A few months ago we were introduced to a mentor couple for our small group in Sunday School. They are the most precious couple, a few years ahead of us, and they are chalk-full of wisdom and good ideas when it comes to parenting our kids, loving our spouses and walking with the Lord.
One of the things they are so passionate about is serving with their family. They have two kids and have desired for a long time to teach them how to serve others by - get this - serving others!
But with little ones at home, it's hard to find something to do together as a family. Either we have to get a babysitter for the little one, or we have to find something super kid friendly so he's not running out into the street or begging to watch Thomas the Train on our iPhones while we serve soup to the homeless.
So when they gave us this idea, I thought it was an incredibly tangible way that our kids could learn how to be mindful of those around us in our community.
They're called Blessing Bags - and I had never heard about them before, but now that I searched for them they seem to be everywhere.
You can search on Pinterest to find many cute ideas, but ours were very basic. I wanted it to be simple enough that we can do it again but real enough that the kids can understand what we were doing.
I had several large Brown Lunch Sacks that we ended up using and decorating first. You can use gallon ziplocks or even the dollarstore drawstring backpacks.
Next we went to walmart and grabbed a package of protein bars, beef jerky sticks, almond snack packs and trail mix snack packs. We got a package of small waters and some crystal lights. We picked up hand sanitizer, toothpaste, deodorant, toothbrushes and mouthwash from the travel section. (We were making 5 bags and ended up with 6).
We were doing this on the fly as we prepared for vacation, but as we worked the kids came up with lots of other ideas that we want to collect over time for our next bags.
The idea is that you keep one or two in your car at all times - so try to think of stuff that won't melt or go bad. Then if you see someone on the corner asking for money or someone in need, the kids can grab their bag and give it to them.
Like I mentioned, we did this before vacation with the intent of handing them out on our way there (thanks, Julie for the idea!) But unfortunately we didn't come across any homeless people. Actually, that's not true - we did in downtown Mobile but he had a knife in his hand so we didn't stop. (True story).
It was so interesting to see how my kids reacted to this. Charlotte started going into her room to find all sorts of extra stuff to put in her bags. Notecards, pens and even free ice cream cards from CFA she got from a fundraiser. Brady was a little more aprehensive, although his heart was genuine. He was concerned that there wasn't going to be enough in the bag to help them, so why give them the bag. He kept saying, "why don't we just give them money" and "this isn't going to give them the help they need".
The lesson I want them to see here is that we should always be on the lookout for those in need and help where we can.
My sweet and tenderhearted children don't understand why we can't help everyone all the time. It was a blessing for me to see their hearts in this way, but also a challenge that I need to cultivate this desire for them to help others. (Don't think it was all sweet, y'all - because there was also the inquiry from one of my children if they could have the leftover beef jerky and protein bars instead of trying to make another bag).
I wanted to share here so that you, too, could make your own blessing bags! We have yet to hand them out but I know that as soon as we head back to Austin, there will be plenty of opportunity.