“Come on, James,” Laura grumbled as she tugged her little brother’s hand. “I have homework to do, and I need to get home.” “But didn’t you see that lady?” James protested. “She was in the doorway over there by the hardware store, and she had a big bag.” “I didn’t notice.” Laura carefully checked traffic before guiding James across the street.
“But, Laura, she didn’t even have a coat on, and it’s snowing.”
“She can go downtown to the shelter,” Laura assured James. “It’s warm there.”
“She needs a coat,” James stated matter-of-factly, half-running to keep up with his sister’s long strides.
“You can’t do anything about that,” Laura said, pulling open the door to their apartment building. “I’ll make you a snack now,” she said, “but then please don’t interrupt me while I do my math. Mom and Dad will be home soon.”
James nodded and twisted the tip of his mitten, still thinking about the lady standing with her arms wrapped around her in the cold.
After supper was over and the kitchen had been cleaned, James put on his jacket, hat, and mittens and grabbed his bulging backpack. “Laura, if your homework’s done, will you take me for a walk?”
“Why? It’s snowing and cold.”
“I need exercise. My teacher said that children should get lots of it.”
Laura sighed, and James gave her a big hug. “Pleeeease,” he pleaded.
“Oh, all right.” Laura pulled on her coat. “We’ll be back in fifteen minutes,” she hollered to Mom.
James skipped along beside Laura as they walked down the block.
“You sure are full of pep tonight,” she said. “And why the backpack—is that to build your muscles too?”
James giggled and twirled around. “You’ll see,” he said, smiling.
When they reached the corner with the stoplight, Laura turned around, but James stood still, staring at the empty doorway near the hardware store. “The lady’s gone!”
“I told you she’d probably go to the shelter.”
“But I brought her a present.” James unzipped his backpack. “See—I have a blanket for her. It’s my blue one. I don’t use it anymore. Now what can I do?”
Laura looked at James’s watery eyes and quivering lip. She smiled gently. “Maybe we can take your blanket to the shelter,” she said. “But we’ll have to ask Mom and Dad if it’s OK to give it away, and we’ll need one of them to drive us there.”
Mom and Dad listened as James told them about the lady and asked to take the blanket to the shelter. By the time he’d finished, Laura came from her bedroom, carrying some sweaters. “If we can go to the shelter, I’ll take these—OK? I’ve outgrown them.”
“Hmmmm,” Dad said. “Wait here.” He and Mom disappeared into their bedroom. They were soon back with an armful of clothes each. “We can take these, too,” he said.
James helped fold the clothes into three bags. Then they all bundled up and stepped out into the hallway of their apartment building. As they shut their door, Mrs. Hopkins, their neighbor, was just going into her own apartment. Noticing their bags, she asked Laura, “Going to visit your grandparents?”
“No, we’re taking this stuff to the shelter,” James announced proudly before Laura could answer.
“You are?” said Mrs. Hopkins. “Could you wait just a minute?” She hurried inside and soon came back with a box of groceries. “Will you take these for me?”
Meanwhile, Mr. Thomas had opened his door to see what was going on. It turned out that he had two bags of books he wanted to donate. Then Jimmy, his son, gave them a big stuffed bear. Miss Andrews, who lived farther down the hall, gave them some boots and mittens and two coats. By the time they left, their station wagon was full of bags and boxes.
“I’ll help carry the bags,” James said. “They’re not too heavy for me, and I’m a good helper.”
“Yes, you are,” Dad said.
Laura gently ruffled James’s hair sticking out around his cap. “Your one blanket started an avalanche,” she said. “I didn’t know such a little squirt could do that.”