Helping People

for Jo

Once there was a young wombat named Benson who lived in a warm, happy wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss. It was World Wombat Day, and everyone was celebrating. There was going to be a big ceremony at the community centre, and Nanna was getting a special award for Helping People.

“It’s a wonderful award,” Benson’s mother said. “When we help someone, it shows that we care about them and we want to look after them, and Nanna is the very best person in the world at helping people.”

Benson said, “I’m going to make something very special to give Nanna.” Everyone was giving Nanna presents, but Benson wanted his to be the best present of all.

He hurried down to the creek and got some clay. He took it home and started making it into a model of a wombat that looked just like Nanna. Then Aunt Lillibet called, “Benson, I need your help!”

Benson went to see what she wanted. She said, “I’m making Nanna a hat. I need you to hold it while I glue on the eggshells and pin the pumpkin seeds on.”

Benson held the hat for Aunt Lillibet, but he wriggled and squirmed all the time, because he wanted to get back to making his model.

Aunt Lillibet said, “Can’t you stand still for one minute? I nearly poked myself with a pin just then.”

Benson said, “Is this going to take much longer? Anyway, I don’t think you should put the banana skins on it. They look like lizards’ tongues.”

Aunt Lillibet whipped the hat out of his hands and said frostily, “If you haven’t got time, I’m sure I can manage by myself.”

Benson went back to his room, but his mother called him from the kitchen. She was making fairy cakes with raspberry icing.

“I hope you don’t want me to help you too,” Benson said. “I’m too busy.”

His mother put down her spoon and said, “No, I wasn’t going to ask you to help. I just wanted to say that helping people isn’t just about doing what they need you to do for them, it’s about the way that you help them. You know Nanna is always patient and kind whenever she helps people?”

Benson nodded. He remembered how Nanna was always helping him with things, and she never said she didn’t have time, or made him feel bad.

His mother said, “If you’re impatient, or unkind, then it’s just as bad as not helping at all, isn’t it?”

Benson thought about Aunt Lillibet struggling with the glue and the pins and everything while he kept wriggling. “I suppose so,” he said.

He went back to Aunt Lillibet’s room. He asked her if she needed any help.

“Are you sure you have time?” Aunt Lillibet said. Her mouth was full of pins and she had glue everywhere.

“I’ve got heaps of time,” Benson said. He stood patiently holding the hat while Aunt Lillibet glued and snipped and arranged, until she was quite finished.

“There!” she said. “It’s finished. What do you think?”

“It’s very nice,” Benson said. “I think Nanna will love it. I’m glad you took off the banana skins.”

“I didn’t think they would suit Nanna, and besides, they were getting a bit slimy,” Aunt Lillibet said.

Benson went back to his own room, but the clay for his model had all dried out. It was as hard as a rock. “Bother!” he said. “I know, I’ll make her a painting instead.” He got out his paints and a container of water and a big piece of paper and set to work.

There was a loud yell from the kitchen. “Benson, help!” his mother shrieked.

He jumped, and accidentally knocked the container of water over. It went all over his painting. “Bother!” he said. He ran into the kitchen.

His mother was holding a saucepan with foam rising up over the top of it. “Quick!” she said. “Can you get me a pan, please?”

Benson got a pan, and put it on the bench. His mother poured the foam into it just before it overflowed. “Phew!” she said. “Thank goodness you came in time.”

“What are you making?” Benson asked.

“Honeycomb. It’s Nanna’s favourite,” his mother said.

“Are you going to put some nuts in it?” Benson asked. “Nanna loves nuts, and cranberries, too.”

“That’s a good idea,” his mother said. Benson helped her sprinkle nuts and cranberries on top of the honeycomb, then he went back to his room. The painting was ruined.

“Bother!” he said. “Oh well, I’ll do a drawing for her instead. It won’t be the best present, but it will be better than nothing.”

Just then he heard Aunt Moss calling, “Benson, do you have a minute?”

He sighed, and went to see what she wanted. “It’s this wool,” she said. “I’m trying to make these leg-warmers for Nanna, but the wool keeps getting in a big tangle. If you could hold your arms out like this, it would be a big help.” She stretched the wool between his hands, and kept knitting. It took ages and ages, but Benson didn’t wriggle or complain. Finally she was finished.

“Thank you, Benson,” she said. “I couldn’t have done it without you.”

His mother called from the kitchen, “Time to go everyone! We have to hurry or we’ll be late.”

“But what about my drawing?” Benson said.

“I’m sorry, Benson, there’s no time for that,” his mother said.

They hurried off to the community centre. Benson decided he would pick Nanna a bunch of flowers along the way, but as they went past Mr Fenn’s place, he called, “Can someone give me a hand? I’ve made this sign for Nanna, but I can’t carry it all by myself.”

Everyone else had their hands full of leg warmers and a hat and fairy cakes and honeycomb, so Benson said, “I’ll help you.” He helped Mr Fenn carry it all the way to the community centre.

There was a big crowd there, and everyone had presents for Nanna, all except Benson. He hung back behind everyone else, hoping Nanna wouldn’t notice. Aunt Lillibet gave her the hat and Nanna thought it was beautiful. Aunt Moss gave her the leg-warmers and they fitted perfectly. Benson’s mother gave her the honeycomb and Nanna loved it.

Then Nanna called, “Benson!” He had to go up in front of everyone with empty hands.

“I haven’t got a present for you, Nanna,” he said, sadly.

Nanna smiled at him as she always did, as if she loved him more than anything else in the world. “You’ve already given me so much,” she said. “I know how you helped Aunt Lillibet and Aunt Moss and your mother.”

“And me!” Mr Fenn called out.

“And Mr Fenn, too,” Nanna said. “Thank you, Benson.” And she gave him the most enormous hug.

They all had fairy cakes and honeycomb and told stories and laughed and had a wonderful time. It was the best World Wombat Day ever.

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