As Zoe lay groggy in bed, she thought about yesterday. It was vacation time from school because it was almost Thanksgiving, so Ma had taken her into the big town to get prepared. This year it was their turn to have the family dinner and everyone would be there–all of Zoe’s very favorite relatives!
Auntie Frieda was Ma’s oldest sister and was Zoe’s secret most wonderful Aunt. She brought special treats for Zoe because she knew that sometimes Zoe was sad that she had no brothers and sisters. There were others too and everyone would laugh, sing, and eat lots of food! Zoe thought there was almost too much food and she never liked that it was sometimes wasted. She had heard in school that there were many people in the world and in our own country that were hungry.
But this year, as Zoe looked out her bedroom window and saw the pretty leaves that were still left on the trees, she wasn’t as happy as last year. Zoe was thinking about what she saw in town yesterday with Ma and she couldn’t stop seeing it in her head.
It wasn’t often they went into town! It was kind of far away, and Ma said it was crowded and everything was so expensive. “But this time of year is special sweetheart,” she said with a smile, “and maybe we can start our Christmas shopping too.” It was extra special for Zoe to be shopping and spending time with her Mom, so she grabbed her little purse and they had hopped in their old car.
The countryside was so beautiful as they had driven along and Ma played the radio loudly. Sometimes her Mom would sing–Zoe thought her Ma had a really nice voice, but Ma only laughed and said, “You silly doodle, I sing like a goat!”
Even though Zoe’s tummy was beginning to grumble for breakfast, she still wanted to lie in bed thinking about yesterday’s trip. She liked to daydream and many grownups told Zoe that she seemed older than her real age.
When Ma and Zoe finally had gotten to town it was buzzing with people. It was a much busier place than her small village! There were so many shops, restaurants and lots and lots of PEOPLE! It was almost a little scary to Zoe. But Ma was right with her and held her hand, so off they went.
After they had walked a while down a big street with lots of cars, Zoe had begun to notice something strange. There were very large boxes on the street and in those boxes were blankets. And on those blankets were people. Zoe had become confused and could not understand why people would be in boxes on the street.
“Ma,” Zoe turned and pulled on her coat, “why are there people in boxes? It’s cold outside–won’t they get cold? Why aren’t they inside?” “Oh Zoe dear,” her Mother had said sadly, “those people don’t have a place to go inside. They are homeless. They live in those boxes on the street.”
Zoe stopped walking right there when Ma had told her about these people! They lived in boxes? How could that be? This didn’t see fair, wouldn’t they get sick? “But how do they stay warm at night,” cried Zoe getting very upset. “Sometimes they make fires to stay warm and cook their food,” she had said, and Zoe could tell that her Mother was very sad too.
Wearily, Zoe remembered all this while she lay in bed. “I know I live in a little house and we don’t have much, but I don’t have to live in a box. I guess I am very lucky,” mumbled Zoe out loud. (She often talked to herself).
Finally she got up and Zoe stumbled through the day trying to help Ma get ready, but kept trying to think about what she could do to help the box people. Wanting to help and to see what it was like not having a home or enough to eat, she began to think of an idea.
That night, after Ma was sound asleep, she tip-toed into the shed. Her Ma would never wake up because she was always very tired from working so hard. Zoe remembered that there was a big, huge box left in there from when the man came to bring the new refrigerator! Zoe decided to drag it in the house and sleep in it.
“I want to see what it’s like for those people I saw in the street,” she thought. Zoe knew she could not do it outside or her Mother would be very worried and upset, but at least Zoe would feel how small the space was–how dark and lonely.
Zoe pulled it in the living room and tugged in some blankets from the couch. She made a little nest inside the box and crawled in. Inside the box, Zoe felt cramped and whispered, “it’s so dark in here. It’s a little creepy and I’m glad the box is in my house.” She thought about all the people living in real boxes outside that very night and drifted off to sleep having bad dreams about people asking her for food.
In the morning Zoe’s Mom came into the living room and saw a big box in the middle of the floor. “Good gracious,” walking slowly toward the box, “what have we here?” With her foot she kicked the side of it. Of course Zoe’s Ma had seen Zoe’s little toes sticking out the end of the box, so guessed who might have been inside.
