A Story About Dependency

The Best Big Sister in the Whole Wide World

by Wendy McMahan


 Richard’s older sister, Harriet, was so happy when he was born. She had always wanted a little brother. She watched her mom change his diaper. She watched her dad sing him lullabies before bedtime. She watched Richard grow and grow until he was old enough to walk, talk and eat all by himself.

Harriet played with Richard a lot. There were many things that Richard couldn’t do. He couldn’t tie his shoes. He couldn’t make his bed. He couldn’t pour his own milk. So Harriet helped Richard. She tied his shoes because she was good at tying shoes. She made his bed because she knew how to tuck in the sheets just right. She poured his milk, and she almost never spilled it.

The years passed, and Richard got bigger and bigger. Now he was in the seventh grade. Now he was as tall as his mom. He liked to joke around and play football with his friends. Harriet grew too, and she kept on being the best big sister ever for Richard. One day, Richard came downstairs for breakfast and saw Harriet scrambling eggs like usual. “Harriet,” he said. “I was wondering if you could show me how to scramble eggs someday.” Harriet giggled. “Richard,” she replied. “You’re only in the seventh grade. I’m happy to make your breakfast. It’s how I show you how much I love you. Now sit there at the table – I’ll be right over to tie your shoes.”

Harriet’s mornings were very busy. Every day after she made Richard’s breakfast and tied his shoes, she would run upstairs to make his bed. Then, if she hadn’t finished Richard’s homework the night before, she would sit down and finish it before they left for school. (It didn’t make any sense to have Richard do his own homework. Harriet could do it much faster. She was much better at arithmetic, penmanship, spelling, and practically everything she could think of.)

Richard always told Harriet how much he appreciated her. “What would I do without a sister like you?” he often said. Then he would think inside, “What would I do without Harriet?” He had grown so dependent on Harriet that he couldn’t imagine living without her help.

More years passed. Richard and Harriet grew up into adults. Harriet got married and had children of her own. Today she lives in a house with three bedrooms: one for her and her husband, one for her kids, and one for Richard. Harriet is teaching her husband and her kids how to take care of Richard too. They’ve gotten really good at vacuuming around Richard’s feet when he is watching TV. Everybody tells Harriet that she reminds them of Jesus. She sacrificially gives everything to make sure that Richard has what he needs. Sometimes, Harriet feels like she gets more out of helping Richard than Richard gets out of being helped. It’s a win-win situation.

At the end of every day, Harriet and her family tuck Richard into bed. They know that all of their sacrifice is worth it when they see his grateful eyes closing, safe and sound in a place where he has everything he needs.

For Further Thought

1. What went wrong in this story?

2. What messages did Harriet inadvertently send to Richard? Can you point out ways that Harriet may have sent Richard the message that he was not made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26, 27)?

3. What parallels does this story have with the way we might approach the poor?

4. Comment on this quote:

“If poverty is the world trying to tell the poor they are God-forsaken, then transformation is the declaration that they are made in God’s image, that God allowed his Son to die for them, and that God has given gifts to the poor so that they too may be fruitful and productive.” – Bryant Myers

5. Did Harriet have an accurate view of her own identity? Why or why not?

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