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Monday Story: Four Girls and an Angel

Based on a true story*

Mrs. Drake, the Home Ec. Teacher for our mid-school, was an angel. And my friend, Janet and I, adored her.

We talked with her after class and after school, brought her flowers from our mothers’ gardens and cookies we’d baked ourselves. Everyone liked Mrs. Drake – and she liked everyone, but somehow, Janet and I knew she liked us best. (Our proffered flowers and cookies were given to assure our high ranking.)

The sewing semester ended, and the cooking semester began.

On the first day of class Mrs. Drake divided the class of thirty-two girls into sets of four. Each set had a cooking area with a stove, oven, small fridge, sink and cooking utensils. All four girls had the challenge of working together to prepare and present the food item for the day. And all four girls would receive the same grade.

Janet and I knew we would be together, so it didn’t matter who else was in our group – until the assignments were announced. The other two girls in our cooking unit were not well liked at school. To call them outcasts is harsh, but accurate.

One girl, Amanda, was mentally and physically challenged and should not have been in the mainstream school system. She was slow, awkward, clumsy, did not speak well, and did not dress to the standards of any of the ninth graders in our school.

The other girl, Carol, was obnoxious. She talked non-stop, dressed poorly and did not possess social graces – or any graces, social or otherwise.

Janet and I were upset – angry even. After class we marched up to Mrs. Drake and demanded a change in our cooking unit. She said no. We tried tears, cajoling, promises of cookies every day after class. Nothing worked.

When we calmed down enough to listen, she said, “Janet and Eileen, you are the only two girls in this class who will give Amanda and Carol a chance to succeed. I am counting on you to make this the best class they have ever had – and for all of you to make A’s this semester. These will probably be the only A’s Amanda and Carol have ever had – or will ever have.” Then she asked, “Will you do it for me?”

Janet and I loved Mrs. Drake. We adored her. If she had asked us to jump to the moon or to fight wild, caged monkeys, we would have done it. In perspective, helping Amanda and Carol learn how to read recipes, measure, stir and create tasty, appealing foods seemed like a small thing for her to ask.

We changed our attitudes. We worked cheerfully with Amanda and Carol to perform the tasks required. We didn’t do the work for them; we worked with them. Consistently, our food items looked better, tasted better and were presented better than any of the units in that class.

At the end of the semester, we all got A’s.

And we became friends.

*Names have been changed for privacy reasons

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