52 Projects: #3 The Blessing Bags

I don’t remember where I first heard of Blessing Bags but the concept stayed with me and it became a project I wanted to do with my children. We don’t really see many homeless in our day to day, but we do occasionally, and I felt it would be thoughtful to put a few bags together and keep one or two on hand in the car to share when we encounter someone who could use a little help.

It’s very simple. We gathered gallon-sized Ziploc bags and our supplies and got to work.

The items we included in each bag were tissues, wipes, bandaids, granola bars, a bottled drink (water or Gatorade), chicken/tuna salad with crackers, plastic spoon and fork, dental picks and hand sanitizer. Each bag also contained hotel, travel or trial-sized bottles of shampoo, conditioner, lotion, mouthwash, and/or soap. A couple of bags had sunscreen, chapstick, a toothbrush, toothpaste and other sundry items. We made sure to place bottles and soaps in separate smaller zipper bags in case of spills and so that the food items would not absorb the soap smells.

Of course, since I love lists, I made a printable list of possible items to include in Blessing Bags.

This was helpful when we went shopping for some of these items and for the kids to find these around the house and check them off either as they collect them or as they include them in the bags. After we brainstormed some ideas, we checked out what we already had, then took a little trip to our nearest drugstore to buy some small hand sanitizers and food items. I think the kids’ involvement is essential to this project. Truly essential.

Because most importantly, we had a conversation about homelessness and compassion. Our previous experiences have been limited to a few sessions sorting food at a local food bank. But homelessness in our area has been in the news quite a bit recently, what with a resident claiming the homeless aren’t human and don’t have our same rights, to a talented homeless pianist who became a media sensation, to a case of a mobile home park manager who was denying elderly residents deliveries from a food bank. And this isn’t new – Sarasota was named the meanest city for the homeless by the National Coalition for the Homeless in 2006. It’s clearly an important and ongoing issue and I wanted my children and I to do something tangible in some small way to become more aware and hopefully to help a few people. If we don’t encounter anyone who would like these bags, we’ll deliver them to a shelter for appropriate distribution.

This discussion we had was a good one, I felt. We discussed questions such as:

  • What does it mean to be homeless?
  • Who might become homeless? How do you think that can happen?
  • What problems can that cause?
  • What solutions can you think of?
  • Have you seen homeless people? How did that make you feel?
  • What do you think we could put in a blessing bag?
  • and we talked about the recent news events mentioned above.
It was interesting because when I asked what problems can be caused by homelessness, I expected answers like economic challenges, but my kids were thinking of the problems for the homeless – such as their health. When I asked what we could put in blessing bags, they mentioned books to help them become more educated so they could find work, rather than items that would simply help them survive another day. And that’s why it was an interesting conversation – they generated ideas for long-term solutions, and when they heard about proposed solutions including providing one-way tickets out of town and what that woman said about the human status and rights of the homeless, they were appalled.

Have you ever made Blessing Bags? What other things could I do with my children to help them grow more socially conscious and responsible?

 

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