A bicycle for a little girl

By Daris Howard
Six-year-old Emily showed up at our house because she was hungry and didn’t know where else to go. Her stepfather had told her to always be out of the house before daylight and to never come home before dark. From then on, through that summer, she showed up for breakfast by 6:30 a.m., and was waiting when Henton, the young man I worked with, and I came home for lunch or dinner. I always made lots of food so she would have plenty.
I was 20 years old, and Emily became like a little sister. On my days off she would help me work on my bicycle. She learned what each wrench was called in my small tool set, and would happily hand it to me when I asked.
One morning she came dragging a little bicycle into the driveway. “A friend of mine found this bike and said I could have it,” she said. “Can you help me fix it?”
I knew that more likely her friend had stolen it, and, finding it didn’t work, knew he couldn’t sell it. It was kind of an ugly bike, with some painted bears on it, but to Emily it was the most beautiful bike in the world.
I checked it out. “Emily,” I said, “this bike is going to need two new tubes, one new tire tread, and some new pedals.” I walked to the other side, “It looks like it could use a new seat and …”
I stopped as I caught sight of Emily and saw tears forming in her eyes. “It would cost too *#&@ much to fix, huh?” she asked.
I looked at this sweet, rough little girl. She had little to look forward to in life. I couldn’t be the one to disappoint her.
“You really like this bike, don’t you?” I asked.
She nodded. “Well, I suppose it wouldn’t cost that much,” I lied. “It will just take some time.”
Her tears turned to a smile as she talked about how exciting it would be to have her own bike. Henton and I took her with us, and I carried the bike to a little bike shop. When Mr. Johnson, the store owner, priced all the parts I would need, I knew it was going to really be hard on my budget. Feeding Emily had more than doubled my food bill.
“I can buy half of them now, and the other half next month,” I told him. “Which ones are most important?”
Mr. Johnson, who was old enough to be Emily’s grandfather, paused and looked at her. “Aren’t you the little girl who is always in here looking at bikes?” Emily nodded. “Is this going to be your bike?” Again she nodded. He smiled and turned to me, “You know, the shop ain’t that busy right now. You just pay for half of them, I’ll donate the other half, and I’ll fix it up for free.”
I nodded my agreement, and Emily ran to him and gave him a big hug. The old man smiled. “I’d say a hug is darned good pay.”
I paid my part, and a few days later we took Emily to the store to pick up her bike. Her happiness when she rode it was pay enough for all of us. As we left the store, Emily turned to me. “Is Mr. Johnson one of the angels you told me about that God has here that helps people?”
I nodded. “I’m sure he is, Emily. There are lots of them all around us.”
Emily rode her bike everywhere after that, and everyone loved her and watched out for her. One Saturday, as she ate dinner with us, she was unusually quiet. “What’s the matter, Emily?” I asked.
“You go to church every Sunday and learn about God, don’t you?” she asked. I nodded, so she continued. “Do you think God would let me come to church, too?”
“Of course He would,” I said. “Why do you ask?”
“Because I want to become an angel and help people, too,” she replied
“You don’t have to go to church to be an angel or to help people,” I said.
Emily said she still wanted to go, so I turned to Henton. “I think it’s time we go to 423 Elm St. and have a visit with Emily’s stepdad.”

Daris Howard, award-winning syndicated columnist, playwright and author, can be contacted at daris@darishoward.com or visit his website at http://www.darishoward.com. Howard lives in the Rexburg area and is a mathematics professor at Brigham Young University-Idaho.