We will be sharing over the next several weeks a Series called “Do No Harm” – teachings that I’ve learned and practiced in my time working with the homeless from New Orleans to Spartanburg and a few other places along the way.
A pretty important lesson that I learned in my early days working with homeless was that I had to be prepared. Prepared in all kinds of ways. Prepared to help them physically, spiritually, emotionally or socially. Prepared to tell them yes or no, depending on what and how I could help them. Prepared with knowledge to share about where they could get help. Prepared in prayer and God’s word and ready to respond as the Holy Spirit led me.
There are several simple ways that you can be better prepared as you interact with our homeless friends. One way is to know about what services are available to our friends. Do you know which shelters take men and women, or which shelters only take families? Do you know where they are located? Do you know if your town has a place where they can get a hot meal each day and when they serve that meal? Spend some time looking around and learning about what resources and services your community offers. One word of caution though is to make sure that your info is correct! Imagine you are a single mom on the street and someone told you that the local shelter takes single moms and you walk 20 minutes with your bags and child to find out that they don’t. It can be quite frustrating when the information is wrong. One resource that is often overlooked would be 211. Did you know that anyone can call 211 or go online and find out resources in their community for their specific situation. This is a GREAT resource from the United Way.
Another simple way is to have something to give them tangibly when they ask or when you come across someone in need in a parking lot or at a street corner. Often times it’s in these moments, we can be caught off guard and our only option is to give them money or tell them “No”, which isn’t always the best way to love and serve our friends. When I lived in New Orleans, I kept at least three or four bags for the homeless ready in my car so that I was always prepared to love and serve.
A “blessing bag” can also model to your children several important life lessons such as:
- You care about and value others, and they should too.
- Homeless people matter, as do all people because they are created by God.
- We should value helping and serving and loving others because God commands it!
- Helping others can be easy, cheap, and fun!
- You always strive to be prepared and ready to help, and they should too!
You can let your little’s help you as you put them together and talk about homelessness, and how we are called to love and serve all people. You can pray with your little ones as you work to put the bags together. You can let them color a picture or write a note and add it into the bag. Below are some of the items that I make sure to have in my bags.
- Travel size toiletries such as soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, lotion
- $5 fast food gift card from places like McDonald’s
- Bottle water
- Granola Bar
- Fresh Fruit (banana or orange) if giving away quickly
- Pop top canned tuna or chicken
- Info about a local ministry where they can get assistance (for me, it’s Refuge info)
There are a few more ideas over on our Pinterest Page.
So are you prepared when you met a friend on the street? How can you better prepare yourself and your family to respond in love and with wisdom?