Questions 1-11 pertain to the following story:
(1) I used to think homeless people were dirty and lazy and mean. I thought they were all old men with scraggly beards and mangy dogs. I thought they lived on the street because they wanted to. I thought they were all drug addicts and alcoholics who ate from garbage cans and slept in boxes. I used to think homelessness wasn’t my problem. Then I met Chris, and he showed me I was wrong-about everything. Homelessness is everybody’s problem.
(2) The sun was climbing into the bright blue sky as we loaded up the bus at the youth center. It was a crisp, cold Thanksgiving morning, and our youth group was headed down to a local shelter called The Lighthouse. We were going to serve Thanksgiving dinner to more than a hundred homeless people. It seemed like an appropriate way to spend Thanksgiving Day.
(3) When we arrived at the shelter, we were each given a job to do. My job was peeling potatoes. The shelter director gave me a peeler and a garbage can and sat me down in front of a giant pile of potatoes. I had never seen so many potatoes in one place before. They rose from the tray like Mt. Everest. By the time I had peeled them all, my hands and arms and shoulders ached.
(4) When the kitchen work was done, we were given our serving stations. The director explained that this was the only meal many of the homeless people would eat that day, and for some, it was the only hot meal they would have that week. Even so, there wasn’t a lot of food for so many people. We were supposed to give each person one slice of turkey, one scoop of mashed potatoes, one scoop of stuffing, a small drizzle of gravy, a few green beans, and a sliver of pumpkin pie.
(5) I was plodding along, dishing up mashed potatoes with an ice cream scoop, when I happened to look up at the person I was serving. He wasn’t a dirty, bearded old man. He was a boy about my age, with brown hair and brown eyes and a patched green jacket.
(6) “Hi,” the boy said. “I’m Chris.”
(7) “I’m Ben,” I said as I scooped some potatoes onto his plate. “Happy Thanksgiving.”
(8) “Thanks,” Chris said, and then he was gone.
(9) As Chris moved down the line, I began to look around, really seeing things for the first time. Very few of the homeless people fit my stereotype. There were men and women, old and young. Children played in a corner of the dining room. At one table, teenagers talked in a tight group. People chatted and smiled. A few were even laughing. This was not what I had pictured a homeless shelter would be like.
(10) When everyone had been served, I began to help clean up. I couldn’t help watching Chris as I cleared the tables and wiped them down. He was playing peek-a-boo with a little girl in a high chair. I wondered if it was his little sister.
(11) I was so lost in thought that I jumped when the shelter director tapped my shoulder. She laughed.
(12) “I’ll finish cleaning up here,” she said. “Why don’t you go talk to Chris? He’s very nice.”
(13) As I approached the table where Chris was sitting, I felt nervous. What would I say? Could we possibly have anything to talk about? Would he even want to talk to me? I sat cautiously beside him.
(14) “Hi, Ben,” he said.
(15) “Hi, Chris. Is that your little sister?”
(16) Chris smiled. “Yep. This is Sophia. And over there is my little brother, Dane.” Chris motioned toward the corner where the smaller children were playing. Then he pointed to a dark-haired woman at a nearby table. “That’s my mom.”
(17) “Are you all homeless?” I asked.
(18) “Yep,” answered Chris. “We’ve been here at The Lighthouse for almost two months now. It’s okay here, but I miss my old school and my friends. I hope we can move back to a real house soon.”
(19) “I didn’t know there was such a thing as homeless kids,” I admitted.
(20) “Me neither,” said Chris. “At least, not until I became one.”
(21) “How did it happen?” I asked. Then I had second thoughts. “I mean, you don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to. I was just wondering.”
(22) “It’s okay,” Chris said. “I don’t mind talking about it. About a year ago, my dad got really sick. He was in the hospital for a few months. Then he died. We didn’t have any insurance or anything, and my mom couldn’t get a job. Besides, she was really sad, and she was trying to take care of me and Dane and Sophia.”
(23) “So, how did you end up homeless?” I wondered.
(24) “Mom says there were just too many bills and not enough money. First, we got our lights turned off. Then we couldn’t pay our rent, so we had to move out of our house. We stayed with friends for a while, but eventually there was nobody left to stay with. So, we came here.”
(25) “Will you stay here forever?” I asked.
(26) “No,” Chris said. “My mom is in a program to give her training and help her get a job. When she finds a job, we can get a new place to live. Then things can be normal again.”
(27) I heard my youth leader calling for us to load the bus. I wanted to talk to Chris more and ask him more questions, but I knew I had to leave. I stood up.
