Katie flopped onto the beanbag chair and stared in dismay at her bankbook. For months, after giving her tithe and offerings, she’d saved her baby-sitting and dog-walking money so she’d have enough to go to summer camp.
When she had accumulated a little more than $200, a new girl named Sharice came to Katie’s school. And that’s when the trouble had started.
Though Katie was friends with all the girls at school, she had longed for a best friend–someone who had the same likes and dislikes and with whom she could share confidences.
Sharice was pretty, always cheerful, and lots of fun. Katie liked her instantly, as did everyone else at school. Determined to become good friends with her, Katie invited Sharice to spend the next Sunday afternoon at her house. The girls laughed and talked while they played Monopoly. Afterward they took a walk so Sharice could see a new part of their little town.
“Come on, let’s get some candy to nibble on as we go,” Sharice suggested when they approached a convenience store.
Sharice chose two candy bars and waited while Katie selected two. At the counter Sharice paid for hers, then walked out the door.
Surprised because she thought Sharice had offered to treat her, Katie returned one candy bar, then dug some change from her pocket to pay for the other.
“How come you got only one?” Sharice asked, puzzled.
Katie shrugged. “One’s enough,” she said, reluctant to admit that she hadn’t had enough money in her pocket for two.
The two girls walked on, talking about clothes and pets and where Sharice had lived before. They discovered that they enjoyed the same books and liked the same games and music. How alike they were!
“I’m sure we’re going to be best friends,” Sharice said before going home that afternoon. And Katie felt the same way.
After that Sharice often came home with Katie after school or on Sundays. Almost always Sharice would suggest that they go for a walk. When they did, she always wanted to stop for treats. But there was one problem. Sharice seldom brought money with her.
“I’m so forgetful,” Sharice said one afternoon when Katie had no money either. “I meant to bring some.”
“So why don’t we make cookies?” Katie suggested.
Sharice wrinkled her nose. “Takes too much time. But wait! You showed me your savings book the other day. You’ve got lots of money in the bank. Why don’t we get out a little of that?”
But that’s my camp money! Katie protested silently. Mom can’t pay my way, so if I use it up . . . She quickly thrust the thought aside. What were friends for, anyway? They needed only a little money. And if she said no, maybe Sharice would think she was selfish–or worse, didn’t like her enough to do something nice for her.
Just this once, Katie thought, putting on a bright smile as they headed for the bank to withdraw $5. But it became a habit–Sharice suggesting that they withdraw money so they could buy treats. Sometimes Katie didn’t have enough change for both of them, so she’d buy something for her friend, saying she didn’t want anything. It seemed that as long as Sharice had something to nibble on, she was happy.
Now, alone in her room, Katie looked at her bankbook. “Ohhhhhh,” she groaned, staring at the $122 figure on the bottom line. “That’s not enough for camp, and there’s not enough time to earn much more!”
She sank into her beanbag and closed her eyes. She loved doing nice things for others, but her generosity seemed to have backfired. How had she let herself get sucked into using so much of her camp money for junk food? If Mom knew, she’d have a fit!
“If I don’t treat Sharice, maybe she won’t want to be friends anymore,” Katie said aloud. Loneliness swept over her as she imagined what it would be like without her fun-loving friend.
But money’s not a good thing to be liked for, something inside her head answered.
And Katie knew it was true. If Sharice was really her friend, she wouldn’t care if Katie had money or not. Real friends like each other for their personalities, not their cash.
For the first time Katie prayed about the situation, and then she went to the kitchen to discuss the problem with Mom.
The next Monday afternoon when Sharice suggested they go to the store, Katie smiled agreeably. “We can go if you have some money. I’m out.”
Sharice’s eyes twinkled as she gave Katie a quick hug. “Silly girl! Get your bankbook and let’s go.”
Katie’s legs turned to soggy noodles. Her palms started to sweat. “I can’t do that anymore. I have to save what’s left for camp.”
Sharice laughed. “My mom’s paying my way, and yours will too.”
Katie knew Mom had no extra money. “I don’t think so,” she answered. “Besides, I like to earn my own stuff. Why don’t we make cupcakes instead?”
Sharice sighed loudly, then flopped down onto the beanbag. Suddenly there wasn’t much to talk about, so they played a game of Sorry! and looked quietly at magazines in the living room. Katie was relieved when Sharice’s mom came to pick her up.
The next week at school Sharice kept busy with the other girls, paying little attention to Katie. And she said she had other plans every day after school. Though she was never rude to Katie, Sharice didn’t include her anymore.
Later, snuggled into her beanbag, Katie thought the whole thing over. What hurt most was knowing that she’d been used–that she hadn’t really been liked for herself. Though she loved to give things to others, she knew she shouldn’t do it just to “buy” a friend, and she shouldn’t let others use her that way, either. Friendship should be based on respect for each other, something she and Sharice had somehow lost over a few paper dollars.
That summer, to Katie’s surprise, Mom managed to pitch in and help her go to camp, where Katie got acquainted with several nice girls. The best part was that before long she found a true best friend–one with the same likes and dislikes–who didn’t care if Katie had money or not.
Illustrated by Jim Elston