My name is Ayisha. I’m sitting on the broken wooden steps outside my house. I can’t stop the flow of tears. If mama hears me crying like this I’ll be in trouble. I’m the oldest of three kids and this is my neighborhood. I’m also almost the oldest kid in the neighborhood so people expect me to make sure there’s no trouble. If I see something going on that isn’t right I’m supposed to call 9-1-1 or get a grown up to help. Today I’m looking at Mrs. Pauley’s house across the street. It’s a brick house with a nice porch with a porch swing. But like most of our houses, there are cracks in the walls and pillars. Most of the yards here need mowing and weeding. Some have been vacant a long time and they have lots of trash and garbage dumped in them. It looks really sad, like me.
This used to be such a nice neighborhood. Poor Mrs. Pauley. Her garden used to have irises, tulips, and lilies. I used to help her weed her garden. Now the weeds have taken over and her health is so bad she can’t even hardly come out to the porch anymore. It seems since Mr. Pauley died she has just lost hope and let herself go. I promised I would keep helping her and take care of her flowers, but that mean old landlord won’t let her stay there because she can’t pay the rent. Dear Jesus, I don’t know what to do. She told me to stop coming over because it hurts her to see me doing something that won’t make any difference when they’ve taken her away. Lord, can’t you please do something to help her?
I wipe my eyes and try to plaster a smile on my face as mama pulls into the driveway. She opens the door and I see grocery bags. I call my brothers to come and help carry them in.
“Jordan, you’re little so you find the milk jug and carry it in. Elijah, you grab one of the bags. I’ll grab two.”
“Ayisha,” mama was talking to me. “Your eyes are puffy. You been crying? What you crying about?”
“Mrs. Pauley won’t let me weed her garden anymore. She said it makes her too sad to watch me when she’s only got three days left before they make her move.”
“Who’s gonna make her move?”
“That mean old landlord. Mrs. Pauley hasn’t had any money coming in since her husband died, and she got behind in the rent, and there’s no way to pay it.”
“Ayisha, we don’t criticize people. That wasn’t nice what you said about the landlord. You know he can’t afford to just let people stay there for free. How would she live? She wouldn’t be able to pay the electric bill or water bill either. She’s got six sons, right? Maybe they can help her.”
I didn’t say anything else that day but I couldn’t stop thinking about our sweet neighbor across the street. Doesn’t the Bible say we’re supposed to help each other? Mrs. Pauley believes in God. Why doesn’t He help her? I’m just a kid but I really want to do something.
Mama was watching the news and there was a story about a boy about my age (twelve) that was having his mom, his neighbors, and people at school donate food for homeless people. Maybe I could try to take up a collection for Mrs. Pauley. After supper dishes were done I went to my room and got on my computer. I e-mailed all my friends and asked them to ask their parents if they could donate money to the cause. I went to my church’s website and sent a note to the pastor. I got on Facebook and posted a note explaining the situation and asking people to help.
Three days later, I sat on my broken wooden steps again, watching the landlord and the police try to get Mrs. Pauley to leave. She went to her mailbox first, with the police and landlord watching. Her face looked kind of funny as she pulled out a couple of stacks of mail out. Her mailbox must have been almost overflowing.
Suddenly a smile burst across her face like sunshine and she began ripping the envelopes open. I had to run over to see what had happened. She was my favorite person in the world next to my mama.
“Look, Ayisha. There are checks and money orders in every single one of these envelopes. How did this happen? How did all these people know what I needed?”
Then some other cars pulled up and I watched her sons, who had moved away long ago, get out of their cars. At first they thought something was really wrong. But they surrounded Mrs. Pauley, enveloping her in a group hug. I heard one of them say, “Mom, this is incredible. There’s enough money here for us to buy you a small house. You just have to decide which one of us you want to live near. Or you can take turns staying with us until you decide.
I gave Mrs. Pauley a hug good-bye and went home. “Lord, thank you for giving me the idea to get other people involved. It feels so good to help someone who really needs it.”