Betty was frightened and lonely in the large city. Her family came from the small, friendly town of Buckeye, Arizona. It shocked her friends when she told them her family planned to move to San Diego, California.
The first day at the new school was a nightmare. Kit Carson Elementary was entirely different than the small school in Arizona. At Kit Carson, a health inspector came by each morning to check hands, nails, face and neck. If there were dirty or snagged nails or dirty ears, then the student had to report to the school nurse.
The stress of being a new student magnified when the inspector, on the first day, gave Betty a slip and sent her to the nurse’s office because of a cold sore in the corner of her mouth. This was almost more than Betty could bear.
Betty met and made a new friend at her new school. She thought several of the other girls were nice, but she enjoyed being with Wanda Lea the most. They both liked writing poetry and reading stories together.
Mrs. Anderson asked the class to write a poem or story about the First Thanksgiving. Betty worked many hours on her poem until at last she had it just like she wanted. She finished four days before it was due. The next morning she told her friend the good news.
“Oh, let me read it. May I please,” Wanda Lea pleaded?
“Yes,” Betty laughed at her eagerness, “and you better tell me you like it.”
She could hardly wait until Wanda Lea finished reading.
“It’s beautiful Betty! You did a great job,” Wanda Lea said.
“Thanks,” Betty whispered.
Every day Betty looked at her poem. It’s the best I’ve ever written, she thought. Wanda Lea assured her she would get an A+.
Betty smiled at Mrs. Anderson when she handed the assignment to her. The days seemed to drag until the morning when the teacher finally announced the assignments were graded. Betty waited as the teacher called each one to the front and handed their graded paper to them. When all the assignments were handed out, except Betty’s and Wanda Lea’s, Mrs. Anderson looked at Betty.
“Betty, will you and Wanda Lea please see me after class?”
Betty’s heart beat wildly. She couldn’t think of why Mrs. Anderson wanted to see just the two of them. She didn’t have to wait long. As soon as the other students left the room, Mrs. Anderson came right to the point.
“Didn’t you girls know I would catch you cheating? I’m surprised you did this! You both are very good at writing poetry. Why did you resort to copying? I don’t know what book you took this from, but I do know you did not write this yourselves.”
“What are you saying?” Betty’s face blanched. “Are you saying I didn’t write my poem? But I did, Mrs. Anderson. I really did.”
Betty looked at Wanda Lea as she stared blankly out of the window. What is wrong with her, Betty wondered? Why doesn’t she say something?
“And I suppose Wanda Lea really wrote her poem also?” Mrs. Anderson was holding the two poems in her hands. She read a few lines from Betty’s poem.
Then she read from Wanda Lea’s poem. Betty couldn’t believe her ears. The poems were the same! Wanda Lea had taken the part that she liked best from her poem and included it in her own.
Tears were streaming down Betty’s cheeks. She couldn’t say a word. Her head roared as if it were in a barrel. She couldn’t look at Wanda Lea. Mrs. Anderson was still talking, but Betty didn’t hear anything she said. She didn’t remember leaving the classroom. Neither did she remember walking down the hall, nor the bus ride home.
The next day was Friday and Betty stayed home from school. She was sick, and she didn’t want to talk to anyone. What was she going to do? Mrs. Anderson thought she was a cheat and a liar. She didn’t want to think about Wanda Lea, it hurt too much.
“I’ll never write poetry again,” she said. “I don’t want to be called a cheat just because someone thinks I copy from a book.”
Monday morning was definitely the worst Betty ever remembered. She asked Mrs. Anderson if she could move to another desk, but Mrs. Anderson refused.
Wanda Lea didn’t look at Betty when she came in. She sat down at her desk.
Every time she moved or spoke Betty felt a surge of loneliness like a giant weight smashing the life from her body.
It’s only three more days until Thanksgiving. What do I have to be thankful for, she thought? Tomorrow will be the last day of school before Thanksgiving vacation. I guess I can be thankful that I’ll have a week away from school.
After Betty got home from school that day, she went to her room. There was a knock on her door and her mother walked in and said, “Betty, you and I need to talk. You have been unusually quiet lately. Has something happened that I need to know about? Something I can help you with?”
That was more than Betty could stand. She burst into tears. “Mom, it’s just awful! My whole life has gone crazy!” Her mother listened as she explained what had happened.
“Mom, I don’t know what to do.” Betty put her arms around her mother’s neck.
“I don’t want to go to school now.”
Her mother comforted her. “Honey, you need to talk to the Lord about the anger you are feeling. I know teachers are expected to be perfect and never make mistakes, but they are human and are capable of making mistakes the same as anyone else. There’s one thing you need to think about, Mrs. Anderson highly complimented you without realizing it. She thought your poem was so well written that you must have copied it from a book.”
“Hey, that’s true!” Betty exclaimed. “Thanks Mom, Mrs. Anderson really did compliment me. I never thought of it like that.”
After Betty talked to the Lord that night she felt much better.
When Betty got to school on Tuesday, Wanda Lea was waiting for her by the steps. She caught Betty’s arm.
“I’ve got to talk to you, Betty. I’m sorry for what I did. I copied from your poem because I liked it so much. I never thought about it hurting you.”
“You’re my friend, I can’t believe you did that.” Betty spoke with a shaky voice. She could feel warm tears as they began to flow down her cheeks.
Wanda Lea held tightly to Betty’s arm. Her eyes were red from crying. “Betty, I have missed you so much. I couldn’t stand not telling the truth. I went to see Mrs. Anderson after school yesterday. I told her the whole truth. I don’t know if she believed me or not. I hope she did. I asked her to forgive me for cheating. I prayed and asked the Lord to forgive me, and I hope you can forgive me too.” Tears were streaming down her face.
Betty turned to her friend and wrapped her arms around her and hugged her with all her might. “Yes, I forgive you. I’ve missed you too. I felt so alone. I’m glad we’re still friends. I’m not angry with Mrs. Anderson any more. I prayed and asked the Lord to help me not be angry. I hope she believes you, but if she doesn’t, I can live with that. As long as things are okay between you and me.”
The first bell rang and they walked toward the classroom together. Betty thought about giving thanks and smiled. Wanda Lea noticed the smile.
“What?” She asked.
Betty glanced at her, still smiling. “Oh, I was thinking of all the things I have to be thankful for.”
“Yeah, and me too,” Wanda Lea said. “Isn’t it nice that Thanksgiving vacation is only two days away and we’re out of school a whole week?” She smiled back at her friend.