Outcomes Offered

■ Tending to the neglected

■ Knowing how one person can make a difference

■ Knowing that kids can work together for good

There is a busy street corner beside a bus station where kids change buses going to and from school. It's not what you would call a pretty spot. There's a lot of noisy traffic and the nearby buildings are gray and unloved. In fact, it has a very uncared-for feeling about it. However, it has a patch ofbeauty—a small garden plot called Pete's Patch, because Pete created it in nine and a half minutes.

Pete is one of the kids who, for nine and a half minutes each day, waited here to change buses. It wasn't a fun or pleasant place to hang out. The station was noisy and smelled of gas fumes. There was nowhere nice to walk and the patch of land next to the station was littered with trash. Maybe it had once been a garden, but now it was an eyesore. Kids and adults had thrown their empty drink cans there, along with burger wrappings and fried-chicken boxes. Someone had sprayed swearwords and what Pete thought was pretty rude graffiti up the walls. No, it wasn't a nice spot to spend nine and a half minutes of every school day when all you wanted to do was get home. But Pete was here. He didn't have a choice. If he wanted to get home, this was the only way.

He felt like he was wasting his life away. There was nothing to look at, nothing to occupy his mind or hands, and hanging around like that each day drove him crazy. He knew he couldn't do anything to change the bus company's timetable, but, he began to think, he might be able to make his nine and a half minutes more enjoyable for him and others.

He asked Mom for some plastic trash bags and a pair of gardening gloves. That week, he put on the gloves and filled his nine and a half minutes each day by piling the trash into the bags.

"Hey, man, are you crazy or something?" his schoolmates teased. "What difference will it make? Why waste your time?" They didn't know that for Pete it was a bigger waste oftime to sit doing nothing.

On the weekend he asked his dad to drive down, collect the bags, and take them to the dump. On Monday morning, the patch looked so much cleaner and nicer.

Then next week, Pete began to pull the weeds from around the old plants that had been hidden behind the rubbish and weeds. One of his friends, as bored as Pete was with filling in nine and a half minutes doing nothing each day, came to help. Mom and Dad came down on the weekend to collect the new pile of bags, prune back the old rose bushes that no one had seen for years, and offer some suggestions to Pete. Soon the patch was looking good, but the swearwords and rude graffiti on the walls behind were really bugging him. They seemed to detract from what he had done.

"What can I do?" he asked his dad.

"What would you like to do?" his dad replied, bouncing the problem back to Pete.

Pete had an idea. He started to save his pocket money. He asked his dad to talk to the owner of the building and, as soon as he got permission, he went straight to the hardware store where he spent every cent he had saved on cans of spray paint. On the wall, he sketched a mural in chalk to cover all the dirty graffiti and, when he started to put his cans of spray to work, more of his school friends wanted to join in for those nine and a half minutes each day.

Now a whole bunch of kids are pretty proud of that patch, and they sure aren't going to let any other kids—or adults—mess it up. They water the roses regularly, they've planted fresh flowers, and one of the other kids' dads gave them an old swing that they painted and set up on the patch. They walk through the patch while waiting for their next bus, gather any rubbish, pull out a weed or two, and have a swing. In fact, sometimes when you pass you may even see an adult swinging among the roses.

One Monday, however, as he rode the bus to school, Pete was in for a surprise. He looked, as usual, toward the patch. Something had changed. There was a sign on it. His friends had painted it. It read: Pete's Patch.

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