Sunday, December 16, 2012

Our Blessing Bag Party

I'll admit I haven't been very good at teaching the kids about giving to others.  I have looked into volunteering, but in past years have not been successful finding somewhere for kids of their age to help.  So instead we do all the easy stuff, like bring cans for the school can drive and collect change for "pennies for patients."  But to me, young kids can't grasp what exactly these dotations are for, much less where they go and who they help.  This year I decided I wanted to do something more tangible, so we organized a 'blessing bag' party.

In case you are unfamiliar, blessing bags are bags full of toiletries, snacks, and water with the intent to be handed out to homeless folks.  All the guests were responsible for a certain number of a certain item.  I took my boys shopping and they helped me hunt for the particular items we were in charge of.  I wanted them to get into the WHOLE process and get excited about buying something for someone else.  We convened at our house and all the kids went to work stuffing their bags.  But first, we made some Christmas cards to add to the bags...

Here's Lily getting some help with her cards.

Mason drawing some Christmas-y pictures.

Most of the gang gathered around and coloring.

Mason showing us his cards, complete with snowmen!

Owen chose to keep it simple and write Merry Christmas and sign his name.

This one got a lovely red Christmas tree with blue lights.

And then it was time to fill our bags with the goodies:

Here is the chaos that was bag stuffing!  

The kids had a blast fetching the next item on the checklist.

Here's Owen grabbing some tissue, and Emma coming back with trail mix!

My cute boys (M, O) hopefully learning about giving!

Here is a group shot of all the kids (Charlie Jane is in there, just hiding behind her bags) and all the blessing bags!
In the end we made somewhere around 40 bags!

And then it was time to deliver the bags!  The boys were anxious for this step but we had to wait for Daddy to become available after finals before hitting the streets.  Yes, we could have dropped them to people on the corners of busy intersections, but that would have been ME (or Aaron) in the front seat with the kids (who I'm trying to teach the lesson to) all the way in the 3rd row not taking an active role.  I wanted them to at least be able to hear what the recipient's response was.  Sometimes it is their response that makes you feel like you've done something good.  We headed to the homeless shelter downtown only to find more than 50 people standing around outside.  We didn't want to have to choose who to give our few bags to, nor did we want to create any arguments, so we decided to stay about a block away and hand our bags to the onesie-twosie groups of people we found.  Aaron wasn't thrilled with the idea of approaching strange people with his family in tow.  I can't say I blame him.  I think there is a stigma that these types of people are somehow dangerous.  However, I had to remind him that most likely, these were just people who fell on hard times.  The beauty of it was seeing it through the eyes of the kids.  They are 5 and not jaded about it yet.  To them these people were just people.  And so they took turns marching proudly (not fearfully) up to each person, outstretching their bag, and asking if they would like some goodies.  Every person we approached was grateful.  We got lots of thank you's, God bless you's, Merry Christmases, and warm looks of gratitude as we handed over the bags.  One guy even said "that was a very big thing you did young man."  I hope they remember his comment.  Owen and Mason ended each encounter with a jolly "Merry Christmas" and hopefully a better understanding of helping those who are less fortunate.

Here we are (M, O) downtown near the homeless shelter ready to deliver our bags!
(Yes, shorts and t-shirts in mid December!)