In America, we live in a culture of more, more, and more. We’re never happy with what we’ve got. We always want something else. Something newer, bigger, faster, better.
We forget that if we’ve got a roof over our heads, enough food to fill our bellies, and clean water to drink and bathe in that we’re doing better than:
- 100 million people worldwide who are homeless
- 870 million people worldwide who don’t have enough to eat
- 783 million people worldwide without access to clean water
Those numbers are so big. How to make a dent? How to make a difference?
Living in Los Angeles, sites like this one are common:
I didn’t take this photo, NoHoDamon did. But I recognize this woman. She stands in the median where Crescent Heights meets Wilshire Boulevard near Museum Row. Rather than just ask for handouts, she sells artwork – childish drawings done on cheap paper with crayons. I know that because I worked in the building behind where she’s standing for a year.
Like a lot of people, I’ve always been a little uncomfortable with the idea of handing out cash, and I don’t tend to carry much of it around with me anyway. But I always wanted to do something when I saw homeless people in the streets. So I gave it some thought and I came up with the idea of making up little kits that I could keep in my car and hand out as needed. Of course, I’m not the first person to come up with this idea, and you’ll find lots of websites giving ideas and recommendations on what to include. I call them homeless kits. No two kits are ever the same – it depends on what I was able to get hold of when I was putting them together and what time of year. But here are some of the things I have included:
- Food – nonperishable items that can be opened without a can opener like beef jerky, pull-tab cans of fruit cocktail, crackers, granola bars, etc.
- Plastic utensils and napkins
- Plastic zipper bags in a couple different sizes
- Bandages or small first-aid kits
- Hand sanitizer
- Flip flops
- Phone cards
- Paper, envelopes, and stamps
- Tampons and pads
- Pens or pencils
- Small notebook
- Gift certificates for grocery stores or fast food restaurants
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Lip balm
- Comb or brush
- Deck of cards
- Paperback book
- Baby wipes
- Nail clippers and nail files
- Bottle or two of water
Then I pack up cheap bags – giant plastic zipper bags, cheap gift bags, or re-usable shopping bags – with these items and leave them in my car. There’s a big supply in the trunk and I put 1 or 2 in the backseat so I can easily reach them when needed.
It feels really good to be able to give back and make someone’s day a little brighter and easier.
Image credit: Pedro Ribeiro Simões