The above photo is of me and my best friends. I'm using it to illustrate today's bedtime story, because recently, we were discussing the promises that people make to each other and how frequently they're made without thinking and are therefore subsequently broken - not necessarily through any kind of malice, but simply because we live such busy lives. It made me think about how easily we say "I promise" and the fact that perhaps, we shouldn't say it quite as often. We're probably all guilty of going back on our word now and again, but here's hoping none of us are quite as bad as Bobby...
Bobby's Broken Promises
Bobby loved his friends. He loved playing football after school with Tom, Adam and Paul. He loved helping Lily to look after her new puppy. He loved going for bike rides with Alice and Jack.
Everyone loved Bobby, too. He was so eager to please! He was always doing nice things for other people. Or at least... He was always promising to.
Bobby was always busy. He had an endless stream of friends wanting to play with him after school and at weekends. He was creative, kind and helpful, so he was always being asked to lend a hand with one project or another. Being kept busy made Bobby happy. He liked to see the smiles on people's faces when he did something kind for them. He enjoyed being a part of several different clubs, teams and projects. The only trouble was, it could be a little hard to keep track of everything...
Bobby didn't like to admit it, but sometimes he was so caught up in his own little world - trying to be a friend to everyone - that he forgot the various promises he made along the way.
At first, nobody seemed to notice or mind, much. "I promise I'll bring my new remote controlled car to show everyone at school tomorrow," Bobby had said at the end of one school day. When he arrived empty-handed the following morning, everyone assumed he'd just forgotten. Which, of course, he had. But nobody was angry with him; it didn't really matter.
Bobby loved the warm glow he felt when people asked for his help, or simply wanted to spend time with him. And he hated saying no to anyone. So, as time went on, Bobby's promises got bigger and bigger. And the bigger the promises got, the harder it was to keep them...
"I promise I'll walk Luna with you after school, Lily," Bobby had said, one lunchtime. Then, as he'd put away his lunchbox, Tom had asked: "Are you playing football after school, Bobby? It's a big game this afternoon. We really need you on the team to win!" And of course, Bobby had agreed. The team needed him, after all!
And that was why Lily had been left waiting by the door, with Luna barking expectantly, before Lily had simply given up and walked the dog by herself.
The following day, Lily wouldn't speak to Bobby at school. Bobby couldn't understand why, especially when everyone else was so keen to congratulate him on scoring the winning goal in the team's big game, the day before!
When Adam invited Bobby out for a celebratory milkshake with his parents after school that day, Bobby hurriedly promised to be there. And when Alice's bike got a puncture just as she was preparing to cycle home, Bobby promised he'd help her to fix it. But when Lily finally admitted why she hadn't spoken to him all day, Bobby promised to rush home as fast as he could, get changed into his oldest jeans and a pair of wellies and take Luna for a run through the woods with her.
And that was why Adam and his parents waited outside the diner for ages, before finally giving up and going inside without Bobby. And it was why Alice had to push her bike all the way home.
Eventually, Bobby's friends had had enough. The next day at school, they made a pact. "We're not going to believe Bobby's promises, anymore," Alice declared. She folded her arms across her chest.
"Too right," Adam agreed. "He's always making promises and then breaking them!"
When Bobby arrived, he was stunned to discover that none of his friends seemed to want to speak to him. "What's wrong?" He asked, over and over. "If you tell me, I promise I can sort it out..."
All day long, Bobby's friends kept up their frosty silence. By home time, Bobby was feeling very miserable indeed. He slung his school bag over his shoulder and trudged out of the door. Glancing over his shoulder at his friend Paul, he managed a smile. "Hey, Paul? I promise I'll bring that new DVD in for you to borrow, tomorrow!"
Paul simply shrugged and raised his eyebrows. "You said that yesterday. You promise things all the time," he sighed. "One day you're going to have to realise that you shouldn't make promises that you can't keep!" With that, he turned on his heels and walked away.
Bobby couldn't understand it - he was only trying to be everyone's friend! He made his way to the his sister Karen's class. Usually, Bobby walked home with his friends, whilst his mum picked Karen up, but today, he decided he'd rather be with his family.
"You look fed up," his mum said, when she saw his long face. Bobby merely sighed in response and said nothing. His mum patted his head. "I'm glad to see you," she told him. "I need you to do a very important job for me, tomorrow."
