But, he shouldn’t have lied.”
“How do you know he was lying?”
Grace leaned back as if her father had suggested she clean her room. The father gave a closed-mouth smile and a slight nod.
“I want to tell you a story, Grace, about a rich man. You know Daddy’s best friend, Curtis?”
“Before your mother and I were married, we went with Curtis to Mexico. He was still a youth pastor. He was taking a group of high school students and chaperones to Mexico. We were going to build houses and put a new roof on the orphanage in a small town along the central coast area.
“It was a three-day drive from Portland to the town in Mexico. It was July, so it was very hot the entire trip. We were all exhausted when we arrived. We had only been at the camp for about an hour, when Curtis told us we were going for a drive.
“After three days in those vans, none of us wanted to get back in those things. But, Curtis insisted. Curt said he wanted us to see who we would be helping. We drove through some massive strawberry and watermelon farms.”
“Yes, Gracie. Focus.
“We stopped at some kind of camp. Everything seemed to be coated with dust. There was a water pump with a handle and a line of metal buckets beneath it. There were five very long and warped tables made from plywood. And there were two lines of small huts. Pieces of aluminum for roofs connected them all. It was amazing, Gracie. There must’ve been one hundred and fifty of them.”
“What were they?”
“Homes for the people who worked in those fields. Every hut was the same, about five and a half feet tall and maybe eight feet wide. Our interpreter found a man willing to let us enter his hut. We had to stoop to enter. Only two of us could go in at a time.”
“Because, sweetie, that’s all that could fit. There was only one room. It was hot and smoky. There was a small fire burning in one corner on the dirt floor. Six, small, filthy blankets lay in another corner of the room. He and his family slept there.
“After we all had seen his home, the interpreter and the man spoke. We were told that the man wanted us to be sure to notice that his walls were white. He set aside extra money each week to keep his walls clean. You see, the smoke from the fire blackened the walls. Every month, he repainted them. The man nodded and gave a huge, glowing smile.
“He said the money was worth it. For his family to have clean walls, to be proud of their home.”
The father’s chest hitched at that point. He took a deep breath and covered his face with a hand.
“Tell me, Gracie, why was he rich?”
Grace thought for a long time.
“Because he was happy with what he had. Just like Enrique.”
The dad smiled.
“Correct. Always remember, there are different kinds of wealth.”
**Based on true events**
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