Linda Odhner, with photos by Liz Kufs
Excerpted Inspirations #54
[Nine-year-old Anna Solden, the youngest of five, has recently moved to Canada from Germany with her family. (It's 1933.) She has finally gotten glasses to improve her extremely poor vision, and been placed in a "Sight-Saving Class" with other visually impaired students. She wants to make a Christmas present for her parents, but doesn't know how.]
"Anna Elisabeth Solden, who never cried unless she was by herself and sure of being left alone, was crying now in front of a whole roomful of people -- and there was not a single thing she could do about it.
"Giving up pretending that nothing was the matter, Miss Williams fetched a chair and sat down beside the weeping child.
"'Tell me about it,' she said quietly. "Maybe there is something I can do to help.'
"'There is nothing ...' choked Anna.
"'Yes, Anna, there is something.' Miss Williams stayed where she was.
"Ben came and stood on Anna's other side. Isobel put down her pencil with a sigh of relief and added her voice to her teacher's.
"'Go on and tell her, Anna. Miss Williams will know what you can do. Just tell.'
"Not daring to hope, Anna started to explain.
"From the beginning, everyone listened. When she finished, even the oldest two were nodding in agreement. They, too, wanted a Christmas gift they could give their parents. They, too, with their poor vision, had always been awkward and unskilled.
"'If only I could read music ...' Mavis Jones said wistfully. 'The piano teacher gets so mad!'
"'My Aunt Mary keeps saying and saying I could learn to knit if I'd just hold my needles the way she does,' Josephine Peterson put in. 'She tells me to watch -- but I can't see what she means, and she can't understand why.'
"The boys could not use tools the way their fathers did, the way even their brothers did, so easily, so quickly.
"Anna was not, after all, the only odd man out. That was what Miss Williams called it -- being the odd man out.
"Jimmy Short had tried having a paper route. 'But I couldn't see the numbers on the houses,' he said. 'I can't make change fast, either. Nickels and quarters look too much the same.'
"'None of us can earn money, really,' Bernard summed it up, 'or make anything good. I want to make one really good thing, just once -- and watch their eyes pop!'"
"'It has to be a surprise,' Anna said. 'The others -- Rudi and Gretchen and the twins -- will all have surprises.'
"'Yes, Anna, I know,' the teacher said.
"'Wait and see,' Isobel whispered to Anna. 'She'll find a way. Miss Williams can do anything.'
"But maybe there is no way, thought Anna.
"She looked at Isobel's face, bright with faith. She studied Miss Williams' face, deep in thought. Suddenly, it seemed to Anna terribly important to believe. Maybe if she believed hard enough, it would help.
"I do believe. There will be a way, Anna whispered under her breath.
"Then, all at once, Miss Williams smiled. Her head lifted.
"'What is it, Miss Williams?' Ben asked excitedly.
"'I think ... you will have to wait and see, Ben,' the teacher answered.
"But everyone knew what had happened. A way had been found."
-Jean Little, From Anna (1972). pp. 154-156