Together, Bobby, Karen and their mum began the walk home. "What's the job?" Bobby asked.
"I have an appointment tomorrow afternoon," his mum explained. "Your dad's going to be at work, so I need you to come to Karen's class, pick her up at the end of the school day and walk her home. You know she's not old enough to cross that big road on her own, so I really need you to look after her. Can you do that?"
Bobby smiled. "Of course," he said. "I promise."
The next day, Bobby was determined to win back his friends. He packed the DVD he'd promised to lend Paul in his school bag and he took a bag of sweets to share at lunchtime. Sure enough, by morning break, his friends seemed to have forgiven him for whatever it was they were mad about in the first place...
"Do you want to stay behind after school with me, today?" Jack asked. "Some of us are going to help paint the sets for the end of term play. It sounds like fun!"
Bobby agreed; it did sound like fun and before he'd had time to think about it, he'd promised to help.
Later, after lunch, Lily had some news for Bobby, too. "I've entered Luna in a dog show," she announced. "It's at 4 o'clock, today. Mum says you can come with us, if you like? I know Luna would love you to be there."
Bobby was honoured and, without thinking, he promised to go along.
Shortly before home time, Tom asked: "Bobby, are you coming to football practise tonight? We've got another big game next week and I don't think we can win without you!"
Bobby felt rather proud to be asked and of course, he promised that he'd go.
When the bell rang for the end of the school day, Bobby followed Tom out onto the field. He quickly switched his school shoes for his football boots and began doing his stretches, but something didn't feel quite right... Had he forgotten something?
"Come on, Bobby," Tom called. "Show us how you scored that amazing goal!"
Bobby rushed to kick the ball, but suddenly, a thought popped into his head. Jack! "I'm sorry," he cried, tugging at his boots. "I'm meant to be doing something else!"
Bobby darted back into the school and ran down the corridor towards the school hall. Inside, several children were already busy painting. "I'm so sorry," Bobby breathed. "I completely forgot."
"I know," Jack said. "I saw you run off when the bell rang. Bobby, you've got to stop making promises you can't keep!"
Bobby nodded. "I just want to help everyone," he admitted. But even as he picked up a paintbrush and began to join in, something just didn't feel right. He glanced up at the clock on the wall. "Hang on," he gasped. "It's almost half past three! I promised I'd be at the dog show with Alice by 4 o'clock! I'm really sorry; I have to go!"
Bobby flung his bag onto his shoulder and ran out of the school as fast as he could. He darted down the streets, until he reached the main road. The one his mum always told him to be very careful when crossing. The one that Karen wasn't allowed to cross on her own...
Bobby turned on his heels and fled back in the direction of the school, with panic in his eyes. When he reached Karen's class, he saw his sister, sitting quietly in the corner of the room, on her teacher's lap. Her eyes looked red.
"I... I'm so sorry," Bobby stammered.
Karen's teacher didn't look very happy at all. "I've been trying to call your mum," she said. "But I couldn't get through. Karen told me you were walking her home, but you didn't turn up!"
Bobby's cheeks flamed red. "I know... I promised to do something else and I just forgot..."
Karen leaped off her teacher's lap and into Bobby's arms. Bobby cuddled her close, shaking his head. He couldn't believe he'd left his little sister all by herself like that. He'd only been trying to help everyone out!
"I suggest you don't make more promises than you're able to keep," Karen's teacher declared. "Because if you do, you're only going to end up breaking them and causing much more trouble."
Bobby blinked back at her. Suddenly, he realised why his friends had been in such a bad mood, before. He realised how often he made promises without thinking. And he realised that he was wrong. Clutching Karen's hand in his, he managed a smile. "I'm here now," he said. "And I'm going to walk you home safely. You can count on that."
He slowly walked out of the classroom, with his sister's hand still in his. In his mind, he resolved to say sorry to each and every one of his friends for all of the promises he'd made and broken. And he knew that he would never forget something so important ever again. Suddenly, Karen's voice broke his thoughts: "I won't tell mum you forgot about me," Karen said, quietly. "As long as you do something for me in return?"
Bobby stopped walking and glanced down at his little sister. "What's that?"
Karen grinned. "Stop making promises all the time. Only make them if you can keep them."
Bobby smiled back at Karen and gently squeezed her hand. He'd learned enough of a lesson to know that that was one promise he could definitely keep.