The Thin Blanketed Heart

TheDiscipleMD

I believe that the Lord will judge us according to the intent of our “hearts” and not necessarily by our actions. In 1976 I was found in the middle of history as Argentina, the country I was laboring in, had a military overthrow of the president of the country, Isabel Peron.  During the height of the military coupe there was no money getting to the missionaries in the field.  Most of us in the southern part of the mission, being far from the mission home, were left to fend for ourselves for several months. Communication and travel was limited. At one point I remember we were left with just one bag of rice in the cupboards. Under this condition my companion and I happened to visit a local hospital. The tiny city we were stationed in was in the south part of Argentina where the winters are cold. Since we had very little money and no heat in the house where we lived, we would sleep at night with the one light blanket we each had, and then we would pile all our clothes on top of us. It was quite a sight to behold. All our white shirts, pants, socks, and P-day clothes were piled on top of the thin blanket in hopes of a warm nights sleep. We had been sent to open the city months earlier when the weather was still warm. We were the first missionaries to grace the city, ever, so we had no members to depend upon. We were not financially prepared to have our funds abruptly cut off and so we found ourselves in dire straits. So our state of mind when we visited the hospital that cold wintry day was of great uncertainty.

As we visited I noticed one patient was an elderly woman who was tightly clutching to her chest the thin blanket on her bed and while shivering whispered the words, “I am cold, I am cold, I am cold!” I guess you could say that seeing her there warmed my heart and I asked the nurse if this woman could receive another blanket. The nurse replied that there were no other blankets to give as the hospital was poor and had no more. My companion and I left the hospital but the vision of this woman stayed in my head the rest of the day and into the night. As I lie in bed that night I came to a determination that I would give her my blanket. As we arose the next day I turned to my companion and told him of my intentions. He responded that I had no money to buy another one and that I would be without. I agreed with his assessment but, nevertheless, folded my thin blanket and started for the hospital. As we entered the hospital and found our way to the old woman’s bed we found it empty. I inquired of the nurse regarding her whereabouts and was told that she had passed away in the middle of the night. I left with my thin blanket in arms and a heavy heart.

Fast forward a year.  The country had stabilized, funds were plentiful from home, and I found myself in another small town on the outskirts of Buenos Aires.  We were teaching a wonderful but poverty-stricken elderly couple. We invited them to church several times and although they made promises to be there they never came. Finally I vigorously challenged them to come to church. With his head bowed, the elderly man softly said that he was embarrassed to come to church as he had no clothes that he felt would be appropriate for the occasion.  We left and I pondered over what he said and after thinking about it came to the conclusion that I would give him my suit. I was sure that my Mom and Dad would send me extra money to purchase another one if I told them I had given one of my two suits away. The old man was speechless when, later on that day,  I handed him my suit. He wept. It was a moving sight. One I have never forgotten. My companion told me I was such a wonderful person for giving him my suit and sang praises to my name all the day long. Somehow, although I had done good, it didn’t feel that special. After all, I was going to get a new suit and I knew it. It hadn’t really been some great sacrifice. And sure enough, I was wearing my new suit within weeks. Which of my two actions do I think the Lord was more pleased with; the thin blanketed heart or the ‘replaceable’ suit?

“…I say unto the poor, ye who have not and yet have sufficient, that ye remain from day to day; I mean all you who deny the beggar, because ye have not; I would that ye say in your hearts that: I give not because I have not, but if I had I would give. And now, if ye say this in your hearts ye remain guiltless…” (King Benjamin)

When we give, let us do so with a pure and willing heart! And when we can’t, let our hearts be blanketed in love for those we cannot help.

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