Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Care packages for the homeless

Sometimes you need a three-year-old to remind you of how to interact with others. We live in Austin and there is a large homeless population here. At almost every corner, there is someone holding a sign, hoping for spare change. After having lived in LA for 5 years, I am accustomed to ignoring the man or woman on the corner, occasionally offering a polite smile, but nothing more. It took my three-year-old to remind me that these folks aren't just shadows on the corner, they're real people with lives and needs. Today, at a stoplight, I looked up. There was a man on the corner with a sign and suddenly his face lit up and he started waving and smiling at our car. That's when I realized that the Eskimo was smiling and waving from his carseat. He saw the man on the corner, really saw him, and recognized that he was another person who was JUST as worthy of his smile and wave as any other human being. Three-year-olds dole out smiles to everyone, equally. I love it.

This turned into a teachable moment for us. The questions started coming immediately. "Mama, what does his sign say? Who is he? Why doesn't he have a home? What happened to his home? Can he build a new one?" Oh gosh, how to answer all of this? There are no easy answers. His sign said, "Anything helps. God bless. (sleeping bag)". That was the only question I could fully answer. Next round of questions, "Why does he need a sleeping bag? Where does he go when the lightening strikes and thunder come?"

The only way I could think to answer all these queries was to tell my son how lucky we are. Things have been very difficult for us financially lately, but we are SO lucky. We have a home, my husband has a job, we have two happy, healthy children. The Eskimo and I decided to put a care package together for this man. I asked him what he thought we should put in it. He suggested a painting and a drawing and a tool box so the guy could make a new house. Gotta love three-year-olds. The Eskimo loves to share his artwork with others and I think we will include a painting. However, I don't think my husband would be delighted if we were to raid his tools. ;)

So far I think we will include:

Disposable razors
Hand-knit hat
Homemade cookies
An original painting by the Eskimo
Sleeping bag (We have spares that haven't been used years. Without a doubt, this man needs one more than we do.)

I also saw a suggestion to include a stamped postcard that says, "let someone know you're ok". I love this idea and if I can manage to get my hands on some postcards and stamps in the next couple days, I'll include this, too.

I am so glad to have been reminded that no matter how difficult things are for us, it could be so much worse, and we really are very lucky. We don't have much extra right now, but we have enough that we can share.

What would you include in a care package? Have you done this with your kids? What did they think? I'll post updates and pictures of our care package on my facebook page. Follow along there!