Struggling to find an age appropriate story to follow on the heels of a Junior School Chapel on excellence and perfection, I wrote my own. I asked the students to listen for when the story talked about excellence, even though the term isn’t used directly. Enjoy!
Arya and the Broccoli Tree
Arya peered into the dining room, where her parents sat with their laptops open, paper strewn across the table. Usually, they’d be going for a walk along the water on Saturday morning, but not today. Clearly there was a lot of work to be done and they’d be at it for a while.
Left to her own devices, Arya knew that she could do pretty much anything she wanted. Her tablet beckoned with the promise of consuming any amount of time. She could message friends. She could watch a show. She could play a game.
But noticing how hard her parents were working at their table, she decided that she’d do something for them instead. Something they’d really appreciate.
So Arya found her sketch pad and best pencil crayons, and took a seat at the kitchen table. Soon she roughed out their house. In the big, front window, she drew her parents, smiling broadly. All along the bottom of the building, she pencilled a garden filled with brightly coloured flowers. A bird flew across the top of the page and at the upper, left-hand corner she drew a sun with rays coming down. Finally, she drew a beautiful green tree.
At least, it was supposed to be beautiful. Arya frowned at her tree. To her it looked like a big stick of broccoli, not a tree at all. It ruined everything. Arya ripped the sheet out of the sketch pad, crumpled it into a ball, and left the table.
Seeking comfort, she wandered over to her big, furry, beast of a dog, Olive. Noticing that the poor dog was badly in need of grooming, Arya decided that this would be her gift to her parents. Because the job always created a mess, she grabbed a brush and led Olive into the sunny, back yard. After a solid twenty minutes of brushing, Olive was beginning to look like a show dog.
That’s when Olive decided that a belly rub was necessary and flipped onto her back. Arya stood in horror as her dog, tail wagging, wriggled against the ground, entangling her fur with bits of grass and twigs. It was like Olive did it on purpose. Sullen and defeated, Arya moped back into the house.
Getting a drink of water, Arya calmed herself down. So what if the drawing and the dog didn’t work out. There must be something she could do for her parents. Making room for her dirty glass in the sink, she realized that this could be her gift. She would wash the dishes herself, no machine necessary. She filled the sink with hot water and set to work. Almost done, she began reaching for the dishes further along the counter, including her mother’s favourite coffee cup. Somehow with all the soap, the cup slipped from her hand and fell against the side of the sink. When Arya tried to save it, she poked her finger with a shard.
Tears welled up in her eyes as a tiny drop of blood formed on the tip of her finger. She was done. Walking into the dining room, she poured out her disappointment to her parents: the ruined picture, the dishevelled dog, the broken mug. Everything was supposed to be perfect and everything had fallen apart.
Arya’s parents got up from their seats and gave her a hug. Her mom wasn’t mad about the mug and they both thanked her for being so thoughtful when she could have been doing things for herself. That’s what mattered, they said, as they checked her finger and cleared away the broken mug. They gave her another hug and told her that she was wonderful.
She didn’t feel wonderful. After they went back to the dining room, Arya sat by herself for a while, thinking.
When she was ready, she went back to the sink. Filling it with fresh water, she got to work. No longer able to offer her parents the perfect surprise, she relaxed. Arya took her time, enjoying the feel of the warm, soapy water on her hands and rubbing her thumb along the plates to hear them squeak. She searched the drawer for her favourite dish cloth.
The last utensil in its place, she turned and faced Olive. Outside they went once again. At precisely the same point as before, Olive flipped onto her back. This time, Arya rubbed her puppy’s belly as the dog wriggled on the ground. Once upright, she gave Olive a hug before quickly brushing off most of the grass and twigs – not show-ready, but certainly better.
Back inside the house, Arya turned her sketch book to a clean page and lined up her pencil crayons, admiring her favourite colours one at a time. She filled the paper with her house and the flower bed and her parents and the bird and the sun…and the tree.
Arya frowned at the tree. It still looked more like a stick of broccoli than a proper tree, but at least this time it was tree-ish.
When her parents looked up from their work to see her art, they smiled. Each talked about what they liked most and they both picked the tree. The drawing wasn’t perfect, but it was wonderful.
And Arya began to understand, so was she.