A bag of blessings

If you live in a community that is anything like mine (a suburb), it’s easy to avoid contact with people who are homeless. For better or for worse, many of us intentionally chose to leave cities (and the challenges and opportunities that come with urban environments) to raise our kiddos in smaller locales.

And, yet, there are homeless people right here where I live. I can envision their faces as I type this. The woman who sits on that particular street corner each day. A man who keeps coming back with a sign to that intersection. I bet the face of some individual in your own community is popping into your mind right now.

Our kids ask us what their signs say. Why do they need money? We try to explain that these people don’t have jobs or places to live. And as my kids’ questions continue, I do the best I can, but it’s difficult to explain how and why people end up in this position. Mental illness. Addiction. Alcoholism. Lack of skills and suitable employment. This is serious stuff that scares me also and I tread lightly around these topics.

And then the light turns green and we’re off to our next activity.

But that doesn’t sit well with me.

So last year, with our church, we made blessing bags to keep in our car so that we could provide something to people when we saw them. The plastic bags contain food items, personal care items and a resource sheet. You simply hand them out the car window when you see someone at an intersection.

The idea isn’t new. In fact, if you search on Pinterest (use the term Blessing Bags or Homeless Bags or Homeless Care Kits), you’ll find lots of people who provide great tutorials. Our church community used these as a guide and created a service opportunity for the congregation.

When I mentioned these bags to my friends and neighbors, nearly everyone remarked that they wished they had bags for their own cars. So this spring I decided that there was really no reason I couldn’t just host a little gathering on the back porch and invite families over to make blessing bags. It wasn’t complicated and it was the shortest gathering I’ve ever hosted (we were in and out in less than an hour and that’s only because we gabbed awhile afterwards).

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The list below is the items we included in our bags. Again, Pinterest is a wonderful resource for this.

Bag contents:

  • Granola bar
  • Juice box
  • Cheese crackers
  • Lip balm
  • Toothbrush and travel size toothpaste
  • 1 pair mens socks
  • Tissue packet
  • Resource sheet (local food pantry location, homeless shelter locations, and anything else that might help)

Once we laid out the items on a large table on my back porch, the kids each grabbed a gallon size plastic bag and went around the table, stuffing their bags with each item. They really enjoyed it, which only confirms in my mind that kids intuitively know helping people is a good thing and want to be a part of these efforts.

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I’m guessing that the readers of this blog help and contribute in large and small ways all the time. There is no silver helper bullet here. I only mention these blessing bags because it’s an option for people who want to help but haven’t quite figured out how to do it. It’s a tangible and easy way to help someone who is homeless and, unlike writing a check, it’s something children can see you physically do. (Though writing a check is awesome, so I’m not knocking it. God bless all the check writers!)

IMGP5257Now I’ll ask you. What’s the little or big thing you’ve been able to do to help someone in need? Or teach your kid how to show compassion? Or what idea sticks in the back of your mind as something you want to do this year?

A bag of blessings