January 10

Freely ye have received, freely give. —Matthew 10:8

The wind was brisk as we headed from the library to my daughter Elizabeth's music class. As we neared 57th Street, I noticed a woman sitting near the trash can on the corner. She wore a thin T-shirt and was wrapped to the waist in a black plastic garbage bag. Her body shook violently from the cold as she held out a ragged paper cup and asked for money. Even by New York City standards, this was appalling. The fistful of change in my pocket was in her cup before I even thought about it.

Then the light changed, and I herded the children across the busy intersection. Halfway there, I turned the stroller around and headed back.

"Where are we going, Mommy? Why are we turning around?" clamored the children.

"We're going back to help that lady."

Back at the street corner, I pulled Mary's baby blanket out of my backpack. It was a pretty white wool blanket, thin but large. As I began to put it around the beggar woman's shoulders, a passerby stopped me.

"Don't do it," she advised. "She's a fake!"

"It doesn't matter what she is," I replied, "she's cold!"

In a moment, we were back on our way. After a block or two, John asked, "What's a fake?"

I explained.

"Why did you give that lady the blanket, then?" Elizabeth wanted to know.

I wasn't completely sure, though I tried to explain. "Jesus asks us to help people in need, and when we give to them, we are giving to Him. To me, it's better to be cheated than to judge someone's motives and be wrong. That lady was cold. We were able to help. Even if she only kept the blanket on for a few minutes, she needed it more than we did. Whatever she did after that is between her and God."

I've never seen that woman again, nor do I have any idea what happened to the blanket. Whatever took place, I know at least one thing is different about her: Someone has been praying for her. Me.

Jesus, remake my heart in the image of Your generosity.

—Julia Attaway