By Lily, age 10

Once upon a time there was a poor girl whose father was blind and very old. Because he was blind and could not work, she had to do all the housework by herself.  Every day she took her water pot from the shelf and went to get water at a nearby well. 

One day while cleaning the house, she removed her water pot so that she could dust the shelf.  As she was finishing the task, she peeked inside and found four beautiful jewels.  Each one was a different, rich color.  She reached inside and picked one up.  It was smooth and slippery.  “What is it?” she wondered. She thought they were interesting, so she wanted to keep them.  Then she hid them under her dust cloth and took the pot to get water as she usually did.  She did not expect the strange incident to happen again.

The following morning she woke up and, after fixing breakfast, hurried to get her water pot. Again she found a handful of jewels. She put those under her dust cloth, too. That night she thought that this was very strange. “Who is putting those beautiful things in my water pot?” she thought. 

When she woke up the next day, she quickly ran and looked in her pot and discovered that there were two handfuls of jewels.  She put them under the dust cloth and walked to the well, just as she usually did.  That night she wondered greatly about who had been doing this strangely wonderful deed.  She wanted to find out who the person could be.

As soon as she awoke, she ran to her water pot and found three handfuls inside. This time she decided to go and show them to her father.  “He might know what they are,” she thought.  So, she put the jewels in her father’s hands, and described them. 

“These are jewels Mary! They are worth a lot of money!” he said excitedly.            

So she hurried to sell some of them, but kept the first four, because she thought, “I might use them for something someday.” She earned 16,000 gold coins.

Later that day she decided to give away her old clothes which weren’t very ragged.  She gave them to a poor man, who thanked her and told her that his wife needed them.  She went to bed that night and thought about how blessed the man and his wife felt.

Very early the next morning, she heard a knock at the door.  When she opened the door, she saw a footman from the palace dressed in rich clothes. “Good morning. Here is an invitation to the royal ball,” he announced.   

“THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!” she yelled and then slammed the door.  She dashed to her room to get her best gown ready.

That night at the ball she danced with the prince and they fell in love. Later that night, they sat together and talked. “So, tell me how you grew up,” the prince said.

“Well, me and my father were very poor until one day someone started putting jewels in my water pot,” she replied. Then, she had an idea. “Do you know who put jewels in my water pot?” she asked. The prince was about to answer when they both heard a deep voice.  

“I did.”           

The prince jumped. “Father?” he said. They both turned around. There standing in front of them was the king himself!

The girl quickly curtsied and said, “Your Majesty.”             

“No need,” he continued. “I did, because when you went to fetch water every morning I noticed how kind and gentle you are. I wanted my son to marry you and I knew that the only way he could see you was at a ball, and the only way you could be invited was if you were wealthy. So, I did.” He smiled. “I can see that my plans went just as I pleased,” he said.  The prince and the girl were speechless.  Suddenly the girl broke the silence.

“I must tell my father! He will be so grateful to you.”          

The king replied, “Certainly you will tell your father. You may go home to tell him right now.”

When the girl returned, she brought her father with her. “My lord,” he murmured. 

“My good man, it pleases me to know that you raised such a kind and beautiful daughter,” the king told him. The girl’s father smiled with pride. “Will you give your permission for my son to marry your daughter?” the king asked.

“Yes, of course,” the girl’s father replied.     

The wedding was splendid. And so, with lots of love (and great riches) they all lived happily ever after.

By Michaiah, age 15

I tiptoe across the tile floor. Between praying and panicking, I only managed to snatch three hours of sleep last night, and I’m feeling my exhaustion more acutely this morning. Closing the curtain behind her with a flourish, the lady enters the room and hands me a new outfit. After she exits, the canvas curtain swishes into place behind her retreating form and I’m grateful to change my clothes in privacy. I don each piece of this new outfit and strike a pose. I look unbelievable.

Unbelievably awful. Obviously, the person who decided to make “one-size-fits-all” hospital gowns wasn´t planning for a petite five foot, three inch model. I’m stuck in a hospital room; after years of struggling with recurring dislocation in my ankle tendon, the orthopedist concluded that surgery was the only option. As the coarse fabric swallows my shivering self, it seems to symbolize my insignificance, my unimportance, my helplessness. Although I strain to tie the floppy strings, I am finally forced to ask the nurse for help – further accentuating my helplessness.

After knotting the threads of my gown, the nurse collects my belongings: my favorite pink hoodie, my orange-and-pink plaid purse, my tiny silver iPod, and my cell phone. Knowing that I would be stuck in that room for a few hours before surgery, I begged to keep my iPod, my phone, anything to pass the time. The nurse was unrelenting. Now, there is nothing to occupy my fearfully swirling mind. Worst of all, no colors remain besides white and grey – the old, dingy white walls and the rigidly polished stainless steel equipment. At least my gown is colorful; admittedly, it is a rather sickly combination of mauve and lavender, but it is the only reasonably pleasant color that remains in the room. The other hint of color in the room is much less friendly: the blood-red bag in the corner is marked with “bio-hazard.” The word is written in capital letters, letters the grim color of burnt Colombian coffee.