(28) “I have to go,” I said. “I’m glad I got to meet you, Chris. I hope you get a new house soon.”
(29) “Thanks, Ben,” Chris said. “It was nice to meet you, too. Thanks for hanging out with me for a while. Happy Thanksgiving.”
(30) “Happy Thanksgiving,” I echoed as I headed toward the door. When I looked back, Chris waved. Then he started playing peek-a-boo with Sophia again.
(31) I will probably never see Chris again, but I have thought of him many times since that day. In just a few minutes together, he taught me so much about the problem of homelessness. It isn’t just a problem that affects lazy, mean old men. It affects men and women of all ages. It affects children. It affects whole families. It affected Chris. And because I got the chance to see homelessness through his eyes, it affects me now, too. I think I’ll go back again next Thanksgiving…or maybe sooner. After all, now I know that homelessness is everybody’s problem.
Prepare with our PARCC Study Guide and Practice Questions. Print or eBook. Guaranteed to raise your score. Get started today!
1. What is the setting for this story?
- A youth center
- A homeless shelter
- A community center
- A school
2. If you were describing this story, what classification would you use?
3. In paragraph 9, what does the word “stereotype” mean?
- A textbook definition of a concept
- Height, weight, and physical features
- A generalized idea of what something is like
- A description given by an authority figure
4. What point of view is used to tell this story?
- First person
- Second person
- Third person
- All of the above
5. What is the main theme of this story?
- Kids can be homeless
- Potatoes are difficult to peel
- Serving at a homeless shelter is a good Thanksgiving project
- Homelessness is everybody’s problem
This question has two parts. Answer Part A then answer Part B.
6. Part A: What does the author compare the potatoes to in paragraph 3?
- A tower
- A mountain range
- Mt. Everest
- A mound
Part B: Based on your answer in Part A why does he make that comparison?
- They were the biggest potatoes he had ever seen.
- The potatoes were shaped like mountains.
- The potatoes were piled really high.
- He just likes Mt. Everest.
7. Which of the following items was not included in the Thanksgiving dinner at the shelter?
- Cranberry sauce
- Mashed potatoes and gravy
- Pumpkin pie
8. What major event in the life of Chris’s family led to their homelessness?
- Their house burned down
- Chris’s mom lost her job
- They had to live in their car
- Chris’s dad got sick and died
This question has two parts. Answer Part A then answer Part B.
9. Part A: What do you think the author’s primary purpose was in telling this story?
- To persuade the reader to do something about homelessness
- To inform the reader about The Lighthouse homeless shelter
- To educate the reader on Thanksgiving service projects
- To entertain the reader with a story about a personal experience
Part B: Which paragraph from the story best supports your answer in Part A?
- Paragraph 3
- Paragraph 6
- Paragraph 5
- Paragraph 1
10. Which of the following is the best summary of this story?
- In the beginning, Ben hates homeless people, but at the end, he loves them
- Ben goes to a homeless shelter to serve Thanksgiving dinner and learns that homelessness affects everyone
- The Lighthouse is a wonderful shelter that serves individuals and families who are homeless
- Ben peels potatoes, serves food, meets Chris, and then goes home
11. Which of the following is Ben most likely to do in the future as a result of meeting Chris at The Lighthouse?
- Avoid homeless people
- Give away all his money
- Try living on the street
- Serve at a homeless shelter again
1. B: This story is set at a homeless shelter.
2. A: This story is written in the style of a memoir, as evidenced by the first-person, reflective tone.
3. C offers the best definition of “stereotype” as it is used in paragraph 9.
4. A: This story is written in first person. That means the author is involved in the events of the story and is telling it from his point of view.
5. D: The main theme of the story is that homelessness is everybody’s problem. One clue that this is the main point of the story is that the author clearly states it in the last line of the story. It’s not always true that the last line of a short piece contains the main point, but that is often the case.
6. Part A: C: In paragraph 3 the author uses a simile to compare the size of the pile of potatoes to Mt. Everest.
Part B: In the story he says that, “They rose from the tray like Mt. Everest.”, which would lead the reader to believe they were piled really high.
7. B: Cranberry sauce was not served as part of the Thanksgiving dinner at the shelter.
8. D: The death of Chris’s dad was the major problem the family had to deal with that eventually led to the their homelessness.
9. Part A: A: The author’s intention in writing this piece is to persuade the reader to do something about homelessness.
Part B: D: Paragraph 1 does the best job of explaining why the author is writing this story.
10. B is the most complete and accurate summary of the story.
11. D is the best choice because the last paragraph of the story indicates that Ben is likely to serve at a homeless shelter again soon.