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More Beautiful than Flowers
By Violet Nesdoly

Chrissy gasped as the lady held up first prize for everyone in the school assembly to see. It was a hanging planter with yellow, purple, red and white flowers, fat green leaves, vines that trailed down. She had to win it. It would be just the thing to make Mom smile again.

Back in the classroom, Mrs. Shelby handed out the catalogues and order forms, then dismissed them. Chrissy studied the colorful pages as she waited for Monica. Bedding flowers shouldn't be hard to sell. People in her neighborhood would buy them. If only Monica weren't in the contest.

The girls talked about it on the way home. "What a sucky prize," complained Monica. "A bike or CD would be way better."

Chrissy was quiet. Secretly she hoped that the prize planter would make Monica not want to try hard. Because Chrissy couldn't remember one selling contest Monica hadn't won. But this one would be different!

"Hi sweetheart," called Mom as Chrissy opened the door.

Chrissy dropped her books and skipped to the sofa where Mom sat propped against pillows. The hat she sometimes wore had slipped off. Now Chrissy kissed the shiny top of her head where bouncy black curls used to be. "How was your day?"

"Okay," Mom said. She looked tired and sad.

Chrissy plopped down on the floor and told Mom about school. She told about the contest, how they had to collect the orders and money, and have everything back to school at 9:00 Monday morning in two weeks. But she didn't tell her about the prize.

"You shouldn't have trouble selling these," said Mom, studying the catalogue. "I'd take a dozen if I were better." Chrissy felt a shiver go up her back. Mom would love that planter!

But with jobs and homework, it was the next day before Chrissy could go out. And though she went to twelve houses, she only got two orders.

But Monica had been busy. "I've made $75," she announced the next morning.

Chrissy thought about the $15 in her room. Would she ever catch up?

On the weekend Mom had to go for another treatment, so Chrissy went to Grandma's.

"I'll take some!" Grandma exclaimed. "And we'll show my friends." By the end of the weekend, Chrissy had collected $152.

But Monica seemed unreachable. "I've got $185!" she announced, on the way to school Monday. "I know I'm going to win!"

"You're very quiet," Mom said after school. "Something wrong?"

"It's the contest," Chrissy said. "No matter how hard I try, Monica always does better. And I hate it when she boasts about it."

"Does she know how you feel?" Mom asked.

"Naw," said Chrissy. "I usually don't care. But this time..."

"It's hard when you and your friend want the same thing," said Mom. "Reminds me of last year when Millie and I were competing in the flower show. She asked to use some of my prettiest flowers. I didn't feel like giving them to her, but the next day I read a Bible verse. It's on the fridge: 'Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.' It seemed like a nudge from God, to help her out."

"Did you?"

"Yes," said Mom. "Since then she's been a special friend. So try to understand Monica, stay friends, and remember whatever happens, God honors us when we live by His wisdom.

"But don't give up either," Mom went on, giving Chrissy the ghost of a smile. "Why don't we get Dad to ask for orders at work?"

So Chrissy asked Dad. Then on Thursday Grandma came to stay for a few days and they went to houses on all the neighboring streets. By Sunday night before the contest was over, she had $20 more than Monica had had when she'd left to go camping Friday night.

Monday morning, just before Chrissy left for school the phone rang. It was Monica's Mom, calling to tell Chrissy that Monica wouldn't be walking to school with her that morning. She was sick.

"Yes!" thought Chrissy. With Monica sick and her Mom busy with the daycare, her orders wouldn't be in on time to count for the contest. What a break!

But walking past Monica's street a few minutes later, Chrissy didnít feel right. Monica was her friend. She'd worked hard to get all those orders. If she were the one that was sick, she'd want someone to help her out.

But wouldn't it be stupid to spoil an almost sure chance of winning?

Then uninvited, but clear as a voice, the verse on the fridge came to her, "Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others." She stopped. She knew what she should do. Slowly Chrissy turned and walked back to Monica's house.

* * *


The last period of the day finally came when everyone gathered in the gym to hear the contest results. As Mr. Berg began to announce the winners, Chrissy's hands grew clammy, her heart pounded. Finally there were only two prizes left.

"First runner up," Mr. Berg's voice boomed, "with a total of $295, is Chrissy Veldhuisen."

Applause filled the gym, but Chrissy blinked back tears as she walked up to get her prize t-shirt. On the way back to her seat she heard, "The grand prize winner with an incredible $308, is Monica Smith."

"How did you do?" asked Mom, when Chrissy got home.

"Monica won."

"That's okay." Mom reached to give her a hug.

"No it isn't," Chrissy burst out, pushing her away. "The prize was a planter for you, so you'd be happy again." Chrissy couldn't hold back her tears any more. "Monica didn't even want it," she sobbed, "and God let me down too."

"How's that?" asked Mom.

"I picked up Monica's order on my way to school. You said God honored us when we did the right thing."

"You did that?" Mom asked. She pulled Chrissy close. "What you did was more beautiful than any flowers."

Chrissy sniffed, glanced at Mom's face and then looked again. The sad, tired expression was gone. In its place was the beautiful, twinkly, alive smile Chrissy had imagined would be there when she saw the planter.

That night as the family was eating supper, the front doorbell rang. When Chrissy opened the door, no one was there. But on the top step sat the prize planter. Stuck between the flowers was an envelope addressed, in Monica's writing, "To Chrissy and her Mom."
Violet Nesdoly writes from her home in British Columbia, Canada. She loves chocolate and Valentine cards and Rolo ice-cream, but still finds it hard to share her toys - especially the computer! Check out the kids' pages on her web site: http://members.shaw.ca/vnesdoly/


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