My bare feet tell me that they are tired of being in contact with the frigid linoleum floor, so I crawl between the sterile sheets. The dingy ivory color testifies of too many bodies in contact with the fabric, paired with too many trips through the washing machine. Accustomed to plush, fuzzy blankets and crisp cotton sheets, my skin protests the coarsely woven, threadbare material that adorns the hospital bed. Before I’m properly prepared, the nurse returns. Oh, no. She is carrying the dreaded IV kit. She stabs the tip of the needle into my vein. Against my will, this woman has inserted a foreign object into my body. That’s my space she just invaded, my privacy she just attacked, my skin she just jabbed with that gleaming needle.

The nurse leaves again, once again forcing me to be alone with my thoughts. Unnerved by the inescapable reality of my situation, I try to think of something interesting. This room is sterile. Austere. Frigid. It seems specially designed to intimidate and depress the unlucky visitor. I’m not sure why the steel guardrails are locked into place, but they have an imprisoning presence that does nothing to ease my nervous state of mind. If the hospital wants the patient to relax, they are failing in their attempts. The room is chilled; even though I´ve gathered the sheets tightly around my neck, I’m still shivering. A sharp, antiseptic scent pervades the room, lingering and tickling my nose. While I wait, my fear is quickly increasing, manifested in my racing heart, sweaty palms, and shaking hands. Phrases flit across my mind: “the pre-surgical nerve block is excruciatingly painful.” “Be sure to take the medicine consistently, or you will be in agony.” “Recovery is long, tedious, and painful.” I now regret all the research I have collected about this surgery.

Slapping some blue surgical tape across the IV tube and pressing the adhesive against my skin, the nurse seems oblivious to my anxiety. She hangs the bag of IV fluid onto the stainless steel IV pole and the fluid trickles through the tube and drips into my wrist. After she leaves again, I’m oddly irritated by the wrinkles I see in the tape, and it takes all my self-restraint as I resist the urge to peel the sticky edges of tape and smooth the wrinkles. My annoyance is abruptly concluded when the anesthesiologist enters the room. The moment I´ve been dreading.

When I’m fantasizing about my future career in the operating room, I´ve always anticipated the day when I hold the scalpel, when I slice into someone’s body, when I travel beneath a patient’s skin to fix whatever problems may lie beneath. But while I was lying between threadbare sheets, I realized that when I am working in the hospital, I need to remember this experience. I was miserable. My future patients will be equally miserable. I was scared. My future patients will experience that same emotion. I was helpless. My future patients will also feel the loss of control. And when I am the surgeon, I need to temper my excitement to operate and take the time to have compassion on the lonely, frightened patient who is trapped in a hospital room.

By Rebekah H, age 12

“Can these services get any more boring?” thought ten-year-old Jacob. “We’ve been here for two hours and no one has said a thing. I don’t believe the Holy Spirit even visits here. Maybe he thinks that this is a good place to take a nap. I bet that the Quaker leaders came up with these meetings, so their sons and daughters can have a dent in their heads. What’s that noise? Oh it’s only a bug. Wouldn’t it be funny if it went to the women’s side and up boring old Bessie’s dress? That would be funny. Oh boy, I need to go to use the privy and Elder John has just gotten up; he’s the longest speaker! What shall I do? His speech could go on for ages. Asking father is out of the question, and it’s disrespectful to leave while someone’s talking because I’ll get a rap on the head. I hope that I will make it, but that’s doubtful. Ouch! Oh no, the watchman saw me squirming and gave me a rap on the head, and I exclaimed out loud! Now Father’s taking me out, probably to scold me. Well, at least I don’t have to listen to Elder John drone on and on during that boring meeting, but now my backside will hurt for the rest of the day.”

Jacob was right. Quaker meetings were silent and boring because the Quakers meditated and prayed while waiting for the Holy Spirit to speak to them. If a person felt led to speak, then they would, but mostly there was silence. No talking, smiling, or laughing was allowed. The meeting would go for hours while the Quakers sat segregated on hard wooden benches. It was to this religion that William Penn converted.

William Penn is best known as the founder of Philadelphia, but there is more to his story than that.

William Penn was born to Sir William Penn, a naval sea captain, and Margret Jasper during the time of the English Civil War. At age sixteen he was enrolled in Oxford University, but he disagreed with the school forcing students to attend church. Penn was expelled a year later. Penn’s parents didn’t agree with Penn’s religious views, so they sent him to first to Paris, then to Ireland where the family estate was.

Much to the disappointment of his parents, Penn’s religious views didn’t cool off. In fact, they got stronger. Penn met Thomas Lowe, a Quaker preacher who taught Penn about Quakerism. William Penn converted to Quakerism at age twenty-three, and since Quakerism was  hated by the English government, the going wasn’t easy. Penn was thrown in jail numerous times for preaching in public, but he wasn’t put down easily. Instead of his jail time going to waste, Penn used it to write a book, and as soon as he got out of jail, Penn immediately started preaching again which meant going back to jail.

