Apples, Apples, Who Has the Apples?

“Sometimes, if you listen carefully as you take a big bite of a crisp apple
picked from one of Johnny’s trees, you may just hear the story of
Johnny Appleseed carried by the voice of a cool autumn breeze.”
from The Story of John Chapman, adapted by Amy Friedman

When I was young and full of energy and impossible dreams, I started my profession as an educator in a public elementary school. As the new kid on the block I was named Student Council advisor. It was my job to herd 12 fifth graders as they ‘lead’ the school’s student body (kindergartners and all).

The first big task of the year was to coordinate ‘The Big Bite’. This was an annual event celebrating Johnny Appleseed’s birthday. Each man, woman and child in our school received an apple, then headed to the playground as they listened to Johnny’s story and counted down to the Big Bite that would rock our city with crisp loudness.

I must say I was overwhelmed. It was difficult enough to start a new job, but now I was meeting with students before school, during my prep time and after school to coordinate this event. Johnny Appleseed’s birthday is on September 26th so we had little time to make posters, communicate with teachers, write speeches for the daily announcements, organize a master of ceremonies for the event and figure out how we were going to distribute 450 apples to everyone in the school.

All too soon the big day arrived. I was so proud. The students and I had worked hard and everything was ready. At about 10:00 in the morning the principal walked into my room and asked me, “Where are the apples?” I stared at her with a stupefied expression and thought, “Apples?” I went to my clipboard to refer to my list. Master of Ceremonies…check. Schedule to teachers about the event… check. Students to distribute apples at 2:45… check. Apples. Apples? No apples on the list.

Seems I forgot all about the apples.

I looked at my principal and said, “The apples have not been delivered yet.” What I didn’t say to her was, “The apples have not been ordered…yet.”

Sometimes you are faced with challenges which prove you should have stayed in bed that day. Then I heard my dad’s voice in my head, “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” Great. My survival at this point was definitely questionable.

I went to a phone book and started calling grocery stores. I could purchase 5 pound bags of apples (with about 12 to 14 apples per bag for $2.99). This avenue would take me over my $37.50 budget but at this point I was ready to do anything to get those apples. Then I remembered, we live in an area with apple orchards. I called a local apple farm and the conversation went something like this:

Apple Farm:  “Hello”
Me: “Hi. I am representing an elementary school and we would like to purchase 450 apples for an event at school. Could you give me some prices.”
Apple Farm: “What size apples?”
Me: “Small, very small.”
Apple Farm: “That would be $40.00.”
Me: “Great! I will take them.”
Apple Farm: “When do you need the apples by?”
Me: “I need them by noon today. You see, I am in charge of Johnny Appleseeds birthday at our school and I forgot to order the apples. I know, it is ridiculous, but I could use any help you can give me.”
Apple Farm: {Long pause…}”I think we can manage that.”

How lucky am I? I was able to use my 30 minute lunch period to race to the orchard, load the apples in my car and transport them back to school before my students arrived in my room from recess.

The big bite went off without a hitch that day. As the students and staff ate their apples I thought about the day, my life and the help of strangers. We are better together.

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12 thoughts on “Apples, Apples, Who Has the Apples?”

  1. A great story…you will never forget Johnny Appleseed, that’s for sure. Most orchards (such as mine) always encourage working with schools and often invite the children to their orchard to learn more about how apples.

    1. I wonder. I will never forget that day. It taught me that you can accomplish anything with hard work, a little faith and the kindness of others. And people are always willing to help when you speak the truth and don’t expect them to save you.

  2. I love this story. All I know about Johnny Appleseed is the grace we sang at Girl Guide camp.. We would only sing it on the last day, because it was said that it would rain if you sang “Johnny Appleseed.”

  3. I would like to post excerpt and link to this story on my noncommercial blog: healinghamlet(dot)com which focuses on healing and the arts (visual, music and writing). Please let me know if I can credit a name other that “Prairie Wisdom”.

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