Friday, November 18, 2011

Care Packages for the homeless

Carbon is reading every sign and everything we pass, especially when I'm driving. Now that he's finally got the letter-reversals mostly under control, the Code is Cracked and he's loving being able to read things for himself.

So it's a rainy day, and I'm taking them to PE at the YMCA. We are stopped at a red light, and there's a homeless man standing at the corner with a hand-lettered sign on a piece of cardboard. Carbon sounds it out: "Homeless. Please Help", and he reads it out loud just as the light changes and I start to drive away.

Hypatia yells "he was asking for HELP! Why didn't you stop?"

Indeed. Why didn't I stop? Because I don't know how best to help him? Because I'm afraid that giving him cash won't really help? Because I don't usually carry much cash? Because I'm embarrassed to hold traffic up? Because, honestly, it gets tiring to keep seeing other people's pain and a numbness takes over where you just stop looking?

None of that is good enough for my kids. None of that is good enough for my own best self, either (and my kids are like the external manifestation of my own best self - and worst self too, of course. All about the extremes, young people). The kids want to help, and they need something tangible they can do.

So we talked about what would help, if you lived on the streets. We don't want to give them money to spend on alcohol or drugs, if that is part of why they are on the streets. But we want to give them something. In the end, we went to the big warehouse store and got batteries, those instant handwarmers, and some good thermal socks. We also bought gift cards to the movie theater, hoping that maybe they can go get in out of the cold for a bit that way. Gift cards for coffee shops and McDonalds (hey, it may not be the best nutrition but it's right downtown, it's warm inside, and the money goes a long way there) will go in future bags I think.

The kids wrote cards, that say "Stay Well" on them, and they packed the care packages up. Now, the next time we see someone who is asking for Help, the kids can give them this.




  1. Thank you for this wonderful idea! My boys and I pass homeless folks with signs a couple times a week when we drive through downtown Mpls. The boys always ask me why I don't give them money, and I find myself struggling through a awkward conversation. We will definitely put some together this winter!

  2. We made care packages for homeless people this week, too! I never thought of putting hand warmers in them, but I'm sure they would be very helpful. The gift cards are a great idea, too.