The tap woke Zoe and she jumped hitting her head on the inside of her box-home. “Ouch,” she snapped, “where am I? Oh wait, I’m in my box, that’s right, I forgot,” said Zoe as she started to wake up.
“Good morning Sweetpea,” Ma said, “what are you up to with this box?” As Zoe crawled out she explained to Ma about wanting to see what it was like to live in a box. Zoe told her it was spooky and dark last night and way too small. “And I wasn’t even outside!” Zoe said understanding how hard it must be for the people in the streets.
Zoe had learned some things from sleeping in the box, but it wasn’t enough. She wanted to do more. In her dreams, the people in boxes had been asking for food. She wondered if maybe she could help by giving food too? Now she really had to think hard about what to do next.
In school kids had whispered about a boy named Joey. They said he dressed funny, was too skinny and didn’t like to play with the other kids. Some of the kids said his family was poor and they didn’t like him because he lived in a trailer. Zoe never thought Joey was any different. She had always tried to play with Joey on the playground, but he always seemed sad and shy. Zoe thought that maybe she shouldn’t bother him because maybe he didn’t want to play with other kids. She wasn’t really sure before, but now she was wondering about Joey.
Zoe was wondering if maybe Joey didn’t have enough food all the time, or maybe he didn’t get to go to town like she did and buy things with his Ma. Maybe being poor meant that your were sad and afraid to be near other kids. Zoe had heard they came here from another country and were all alone, just like she was in the box last night. Alone and scared.
Suddenly, she had an idea! Maybe she could invite Joey and his family for Thanksgiving! There was always plenty of food–and isn’t that what the Native Americans did way back in history? Aren’t we suppose to share and be grateful for what we have? “I will ask Ma right now,” shouted Zoe as she ran to her Ma skidding into the kitchen.
Zoe told her Mom the great idea she had about inviting Joey’s family. And, because Zoe had the best Ma in the world, she said yes! So now Zoe just had to find his house and invite them.
She knew that he lived at the end of the village and it wasn’t a very long walk. Ma said she would go too just in case Zoe got lost, so off they went hand in hand, hoping to find the right trailer!
Once they arrived to the street where Joey lived, it was luck that Joey was outside feeding their chickens! Zoe loved all the chickens in the yard and was happy to see her classmate. “Hey Joey,” Zoe called! “Oh hi Zoe,” Joey said in his shy voice, “what are you doing here?” “My Ma and I know you are new in town and have no family around here and wanted to invite you, your Mom and Dad for Thanksgiving dinner at our house,” Zoe said with a huge grin on her face!
Just then a door slammed and out came a pretty woman. “Joey, who are these people,” said a woman with long dark hair? “Mama, this is Zoe from school and her Mother. They want us to come for Thanksgiving dinner! Can we Mama, please? Zoe is my friend!” The woman looked startled and a timid smile came over her face, “Let me ask Papa first, but that is a very nice thing to ask.”
The woman went back inside and in a moment, Joey’s Papa came out too–he was tall and slim with big muscles. “Hello, I am Joseph and this is my wife Carla. We would be so happy to go to Thanksgiving with you. You see I lost my job and it is very hard now. It is like a gift you ask us. This is what makes America great,” Joseph grinned widely!
Ma gave Carla all the important details of the gathering and they waved goodbye. With everthing settled, Ma and Zoe left and walked home. Zoe felt very good. She knew she wasn’t helping all the people in boxes, but she was helping one family. And now she knew that Joey was her friend!
Thanksgiving day arrived bright and beautiful. All the guests started pouring in the house and it smelled so good. There was lots of food, almost too much! Zoe did not eat meat, but other people did, so there was all sort of stuff to eat. There was turkey, stuffing, vegetables and LOTS of desserts. Zoe hoped this year nothing would be thrown away. Maybe she and Ma could even give the leftovers to Joey and his family!
Zoe was especially thankful this year. She knew that she was a very lucky little girl. She had a home, even though it might be small, it was not a box on a street. Ma made sure she always had enough to eat and she never had to worry that she would be hungry. Zoe had family that loved her like Auntie Frieda. And this year, she had a special gift: she had her new friend Joey. Plus Zoe had learned how good it felt to be nice to other people, and Zoe thought this was the most wonderful part of Thanksgiving she had ever felt!