Little Miss Molly

Phyllis sat quietly at her desk. Her third-grade class was busy working on an art project. Paper scraps and glue droplets littered the floor, and giggles could be heard from the children as they worked. It was a week before Thanksgiving and they were making turkeys out of construction paper.

As she scanned the class, her gaze stopped at a little blonde-headed girl sitting in a back corner desk. Her name was Molly. She had known from the first day that Molly would be her favorite. The golden rule among teachers was to not have a favorite, but in this case, she couldn’t help it. She knew that having a favorite wasn’t fair to the others because favorite students usually were given a break in the class. She had tried hard not to treat Molly that way and had found other ways to help her.

She remembered the first day of school. Molly had come into her classroom and immediately went to the corner desk in the back of the room. While all of the other children had new school clothes and backpacks, Molly wore a threadbare dress, scuffed and dirty tennis shoes, and carried a brown paper bag. After she had sat down, she looked around the room and a tear ran down her cheek.

When I took the roll call and called her name, she had timidly risen from her desk and spoke.

“Molly Prickett,” I had called.

“Yes, ma’am,” she had answered.

“Welcome to my classroom. Tell us a little bit about yourself, please.”

A look of terror crossed her face, she recovered and softly spoke.

“My mother, little sister, and me moved here from Tupelo, Mississippi. We live in the trailer park on the edge of town. My mother works at Freeman’s Grocery Store.”

Immediately giggles and snickers could be heard throughout the classroom. Molly sat down and hid her face.

“Ok! That’s enough! Quiet down,” I scolded, “thank you, Molly.”

I took the rest of the roll call and sat down.

“What can I do to help her fit in?” I had thought as I called the class to order, “It’s obvious she’s been deeply hurt before.”

“Open your Arithmetic books to page three, please.”

All day long I couldn’t get her out of my mind. When called on she almost always had the correct answer to my questions. She seemed very bright, but there was something that was holding her back.

After school, I caught the guidance counselor as she was getting in her car.

“Brianna, I have a question about one of my students.”

“Oh, hi, Phyllis, who is it?”

“Molly Prickett. Can you tell me anything about her?”

“Molly Prickett, Molly Prickett,” she repeated as she thought, “I’m pretty sure I read her enrollment papers. I’m supposed to read all of the new student's enrollments. If I remember correctly, her mother is divorced and I imagine struggling to make ends meet. She works at a grocery store. From what I can tell, she just makes enough to keep Molly from qualifying for the aid programs. Has to pay for Molly’s meals, book rentals, and basically everything. Why?”

“I was wondering. When we went to lunch she had her lunch with her in a paper sack. A peanut butter sandwich and an apple. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with that. All the other kids were getting pizza rolls, chips, drinks, and deserts, anything the cafeteria offered. I saw her watching them and could tell she felt left out. I bought her a carton of chocolate milk. You should have seen the look on her face. I couldn’t help but feel sorry for her,” I had answered.

“Phyllis, please be careful,” warned Brianna.

That night it kept bothering me. In fact, it kept me awake. The more I thought about it the more I felt a need to pray.

“Heavenly Father, I need your guidance. How do I help Molly? I feel such a burden for her in my heart. How do I help her and keep the integrity of my classroom intact? Have you placed her there for me? Show me what to do and how to do it, please,” I prayed.

The next day I saw Brianna before school began.

“Phyllis, I was able to bring Molly’s information up on my computer at home. She’s had a rough time. She didn’t go to preschool or kindergarten and this is her third school. I imagine she is afraid to open up and make friends. You have your hands full with this,” offered Brianna.

I can barely remember that day in class. Molly was all I could think about. I bought her another carton of milk at lunchtime and was thanked.

“Thank you! I love chocolate milk,” she had beamed.

“What do I do? There must be something!” I thought as I led my class back to my room. Then an idea crossed my mind.

“Class,” I said, “we are going to work on a science project. I am going to divide you up into teams. Molly, I am pairing you with Dakota. Pull your desk up beside her, please.”

Molly did so and glanced at Dakota. Her project partner looked like she was going to cry. Molly didn’t know what was wrong and asked her.

“Are you ok? What’s wrong?”

