Once upon a time there was a little girl who lived in a large yellow house with her mother and father and brother. One day this girl, whose name was Helena, decided to explore the world. So she went out on a trip with her dog, whose name was Valdez, and a basket of food. Along the way she met a family which lived in a house not much bigger than Helena's own room.
"Why do you all live in such a small house?" Helena asked them brightly.
"Because we have no money," replied the mother, looking down at the ground.
"We are also very hungry," added a little boy who had been standing in the doorway. "Could you spare some of the food in your basket?"
This upset Helena greatly because she knew how her parents felt about sharing.
"My daddy worked very hard to get the money to pay for this food," said Helena, clutching bravely to her basket.
"Well, my mommy and daddy work very hard, but they still don't have enough money to buy food for us all," said another little child who had been hiding behind her mother all this time.
At this Helena became confused and angry. So home she ran, basket safely in hand, with Valdez running by her side all the way. Once home, she fairly flew into the kitchen and asked the maids where her mother was.
"Upstairs," pointed one of them.
Helena ran up the winding stairs, past the large pictures on the wall and straight on through to mother's room. Shutting the door behind her, she began the run across the rug.
"Mother!" she cried out. (This was no time to stand on ceremony). "I was just down at those people with a small house and they said that their mommy and daddy both worked hard and they still didn't have enough money but you and father said that everyone has as much money as they need!" Her mother, whose name was Helen, smiled and stroked Helena's soft, golden hair.
"Calm yourself, darling, and let me tell you a little story which may help you understand."
Helena lay down on the large, soft bed and listened attentively to her mother's words.
"You may have noticed," began mother, that some people are, say, taller than others."
Helena smiled to herself. Often had she been told that she would soon be taller than most of the help.
"Well," mother continued, "God made us different to tell us apart, and..."
"Excuse me, Ma'am." A maid. "But I forgot if you wanted the blue china tonight or..."
"Oh, really!" laughed Helen. "Can't you remember even the simplest things? Use the blue china."
"Thank you, ma'am," backed the maid out of the room.
"Now," said Helen's mother, keeping her gaze on Helena, "maybe we can use this incident to illustrate my point."
"How?" asked little Helena, eyes opened wide.
"Well," began Helen, "that one has worked for us all of her roughly twenty‑five years, but we don't pay her enough to buy a house. Sometimes she doesn't have enough for groceries. Just like that family you came across today."
"You see," continued mother, "there are times when I have to help her do her work. Like when I had to tell her what color china to set out. Since I am doing part of her job, it wouldn't be fair to pay her too much money. That would be like stealing from myself. So I keep some of her money as a reward for helping her do her job."
Helena wasn't sure she completely grasped the point, though she knew stealing was wrong and was glad mother wasn't going to let the maid get away with it. She was about to ask more, but Helen cut her off smartly: "Now, then, little girl, it must be time for your bath. And what is it you are to remind Maria?"
"Not to make the water too hot!" cried out Helena, her eyes twinkling. "And when I remind her of that, it's like I'm doing part of her job for her!"
"That's right, dear" smiled mother Helen, looking in the direction of the door.
As Helena scampered downstairs, she remembered that her mother hadn't told her the story about how the people in the small house could work and still be poor. But she was beginning to understand well enough, now, anyway.