Amazing Kids! Magazine

Orphan Dreams

By Sean Traynor, Editorial Adviser and Contributing Writer

 

Samantha tucked her envelope under the others in the orphanage’s stack. All the kids at the home had been asked to put their holiday wishes on a piece of paper to be delivered to the church giving tree. Samantha had thought long and hard about what she should ask for. She was given one opportunity to put her Christmas wish on a small slip of paper in the hopes someone would help her find her dream.

What would be worthy of a few words on the paper? She couldn’t wish for her parents to be returned to her. She couldn’t wish for her brothers, who had already been placed in other foster homes, to be with her again. That would be selfish and she only wished them love and happiness. She wouldn’t mind being alone for Christmas again, as long as they were warm and fed in their new homes. She knew that she was old at 9 to be chosen for adoption. She just hadn’t figured on her brothers being separated from her. It hurt her like a fresh wound every time she went to bed at night. Before their adoption, her brothers would come see her before bed so she could read them a story. Now she would scamper to her room when the bell rang, complete her nighttime rituals and slip into bed without a story. She longed for a page from King Arthur or Cinderella. In those stories their wishes came true and everyone lived happily ever after. Her faith was dwindling but she still believed that someday her wishes would come true.

It was with this last bit of hope that Samantha placed the dark gray pencil against the paper with shaky fingers. Her unspoken wish seemed to become almost unreal when written down. She rushed to put it under the other Christmas wishes, afraid that it would vanish in the moments of confusion while the kids filed one by one to deliver their wish for a doll or game.  She knew her wish couldn’t be granted, but by putting it on the paper, she felt as if she had a chance.

In the evening of the following week all the children of the orphanage were called into the dining hall. There at the front was a woman that had a face that appeared as if it would crack if she smiled. Her lips were drawn in a straight, taut line and her eyes were deep coal black with no shine or sparkle from the glaring light overhead. One look at her and the children’s shoulders drooped and their step slowed to a crawl. One by one they slid onto the benches, awaiting whatever sentence was to be dealt out by this woman.

When the hall was dead quiet, the woman began to speak. “Children, I have been sent here by St. Matthews to talk with you about the Christmas program. My name is Sister Teresa.” She paused, as if sensing their insecurity and quickly put her hands together in a steeple scene. “I’m sure you remember St. Matthews. We’re the ones who put together the Christmas wish tree for you children each year.” Watching her look out at the children and seeing the sudden excitement and smiles, she could not escape the contagious enthusiasm and broke into a smile as well.

It was almost miraculous to see the change in her appearance. The smile wiped away the brick wall and placed a twinkle in her eyes. The children responded immediately by relaxing and settling into their seats, listening intently now as she started once again.

“I am here to let you know that we would like you to participate this year in the Christmas service. You can join our choir if you like to sing or you can help greet people at the beginning of the service if you can’t. In addition, for one lucky child, you will be able to read the Christmas story to the community in the middle of the mass. Your headmaster has put all the names of the children who can read well into this bowl, and we will pick the person who will be able to read at the mass. Isn’t that exciting? At the end of the service we will bring you over to the tree and you can pick up your Christmas presents.”

With that the children began a wild chitter chatter back and forth as the excitement grew. They were vibrating in their seats as they finally quieted down to watch the drawing.

“Okay, here we go!” Sister Teresa said with a flourish. The room became extremely quiet as the children held their breath for the result.

“The reader at the Christmas program with be…Samantha Baker!”

With that, the room erupted with applause and Samantha just sat there, mouth open, unable to believe her own ears.

Sister Teresa looked around the room for the winner. She followed the looks of the other kids until she trained her eyes on Samantha with a huge grin on her face.

Beckoning her to come up to the front, Samantha finally began to feel her legs again and she walked up to stand next to Sister Teresa.

“This is quite an honor Samantha,” Sister Teresa was saying. “Come by St. Matthews in the morning and I will go over the story with you so you won’t be nervous.”

Samantha sheepishly nodded and returned to her seat. The evening bell rang and the kids stood up in unison to exit to their rooms for their nighttime routines.

Lying in bed staring up at the ceiling, Samantha couldn’t believe her luck! She had never won anything in her life and finally she was chosen for something she truly loved. She vowed to practice every night until the service so that she could be perfect. If she couldn’t read to her brothers every night, at least she’d be able to read a special story, the most important story of all, to the people at the service.

The next day after school Samantha was allowed to walk the three blocks to St. Matthews to see Sister Teresa. Once there Samantha knocked on her door, looking down to the ground.

“Come in,” Samantha heard from the other side of the door.

“Hello Sister!” Samantha said, sitting down in the chair in front of her desk.

“Why hello, Samantha!” Sister Teresa said.

Samantha didn’t see how she could have ever thought Sister Teresa was mean where she saw this glowing woman across the desk. She was beaming with happiness and Samantha felt drawn to her.