William Penn received Pennsylvania from King Charles II—the largest piece of property ever given to one man—as a way for the king to pay off a debt. Penn personally wanted to have freedom of religion in Pennsylvania, so in addition to German and Dutch emigrants, many Quakers also came to Pennsylvania, much to the satisfaction of King Charles II who hated the Quakers and wanted them out of his country.

As a land owner, Penn lived anything but a normal Quaker life. In his seventy-three years, Penn was expelled from school, lived in four different countries, went to jail numerous times. But the most important thing that Penn did was to establish Pennsylvania.

By Janessa H, age 14
Somewhere in the basement of my mind, I hear the muted sound of beeping. Although I do my best to ignore it, the sound intensifies and jars me out of my sleep. I stand up and slap the top of the alarm clock, seeing the red numbers glow 10:00. I’ve slept for two short hours. Every bone in my body commands me to fall back into bed, but I know I can’t.

Dressing quickly in dark blue pants and shirt, I walk past the doorways of my sleeping daughters and down a flight of stairs to the kitchen. I pour myself a bowl of cereal and consume the crunchy bran in milk. It is 10:30 when I lock the door behind me, step into the cool freshness of the night, then start my car.

Within fifteen minutes, the Bergey’s Retread Center building appears in front of me. As I walk from my car to my huge, white tractor trailer sitting in the parking lot, I shake all drowsiness from my mind. I scale the two tall metal steps and open the door with a click. Climbing in, I turn the key and immediately the electric blue, green and red dashboard lights make me squint. A few minutes later, I am navigating the 18-wheeler out of the parking lot.

I drive for a long while in silence. Ahead of me, a stoplight shines red. I pull my truck to a slow stop, even though no other cars or pedestrians are visible on the street. Most of the houses are dark as I drive past them. I push a gray button on the dashboard and a broadcaster’s voice travels through the speakers, low and gravelly, commenting on last night’s baseball scores. Outside of a Subway restaurant, two tired employees nod familiarly as I pull up. Smoking musty smelling cigarettes, they let me inside the dim building to fill a cup with coffee. Since I’m a regular at three in the morning, they don’t even bother to ring me up.

As the sun begins to show its face over the horizon, the town I am driving through is just beginning its day. An impatient man beside me quickly cuts his Smart Car into my lane. I wish the streets were still as empty as before.  It’s 8:00 and I’ve already delivered about 100 tires to three different stops along my route to Virginia.

Approaching my fourth stop, I hop out and lift the door to my trailer. Stacks of tires are piled high in front of me and I head for the closest one. I remember to strap on my thick, black back brace since I know from experience that it is no fun to wrench my back when lifting 100- pound tires.

When I reenter the flow of traffic later, I cannot believe how the city has sprung to life.  With its trailer stretching five automobiles long, I carefully navigate my truck among all the speeding cars. All I have eaten today was that bowl of cereal at home, and my stomach is protesting my decision to drive past the Wawa. There simply isn’t time. Eventually, however, the aching is too much, and I reach behind my seat to find a bottle of water, some cans of soup, and a banana sitting in the cupboard. Later tonight I may be able to eat at a buffet, but for now I just peel the banana.

Until now, my truck has run on cruise control, but I flick the switch so I can control the speed. A few miles away, a car has flipped and traffic is building up. Across my CB radio, I hear a truck driver ahead describing the scene. I know I am going to be here for a while, so I take the opportunity to stretch my arms over the steering wheel and close my eyes. I can only hope I make it to my next stop on time.

Before I’m ready, traffic begins moving again. The sea of cars is like a solid sheet of metal, with a large variety of colors. I don’t need the sign in front of me to know that the Harrisonburg exit is in two miles. I’ve traveled this route often enough.

When I finally reach my destination, it’s 7:00 pm. Today has not gone as planned, but then again it rarely does. It’s dark outside as I unload my trailer one final time today. I’m ferociously hungry, but even more tired. I finally collapse in the bottom bunk of my truck. In front of me is the seat I’ve ridden in all day and its identical partner which now holds my jacket. Acting as a bedside table is a mini fridge, with a microwave hanging over it. Above my head, a second, rarely-used bunk is latched against the wall.

Some light comes in from the street lamp in the parking lot, but I’m too exhausted to care. I hardly notice the warmth of my sleeping bag, the depth of my pillow, or the heaviness of my eyes. My body seems to be in a coma, completely relaxed from its 21-hour day. For a few minutes, I think about my family who is 300 miles away. My teenage daughters don’t see their daddy like most kids do and my wife is without me four nights a week. During my hours of driving, I try to call them, but it doesn’t always happen.

I feel my mind shutting down, but I have just one more thing to do. As rain patters on the roof, I flip my phone open and set my alarm clock. Then, three hours later, I unwillingly jolt awake. As I start my truck once again, I begin what is just another day in my life.



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