Once there was a young wombat named Benson who lived in a tidy, comfortable wombat hole with his mother and his two aunts, Lillibet and Moss.
One morning Benson woke up and thought about getting up, but it was so warm and cosy in his bed that he snuggled down and closed his eyes again.
Aunt Lillibet went past his door. She looked in and said, “Time to get up, Benson. You’re not going to change the world, lying there.”
Benson’s eyes popped open. How could he change the world, one small wombat? Well, you never know, he thought, and got out of bed.
He got dressed and went out to the kitchen and had a glass of milk and a banana. There was an enormous pile of washing up, because Aunt Lillibet had cooked eggs and beans for breakfast, and his mother had made cheese on toast and Aunt Moss had made a big pot of strawberry jam, and cooked a batch of scones as well.
Benson thought to himself that maybe he couldn’t change the world, but here was one thing he could do. He set to work and washed up all the dishes and bowls and cups and pans.
He was just finishing when his mother came out. “Oh! I was just coming out to wash all those dishes, and you’ve done them already! That’s wonderful! Now I’ll have time to finish my speech and get to the Town Hall in time for the big meeting! You’re wonderful, Benson!” She kissed the top of his head and hurried off.
Aunt Lillibet came out and looked at the sparkling dishes. “Did you do all those dishes?” she asked Benson. “That was a good thing to do.” She stood thinking for a minute. “There’s something I can do too,” she said, and she went off to her room.
Aunt Moss came out and said, “Oh, Benson, you’ve done all the washing up! That’s wonderful! Now all the bowls and spoons are clean, I can whip some cream and finish off those scones I made.”
Benson’s heart quailed. More washing-up, just after he had finished a mountain! But he smiled bravely and said, “I can help you if you like, Aunt Moss.”
Together they whipped cream and spread jam on the scones, then Benson plopped a blob of cream on top of each one. They looked extremely delicious.
Benson said, “Can I try one?”
Aunt Moss said, “No, they’re for morning tea at the Town Hall after the big meeting.”
Benson felt disappointed: no scones, no jam and no cream, and another pile of washing up. He sighed quietly and set to work.
Aunt Lillibet came hurrying out of her room with a big pile of papers under her arm. “I’ve made some posters for the big meeting, and I’m going up to the Town Hall to put them up,” she said, and hurried off.
Benson and Aunt Moss finished tidying up the kitchen, and then they carried all the scones and jam and cream up to the Town Hall. When they got there, Benson’s mother was in the middle of her speech. Everyone was listening.
She was saying, “So many of our koalas have lost their homes, and we really need a new koala refuge for them. I know you think it’s too expensive and too difficult, but all we need is three gifts: your time, your work, and a generous heart.”
Everyone looked at each other and nodded. All around the walls Aunt Lillibet had put up big posters that said, ‘Help Our Koalas’ and ‘Homes for the Homeless’, with pictures of sad koalas in black, burnt-out trees.
Benson’s mother said, ” So who will help build a new koala refuge?”
Gordon stood up and said, “I’d like to help,” then Fenella and Bliss said, “We will too.” More and more people stood up, saying they wanted to help and soon everyone was smiling and eating scones and talking about how they were going to build the new koala refuge.
Benson said to his mother, “That was a very good speech. Now everyone wants to help. I wish I could help too, but I’m just a small wombat.”
His mother smiled. “You already have,” she said. “It was you I got the idea for my speech from, you know.”
“Me?” Benson said. “All I did was wash the dishes!”
His mother said, “You gave some of your time, and your work, with a generous heart.”
Benson thought about what might have happened if he had stayed in bed. His mother might not have written her speech, Aunt Lillibet might not have thought of making the posters, and Aunt Moss might not have been able to finish the scones.
His mother said, “Now if we’re quick, we might just be able to get a scone before the last ones have gone.”
They were, and they did.