Each time I see a homeless person with a sign on the street corner I find myself in an interior battle. Christ calls us to serve Him in the poor, and I have a strong desire to reach out to Him in these moments. Then, the usual arguments enter my brain… will they use the money for drugs or alcohol? However, Christ didn’t ask me to judge intentions, but to love. I ask myself, is Christ asking me to serve Him right now? My greatest problem however is that I almost NEVER carry cash… which is a major impediment to being able to give.
A few months ago I saw a man on the side of the road and my heart went out to him. As usual, I had an empty wallet, but as I looked around the car I noticed a large canister of mixed nuts. I rolled down my window and the man approached. I poured them into his dirty hand and his face was filled with appreciation. My daughter, who was three at the time, talked about the incident for days. She was intrigued by the concept and insisted we “pretend” she was homeless and that I invite her to live at our house and share our food and toys.
In the midst of this I remembered that a friend of mine told me about some bags her mother used to keep in the car to hand out in these situations. I realized that my inner conflict was rooted in a real desire to serve the needs of these people. It isn’t about money to me; it is about being Christ to Christ. So I asked myself, “what are the most important needs for the homeless?”The answer: to be fed physically and spiritually. So the idea was born.
Individually packaged snacks
Hygiene products I’d saved from hotels over the years
Tip: It helps to put perfumed products into a separate smaller sized ziplock. This helps the smell from transferring to the food.
Toothbrush (from Dollar Tree)
Hand sanitizers (also from Dollar Tree)
Plastic rosaries and prayer cards that we didn’t really use any more.
I also included a printout on how to pray the rosary and have since added the Mass and Confession times in the local area.
All in all, the bags ended up costing around 1-2 dollars apiece. About the amount I’d consider handing out the window. I’d like to think that this is money better spent!
Lastly, we began asking the names of the people we give the bags too. I heard in a homily once that this simple practice show the poor that we believe in their dignity. We promise to pray for them and we often do. In fact, my daughter often remembers their names and refers to them in her prayer. It has been an amazingly affective way to foster a love for God’s people in her little heart, not to mention mine!