Last night as I was riding the express train from Grand Central, a young widow entered the car asking for money to feed her children. She was pretty, dressed fine, but despite her seemingly upbeat demeanor, the desperation in her voice was apparent. I started to reach into my pocket for change but let her pass by. As far as I could tell, no one gave her money, and she exited at the next stop. As the train departed the platform, she looked bewildered, and a few seconds later, I was sure I saw her crying. I felt like a bad person.

I try to be a good role model for others, and yet ironically, when that opportunity arises, I find myself wondering what other passengers will think if I give money. I make excuses. Too well-dressed. Too shabby and smelly. Probable scam artist. Will I, as the thinking goes, encourage panhandling on the subway? This is absurd because I am usually comforted when someone else gives. How bad would things have to be before I humbled myself before complete strangers and begged for money? I think it would be really bad.

I can't recall a time when I prayed for someone I didn't know, but I prayed for her last night.

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