Dakota wouldn’t even talk to her. Molly decided she was going to make the best of the situation. When I gave the assignment she took charge and their project was one of the best in the class. It earned an A for their efforts.

I could sense the beginning of a breakthrough for her. Dakota and her girlfriends sat together at lunch. I could see Dakota talking and gesturing toward Molly. I couldn’t tell what was being said, but I hoped it was something good.

It was a slow process. Molly kept doing exceptional work and she became one of my best students. Every day it seemed she fit in better than the day before. After school one day I was approached by Dakota and her girlfriends.

“Miss Taylor, what can you tell us about Molly?”

“What do you mean?”

“She always seems so sad. She has tried hard to fit in and we haven’t treated her very nice. We’re ashamed of ourselves.”

“I know. I’ve watched how you have treated her from day one. Here is what I know. Her mother is divorced and is struggling to make ends meet working at Freeman’s Grocery Store. She has a little sister. I know that she is embarrassed because of how she has to get by. She sees you wearing new school clothes and buying your lunch every day. Have you seen what she brings in her sack? She wants to fit in, but she’s afraid she’ll be teased. You know how bad it hurts to be teased. She has no friends and is afraid to make any. This is her third school,” I had told them.

“We didn’t know,” answered a subdued Dakota, “what can we do?”

“Be her friend. Sit with her at lunch. Whatever you do, don’t embarrass her. If you can, buy her something to drink. She loves chocolate milk.  Please don’t treat her like a charity case, that would hurt worse than anything you could ever possibly do,” I had answered.

The girls had gone home and talked to their parents about Molly. After some consultation, among themselves, a plan was hatched.

The next day Molly was sitting by herself at a cafeteria table. Dakota and her friends approached her.

“Can we sit with you?”

“Do you want to?”

“Yes,” answered Dakota as she sat down beside her, “I made a mistake and bought two milks. Want one?”

Molly didn’t know what to say. Surprised, she answered yes.

“Do you like pizza rolls?” asked another girl, “here, try one, they’re good.”

Before the lunch hour was over the table was alive with giggles and laughter. Molly was the center of attention.

I saw a change come over her that I could only dream was possible. She blossomed before my eyes. One Monday morning she came into the classroom with a smile on her face. She had on the cutest outfit, everything from shoes to a top. I found out later that she had been invited to a slumber party at Dakota’s house. Her mother had discreetly found a couple of outfits and gave them to her. I also noticed that she no longer carried a lunch sack. I found out that the girl’s parents were taking turns picking up her lunch tab.

Molly and the girls became best friends.

One afternoon, after school, I heard a knock on my classroom door. A young woman was standing there.

“Are you Miss Taylor? Molly’s teacher?”

“Yes, can I help you?” I answered.

“I’m her mother.”

“Come in and sit down,” I had offered.

“I can’t stay. I have to get to work. I just want to thank you for what you did,” she had offered while softly crying.

“I didn’t do anything.”

“I know different. It has been so hard on Molly, moving all the time, never being able to make any friends, and always being lonely. I don’t know how you did it. She’s the happiest I’ve ever seen her and she can’t wait to come to school,” said her mother.

“It was more her classmates than me. They asked me what they could do and I told them. They took it upon themselves to be her friend,” I had replied.

“Her lunches paid for. Who is doing that?”

I had a pretty good idea but wasn’t going to tell her.

“I’m not sure,” I had answered which was the truth. I didn’t know exactly who was doing it.

“There is one more thing that has happened. Out of the blue, I was offered a job as a receptionist at a doctor’s office at twice what I was making at the grocery store. I’ll be working daytime hours and will have medical insurance. It’s a Godsend! We are going to be able to stay here. I still can’t believe it. I start next Monday. His name is Dr. Ronald Deeming,” she smiled, “do you know him?”

I knew that Dakota’s last name was Deeming and instantly knew what had happened.

“The name sounds familiar,” I answered, “congratulations on your job. I am so glad that you are going to make it.”

“Thank you so much,” she gushed and then left.

That night I again prayed.

“Heavenly Father, thank you for answering my prayers. Thank you for helping Molly and her mother.”

I remember drifting off to sleep with a smile on my face. God still answers prayers.

September 23, 2020