By Linda Porter Carlyle
Joseph Anderson Donetti woke up. He lay still for a minute, watching the early morning summer sunshine pour through his bedroom window. It was going to be a hot day again. Then suddenly he remembered what day it was. He popped out of bed and scrambled into his clothes.
Joseph jumped down the stairs. Then halfway down he stopped and climbed back to the top. G.M. (that’s what Joseph calls his grandma Maddie) had told him yesterday that he needed to do some schoolwork even though it was summertime. She said she didn’t want his brain to fill up with cobwebs. She had said it with a twinkle in her eye, so Joseph wasn’t really worried. But the thought of having cobwebs in his brain was totally disgusting.
He decided it wouldn’t hurt to review his multiplication tables on his way downstairs. “12 X 1 is 12,” Joseph said out loud, hopping down the first step. “12 X 2 is 24,” he chanted on the next step. How nice they had exactly 12 steps! “12 X 12 is 144!” Joseph yelled when he landed at the bottom.
The backdoor opened, and G.M. stepped inside the kitchen, carrying a bucket of new potatoes from the garden. She peeled off her garden gloves and hung them on a hook. “I hear you sweeping out the old brain,” she said with a smile.
Joseph grinned. “It’s race day!” he exclaimed.
“I know,” G.M. answered. “Hurry up and eat some breakfast, and we’ll go.”
When Joseph finished his cereal, he rinsed out his bowl and put it in the sink. Then he and G.M. set out to walk the few blocks to the museum grounds.
Excited groups of people filled the sidewalks and the streets that were closed to traffic. People mingled about on the museum lawn. Many of them sat in lawn chairs they had brought from home. Children ran back and forth, playing tag and hollering at each other.
“There’s Pastor Chuck!” Joseph exclaimed, pointing. He darted ahead.
Pastor Chuck and Mrs. Pastor Chuck were opening large plastic bags of ice cubes and pouring them into several big coolers. Mac, Trevor, and Hannah opened cases of bottled water and put the bottles in the ice.
Mac looked up. “Here comes the sleepyhead!” she teased.
Joseph ignored her.
“Hey, Joseph!” Pastor Chuck greeted him. “Grab some bottles and help us get them in the coolers.”
“That’s the starting line right in front of the museum,” Mac said jogging in place. “It’s the finish line too. The runners are going to line up there and then run down the highway for three miles and then turn around and run back here. This is so much fun! I know lots of people who are running today. I hope the winner is somebody I know! I wish I could run!”
“There’s talk about having a Children’s Division in the race next year,” Mrs. Pastor Chuck put in.
“Oh! I hope so!” Mac exclaimed. “Maybe our whole class could run. Wouldn’t that be fun? Maybe you could run too!” she said to Pastor Chuck.
Mrs. Pastor Chuck laughed. “He’s waiting to run until they have a special Pastor’s Division,” she said. She handed Joseph a bright yellow poster. “Would you please tape this to the front of our table?”
Joseph held the poster out and read it. “Free water! Jesus loves you!” it said in giant purple letters. He picked up the roll of masking tape and carefully fastened the poster to the edge of the table facing the sidewalk.
Hannah looked around and sniffed. “That smell is making me hungry,” she said.
“Which smell?” Trevor asked. “I can smell hamburgers from that stand over there, popcorn from that stand over there, and curly fries from over there,” he said turning in a circle and pointing.
“The popcorn!” Hannah answered. “I love Kettle Corn! I’m glad I brought enough money to buy some.”
“How much is that water?” a loud voice asked over the blare of sudden music.
Joseph looked up. Two teen-aged boys in baggy pants, one holding a boom box on his shoulder, stood in front of the table.
“It’s free,” Joseph answered.
“Nothing’s free,” one of the boys muttered.
“This water is,” Joseph insisted. He picked up two bottles and held them out.
“Hey, thanks!” the boys said. They and their music ambled off.
“Why did you give water to those guys?” Pastor Chuck asked.
Joseph stared at him. “Because we’re giving away free water!” he answered.
“Do you think those two were clean enough and well-dressed enough to get free water?” Pastor Chuck asked, frowning.
Hannah and Trevor stopped looking around. Mac edged closer. All of them stared at Pastor Chuck.
“What do you mean?” Joseph asked.
“I mean, do you think those guys deserved free water? They looked pretty scruffy,” Pastor Chuck replied. “And I didn’t like their music,” he added.
The kids were quiet. They did not understand what Pastor Chuck meant.
“But that’s what we’re here for!” Mac burst out. “We’re giving away free water to anybody who’s thirsty!”
Pastor Chuck’s face broke into a big grin. “Right!” he said. He tugged one of Mac’s curls. “We’re giving away free water to everybody who wants it. Just like Jesus gives the free water of salvation to anyone who wants it. No matter what they look like, are dressed like, or what music they listen to.”
“There’s one difference though,” Joseph said suddenly. “We may run out of water to give out today, but Jesus never will!”
Have you ever run in a race? I’m sure you got thirsty if you did. Don’t you like the idea of giving away free water? I do, especially if it helps people think about Jesus, who gives us all living water.—Mrs. Sox