Samantha began, “Sister, I have one problem about reading. You see, we only have a few clothes at the orphanage and certainly nothing nice enough to wear at a Christmas service. Perhaps you should pick someone from St. Matthew’s school instead?” She looked down at her hands in her lap.

Sister Teresa let out a short laugh which made Samantha glance up quickly. “Oh, I’m sorry Samantha. You never have to worry about that here. Besides, a nice woman who is coming to the service offered to buy you a dress for the occasion. Here it is – I think it will fit you.”

Sister Teresa leaned over, picked up a dress box from the floor, and opened the lid for Samantha to see. There inside the box was the most beautiful pale yellow dress she had ever seen. It had little pink flowers sewn around the neck and a large pink bow around the waist. At the bottom was an intricate ring of lace that hung like an angel’s halo.

Samantha blinked and tears welled in her eyes. “Oh I just couldn’t take that dress, Sister Teresa. The girls at the orphanage deserve it so much more than me.”

It was Sister Teresa’s turn to hold back the tears from falling down her cheeks. “Please, Samantha. If it makes you feel uncomfortable, you can always leave the dress here at the end and wear it whenever you come to church.”

That made Samantha feel much better so her grin returned.


The day of the Christmas service arrived and Samantha was excited. She had practiced the story so many times that she had it memorized which made her nervousness disappear. She arrived at the church thirty minutes earlier than the other kids so she could change into her dress and see Sister Teresa. As she came out of the bathroom, she was surprised to see Sister Teresa beaming from ear to ear, as she looked at Samantha in her beautiful yellow dress. Samantha felt like a princess.

“Everything is ready for you, Samantha,” Sister Teresa stated. “There is a bookmark in the book on the podium. It will show you where to begin.” She ushered Samantha into the church.

Samantha slipped into the pew next to the choir and dutifully waited for her cue to go up to the podium. She made every effort to remain perfectly still so her dress would not be wrinkled. Finally Sister Teresa looked at her and nodded and Samantha made her way to the podium. She climbed up onto the booster step and angled the microphone downward to make sure the crowd could hear every word. She opened the big book to where the bookmark had been set. She looked down at the marker, eyebrows drawn together in a confused stare. The bookmark was her Christmas wish. There, in her nervously scrawled handwriting, was her unmistakable note. She read it again. I’d like to read to my brothers at least once more. Samantha looked up and locked eyes with Sister Teresa. She had a serene smile and nodded to her that it was okay and she should begin.

Samantha, taking the nod as an acknowledgement that Sister Teresa wanted her to read like she did at home, took a deep breath and began, “Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, that a census be taken of all the inhabited earth.”

Samantha read in a clear, rhythmic voice that carried the entire crowd into that time in Bethlehem. Even though the church was standing room only, the only sound you could hear was the slight shuffling in the pews from the younger children. Everyone was drawn into the story. They could feel the chilly night air and smell the animals in the barn.

At the end, Samantha emphasized the conclusion with a booming voice and raised the emotions in the room. She let out a breath and stood in her place for a second, glancing around the church. All eyes were upon her, looking at her as if she had shared the most special story of all. Samantha’s gaze stopped as there, in the middle of row four, three people to the left, was a young couple and…no, it couldn’t be…yes…her two brothers. They smiled broadly at her and began clapping wildly. The crowd looked over startled, then joined in, smiles catching from person to person as if a forest fire was spreading.

Samantha closed the book, clutching her wish paper in her hand and looked over to Sister Teresa. Rather than returning to her pew, she scampered over to her and gave her a big hug.

“Thank you, Sister!” she whispered in her ear.

“Why child, I don’t have any idea what you’re talking about,” Sister returned, her bright red blush giving away her secret.

Samantha returned to her pew and spent the rest of the service exchanging looks with her brothers.

As the service ended, the orphans were gathered along the back wall to pounce on the Christmas tree gifts. Afterwards they would all walk together back to the orphanage. Samantha sought Sister Teresa out with pleading eyes. She nodded in that “all-knowing” way and Samantha looked up to see the young couple with her brothers approaching her.

“Hello Samantha. We are Mr. and Mrs. Harrison,” they said over the rushing energy of her brothers throwing themselves around Samantha’s waist. “Sister Teresa told us that you were reading tonight and we just had to come.”

Samantha leaned down so she could give equal kisses to her brothers on their cheeks. Her heart was overflowing with gratitude because they seemed so happy and the Harrisons were such nice people.

They moved over to the sitting area in a room at the side of the church and the Harrisons gave her a quick run-down of what had happened since the boys had left the orphanage.

She heard them saying…”and the good news is that Rob just got a promotion at his job and we really believe that we were meant to keep this family together. Samantha, would you mind coming to live with us…all together as one family? We’d love to be your new parents too.”

Before they had even finished the last word, Samantha had bolted out of her chair and thrown her arms around their necks. They would be together once again. All her Christmas wishes had come true.