“Denise! You did what?” Tess was astounded.
“Tore my ACL hopping off a pogo stick.”
“A ligament at my knee. I’m in a leg cast now and for the next month.”
“Will you be back in school?”
“No. We hope to have a tutor.”
“Can I help?”
“That would be great. Could you pick up my assignments and bring them to school with you?”
“Sure. Your house is not that far out of my way. I’ll be happy to do that. Can I do more?”
“Not that I can think of. Thank you so much, Tess.”
“Denise, I know you’d do the same for me. I’ve got to run. Call you later.”
Thus began a month in which Tess picked up Denise’s assignments at school and delivered the finished work back to the school. She also called Denise daily and visited her at least once a week. The ACL took longer than a month to heal, and there was a lot of painful physical therapy Denise had to endure, as well, but she made it through rather well and returned to school.
When Denise got back, she and Tess talked some more about what Denise had gone through, which had been rough. Something other than the knee had been painful, though.
“Tess, you were the only friend who really helped out. Others offered to do things but did not come through. Some seemed to be avoiding calling me. It was disappointing.”
This surprised Tess, and she discussed it with her parents. Her dad said there is an expression that covers it, “A friend in need is a friend indeed.”
“What does it mean?” she asked.
“You can tell who your true friends are when you find yourself in need, in a situation in which you need help. In the Fire Department, we can rely on each other, partly out of obligation, partly out of friendship. In school, there is less of a sense of duty, but real friends help friends.”
Tess’s mom added, “When you need help, some people avoid you, pretend they don’t know about your problem. True friends find out what you need and try to get it for you. That’s how you can tell friends from mere acquaintances.”
Tess wondered, which of my “friends” would actually help me if I needed something? I think Denise would and May Lee would, but I am not so sure about some of the others.
Tess said, “I hope I am the kind of friend who can be relied on.”
Her mother responded, “You’ve already proven that.”
One of our series of fifty instructive short stories for young readers.