Blessing: “A beneficial thing for which one is grateful; something that brings well-being.”
As a single mom of two boys, there have been many times where I have been on the receiving end of a “blessing” from a family or friend, or sometimes a stranger. These small tokens of help have been a HUGE pick-me-up during my times of need. Even just a meal that I didn’t have to worry about cooking, or purchasing a tire for my vehicle is a blessing beyond words.
But during those “dire” times in my life, I have never been homeless. I have never worried if I’ll have a roof over my head. I have never worried if my children will starve. There have been times where we have gotten quite creative in the kitchen, and times I may have skipped a meal or two, but I never had the fear of my children going without food.
I have talked to my children for as long as I can remember about helping others that may not have much. When my oldest son was about 6, they were taking a collection in their class for Unicef. He had recently gotten some birthday money from his Nanna and he wanted to give ALL of that to his donation box. Now, $20 is not a HUGE substantial donation in our small minds. But for those that are homeless or in dire situations, $20 can go a long way! For example, at the Freestore Food Bank in Cincinnati, every $1 donated provides 3 meals!
Look at some of the homeless statistics just for the Cincinnati area:
- 7,810 – number of confirmed homeless people
- 3,435 – number of confirmed homeless men
- 2,111 – number of confirmed homeless women
- 48% suffer from mental illness
- 14% are veterans
- 30% are chronically homeless*
*(Chronically Homeless: According to HUD, an unaccompanied individual with a disabling condition who has been continuously homeless for a year or more, or has had at least four episodes of homelessness in the past three years)
WHAT CAN I DO?
Here is one of the simplest things we can do during this holiday season, and year round for that matter. Our family enjoys putting together “Blessing Bags” and handing them out as we travel to and from our destinations. Think of this: American drivers spend an average of more than 17,600 minutes behind the wheel each year, according to a new survey from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The amount of time the average driver spends behind the wheel each year is equivalent to seven 40-hour weeks at the office.
We spend SO much time in our cars, why not have a box or bag ready to go with some of these blessing bags you assemble at home? If you’ve driven anywhere in Cincinnati, you will often see men and women on the street with signs asking for money or food. There are so many times when I want to help out, but honestly, I rarely ever have cash on me. And in a hurry, I don’t have time to get out of my car and take this person to get a hot meal or buy them a new pair of socks. This is where blessing bags come in handy!
I recently stocked up on my Blessing Bags by shopping at Whole Foods Market. There are so many options for healthy and hearty snacks and quick meals there. My boys went shopping with me and helped to pick out what we would fill our bags with. This time, we did food Blessing Bags. There are times when we’ve done household Blessing Bags and those would contain several of the following:
- Wool Socks
- Small First Aid Kit
- Travel Size Toiletries
- Feminine Products
- Hats & Gloves
There are many options for food blessing bags. Keep in mind that many of the people you will hand these to will not have access to a kitchen to cook meals, so microwave ready meals are important. Also, higher protein snacks and meals are also important. This might be the only meal they have today, so make it something easy and accessible as well as hearty. Our Blessing Bags are filled with the following from Whole Foods Market:
- Fruit Leather
- Protein Bars
- Beef Sticks
- Cheese Crackers
- Electrolyte Water with Flavor Packs
- Lentil / Bean Protein Meal Packs
There are SO many healthy and hearty options to choose from at Whole Foods Market. And since you are making multiple Blessing Bags, buying snacks that come in multi-packs is easy with all the options Whole Foods Market has! I also LOVE the bean/rice/lentil meal packs that Whole Foods Market now carries. 90 Seconds in the microwave, and you have a very hearty meal that is packed with protein as well as being a warm meal. Whole Foods Market also donates foods to the local food banks and shelters on a continuing basis; they really know how to give back to their communities! For more information, check out their Community Giving Site Here.
There are literally hundreds of variations on the Blessing Bags that you can make. Whether it’s a food bag, a toiletry bag, or a winter clothing bag, every single option is in and of itself a huge blessing to those that receive these.
We keep several of these bags in our car and when we have the opportunity to hand these out, we do! My boys love the opportunity to bless someone with something that they not only made themselves, but something that really doesn’t take much time or effort to do. Our schedules are jam packed with school activities, sports, family functions, etc. Putting together a simple Blessing Bag filled with delicious and healthy options from Whole Foods Market takes a matter of moments, but will make an impression on those that receive it for a long time.
OTHER WAYS TO GIVE
If you aren’t comfortable with handing out the bags to someone, there are also several shelters in the Cincinnati area that will take donations of several kinds of food and products. Here are just a few to note:
We have so much to be thankful for. Why not spread some of that love to those that are in need? Your children will learn to be a blessing to others with small acts of kindness. And I’m willing to be that you will be blessed beyond what you could imagine by those that receive your Blessing Bags!