Gracie stared outside in thought. What else was she supposed to do? Her family was moving across the country from New York to Oregon. She stared at the fields of grain passing by, at the barren mountainsides, at the little towns that appeared here and there. She was deep in thought. She spun fantasies about her new life in her mind, trying to find the best outcome. Her dad nicknamed her “The Thinker” after the famous sculpture they had seen in Paris, before they left for New York. Gracie loved her years in France, they had been better than her short year in New York. France was so wonderful and bright. Now she was staring at miles of grass.
“Estimated arrival is 3 pm,” announced Gracie’s dad.
“Dad, just say ETA, you interrupted my thoughts,” Gracie sighed out loud.
“Well my little Thinker, what are you thinking about?”
“I don’t know, I guess the new school and stuff.”
“I’ll be fine.”
“I remember Oregon middle schoolers being nice.”
“Yeah but that was like, in the 90s when eggs were 2 cents for a dozen.”
“Whatever, just be nice and confident. You’ll have two weeks to get ready before school starts.”
“Ok whatever, I’m going to take a nap” The car went on as the time passed. Soon, it was 3 pm and the dusty green RAV 4 pulled into a two story house. It was built out of red brick and was a cozy structure with three bedrooms and four bathrooms. Gracie had never seen this house before, only her dad did. She was shocked at the look of it even though she had seen photos online. As she walked through the dark, red door, she took in the sights of the living room. She tiptoed into her new room and held her breath.
“Where’d my thinker go?” a voice from outside yelled.
“Coming!” Once she was outside, she helped her dad unload what they brought. Her mom would be coming in a week with all the furniture. Gracie and her dad were the perfect duo together anyway, and a week with each other was the perfect way to end summer break. They had all the time to go on adventures with each other.
The week went by and mom came. Gracie was back to staring outside the window with daydreams of school and school friends.
The first day arrived and Gracie was nervous, as all of us would be. She had many plans about how she would introduce herself and talk to people. She set a personal goal to become with friends with everyone. Gracie was very excited. The first day went by and Gracie was stumped. She couldn’t talk to anyone. They all seemed to be friends with each other rather than a mass of clueless students which is what she thought. When she tried to introduce herself, she’d stop halfway or her voice would fail her. By the end of the day, she had been labeled as weird and strange. The next few days were awkward as any attempt she made would be thwarted once people realized who they were talking to. By the end of the week, she was already tired of school and couldn’t wait for summer again. The weekend was boring with nothing happening. Her parents were busy with errands so Gracie was at home mostly.
Slowly, Monday rolled around and Gracie had to go back to school. It started out the same, people chatting in the hallways, Gracie walking to her next class quickly, lunch sitting by herself. Until it changed. A group of girls walked over and introduced themselves. They were part of the Christian club and heard that Gracie used to attend church. More than that, they genuinely wanted to know more about her. It had been a long time since Gracie had friends who talked to her kindly.
“Hi, my name is Rosa, nice to meet you. I think you are in my third and sixth period,” the front girl said.
Gracie responded with a simple, “Um, hi.”
“We heard you’re from New York. What’s it like there?”
“Um. It’s cold. But its nice in the summer I guess. I only lived there for a year so I’m not sure”
“Where’d you live before?” another girl, Sonia, had chimed in, intrigued at Gracie’s story.
“I lived in, uh, Paris for a time before New York. It was nice there, food was good, weather was nice.” Gracie suddenly remembering what her goals were, took this opportunity to talk to her classmates. “What about Oregon, is it nice here?”
Sonia responded with, “Oh I love it here. I used to live in southern California when I was younger but I just love the snow here. And the nature here is much more beautiful than back there.”
“Mhmm, I agree. The community here is usually awesome and helpful to one another. For example, church is really cool and we do all kinds of stuff for each other” agreed a shy looking girl, Danielle.
“I just moved here, I don’t know the churches nearby.”
Rosa asked, “Do you have a phone number? I could give you my church’s information and location.”
Gracie didn’t have a phone yet, it was delayed in shipping after moving and stuff so she just gave Rosa a yellow post-it to write on. She returned it with three addresses for each of the three girls Gracie had just met. She guarded that post-it with her life for the rest of the school day and always kept track of it.
That afternoon, she spent the whole time looking at the three churches and finding all the information about them. She was interested in Danielle’s and noticed how close it was. For the rest of the evening, she planned her pitch for her parents to allow her to go that Sunday. She practiced and researched to make the most convincing argument. Finally, before bedtime, she called her parents to the living room for the pitch. She had prepared slides and was ready to give her speech. She spoke about the community and the website. She spoke about the location and the convenience. She even talked about the snacks that they offered. Her parents listened deeply and decided on their verdict. Gracie was allowed to visit that Sunday but her parents were busy. Gracie felt excited and interested. All the churches that she had been to had been really old and boring. She hoped that this one would prove her wrong.
Gracie went back to school to Tuesday to give Danielle the good news. Upon receiving this information Danielle shined with joy. The days of the week went by as Gracie was more and more interested in the church. Finally the day came and Gracie truly understood what the church’s website was talking about. All the people were friendly and nice and during lunchtime, many of them asked basic questions to get to know Gracie and her story. She felt like there was a Christian spirit in the members and enjoyed her time there. Once she got picked up and went home, she did some more digging and texted some of the members. She had gotten her phone that Friday. As the week went on, the texting went on and the friendships grew. Teachers began to assign projects and it started to feel like a normal school day. She was introduced to more and more people at school and was able to make some other friends. She always maintained her friendship with Rosa, Sonia, and especially Danielle.
Gracie found herself enjoying her weekly visits to church. They had made her more confident and she was happy there. Her parents, noticing a change, also dropped by whenever they weren’t busy. The church was extremely welcoming and Gracie felt like it brought her closer to her Christian friends. As time went on, Gracie grew in her faith and through her friendships.