One Stone at a Time

By Linda Porter Carlyle

Trevor Paul Monroe cocked his head and listened to the rain pounding down on the roof. The long branch of the cherry tree in the backyard scraped back and forth across his bedroom window with each gust of wind that whipped around the house. Trevor began to drum on the desk with his fingers and the eraser end of his pencil. He hit the metal lamp shade with the pencil. It made a nice ping.

If only I had a drum set like Ivan down the street, Trevor thought. Ivan’s set was bright blue with silver sparkles. It looked as if it would glow in the dark, but it didn’t—they’d turned off the lights to check. Ivan had a snare drum, and a bass drum with a foot pedal to play it, and a floor tom drum that stood on three legs, and cymbals on a pole. The cymbals had a foot pedal to play them with too, plus you could hit them with a drumstick. Trevor grinned. Ivan could make a lot of noise!

There was a soft knock on the bedroom door, and the door opened. “Are you finished with your homework yet?” Dad asked.

Trevor glanced down at the math paper in front of him. “Not exactly,” he admitted.

Dad frowned. He looked at his watch. “What’s the problem?” he asked. “It shouldn’t take you over an hour to do your math homework.”

“I don’t like math!” Trevor complained. “I don’t know why I have to do math in school and do math at night too!”

Dad sighed. He sat down on the bed and looked around the room. He looked at the basketball in the middle of the floor. He looked at the baseball cards lined up in neat rows on the carpet. “Have you been working on your math or just goofing around?” he asked.

“I’ve been working on it!” Trevor protested. “It just takes forever to do all these dumb problems!”

“Hmmm,” Dad said. He got up and walked out of the room.

Trevor stared after him. What did “Hmmm” mean?

Soon Dad was back. He set an hourglass-shaped timer down on Trevor’s desk.

Trevor watched the white grains of sand fall from the top half of the hourglass to the bottom half. They slid in a tiny stream through the little bitty opening between the two halves. The amount of sand in the top half got slowly, but steadily, smaller. The pile of sand in the bottom half grew taller and taller until it held every single grain of sand.

Trevor looked up.

Dad’s eyes twinkled. “Just about everything in life happens a little bit at a time,” he said. “You just do your job steadily, one part at a time, and pretty soon it’s done. Don’t you remember the story of the tortoise and the hare?”

“No,” Trevor answered.

“Oh, sure you do,” Dad said. “The story of the race between the tortoise and the hare. The hare was sure he’d win. After all, there was no question of who could move faster! So the hare hopped along the race course for a while, and then he looked back over his shoulder. The tortoise was plodding along, far, far behind. So the hare decided he could take time out for a little nap.

“The tortoise just plugged along. One slow step at a time. He passed the sleeping hare and kept going. And he crossed the finish line just as the hare woke up. One step at a time,” Dad went on. “One math problem at a time. Just keep going. Suddenly, you’ll be done.”

Dad stood up. He patted Trevor’s shoulder. “Just write down one number at a time,” he said. “Just keep going.” He left the room and softly closed the door.

Trevor groaned. He picked up his pencil, but he didn’t look at his math paper. His eyes were drawn to the bulletin board on the wall above his desk. He had pinned up the picture there that he had drawn in class last Sabbath. It was a picture of the Jews rebuilding the wall around the city of Jerusalem. He had drawn the Jewish soldiers with their spears and swords. They were all prepared to protect the workers from their enemies who did not want the wall rebuilt. It was an impressive picture. He was proud of it.

Suddenly Trevor made a connection. The workers in the picture were building a rock wall. It was a huge project to build a wall all the way around a whole city! And they had had to do it one rock at a time. One rock at a time. Trevor squared his shoulders and sat up straight. OK. One math problem at a time. He could do it. He looked down at the next problem in his math book. 9,457 X 43. Trevor copied the numbers onto his paper.

And the rain, and the wind, and the scraping branch provided background music.

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