Sweater on a Cold Day

We had just received a large donation of clothing. As we looked at the pile, we didn’t know what to do with it, but figured that the answer would present itself. As three of us walked home for dinner, we saw a woman begging by the bridge. She was old and had no legs. She shivered in her thin sari, which offered little protection from the cold wind, but could not seek even mild refuge in her “hut” (four wooden posts, with a tarp like material as a roof and walls). Her hunger compelled her to beg. My friends and I looked at each other: here was a perfect opportunity, but first it was necessary to do a little bit of “research.”

We went up to the woman to hear her story. She spoke very little due to her poor health and fear, but we learned enough. She lives alone in her hut. She has no one to look after her and ate whatever people gave her. No stove or grains could be found in her small home. The desire to help her only grew stronger. After speaking to her, we headed back to get something to keep her warm. Finding the perfect sweater, we set out again to see the woman. This time, the fear was replaced with distrust as we presented her with the sweater.

“Are you robbers?,” she asked. “You came here before and are back so suddenly with clothes. How do I know you’re not robbers?”

It is took me a second to respond. I was taken back by her principles. Even in her state, she did not want to wear anything was stolen and gained by crooked means.

“No mother, we are out to do service work.”

Her shoulder relaxed a bit. I then helped her put the sweater on and got ready to leave.

Before I left, I turned back to the woman and said, “Mother, don’t sell the sweater.” (Often the poor will sell clothing they get).

“No son, I swear on mataji (the goddess she believed in) that I won’t.”

A week later, I was out walking with my mom to get some food when I saw the woman again. This time the picture was a little different. She was still begging, but with a grey sweater wrapped around her body and a smile on her face when she saw us. I guarantee that the smile on my face was bigger.