As you're stopped at a red light you try not to make eye contact, because if you do they'll give you a sad little smile and hold their little cup out to you.
Sean and I have had lots of conversations about situations like these, and have gone back and forth about whether or not we ought to give to them. How do we know that they're really homeless? How do we know that they're not already looking for a job? How do we know that they're not going to use our money and spend it on drugs or alcohol or cigarettes? By giving our spare change, are we really helping them - or are we ultimately hurting them? We're still thinking on that.
(By the way, When Helping Hurts is an excellent book on this topic that would be worth checking out if you're interested in the topic of alleviating poverty!)
It wasn't until we saw an older man in the cold one afternoon with a sign that read, Hungry. Please help. that Sean and I decided to make up little packages like these. Hunger is something we can all relate to, and giving a warm meal in the name of Jesus makes Sean and I feel more comfortable than offering our coins that thousands of other people are already offering.
I don't know, really. This can be such a complicated ethical and theological issue, and as a Christian I might be completely wrong in not willingly offering up my money to those who are panhandling on the side of the road. But I'm still studying more on this, and how I can best be a steward of my resources for the Kingdom of God.
Okay, back to the bags. For $60, we made 8 bags. I picked up the supplies at Target with gift cards I had, and only spent $10 out of pocket after those. Not too bad. And I thought, while I have the gift cards, what better time to do this than now? After all, curtains for our bathroom, new yoga pants for me and socks for Sean can wait until later ;)
Here's what I included:
- toothbrush & toothpaste
- soap (note, Irish Spring soap is cheap [2/$.97], but it stinks. put it in a separate bag if you buy it for this purpose :P)
- peanut butter
- hot chocolate
- instant coffee
- trail mix
- Ramen noodles
- can of beans
- pack of gum
We have them in the back seat of our car, ready to go. I'm really looking forward to giving them away!
And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ - Matthew 25:40