In our current consumer-driven world, the value we place on “stuff” is a lot higher than we care to acknowledge. Some people need several large trucks to carry everything they own from one home to the next. You are likely reading this article on a smartphone or perhaps on a computer -- which cost a couple hundred dollars. It is a difficult thing -- especially for good-hearted American people -- to understand how selfish we all can be. And I am not talking about giving a homeless person a dollar, I am talking about giving when it hurts -- not out of your excess.
Feeling a little uncomfortable? Good. You feel that way because you know there’s some truth in what I’m writing. And let me start off by saying -- I am 100% guilty of all the same things. It is our culture. Not that we are victims -- but when you’re surrounded by this way of life, you grow accustomed to having “stuff and things.” You feel entitled to the things you earned. You worked hard for that! If others worked hard, they would have nice things too. Right?
I was once a person who would not give money to homeless people because they were scary or were likely to spend it on booze. I would judge (in my head) the people who were on food stamps or the single mothers who kept having children with no way to care for them. Then I realized how I was 50% of the problem.
You see, the best way to help someone is by making it personal. And that takes a lot of work. Our current government ran programs are extremely impersonal. We’ve been outsourcing charity to government institutions for years. Upon realizing this earlier this year, in an effort to try make it more personal I began putting together pre-packed bags of toiletries, foods, and other assorted items for homeless people in the area. The idea was not original, but who cares? It is just about doing something. For so long, I had wanted to do something but was always dismayed by the fact that there is SO much to do. It is overwhelming. What is the best or most impactful thing to do? I am fortunate to be surrounded by people that challenge me, and I realized that the only person who I had to worry about was me. As long as I was doing something then it was worth it.
Recently, I have been slacking in my efforts to help the needy. However, thank goodness, it is okay to fail! A fear of failure is a fear of life. Without beating myself up, I am getting back in the saddle. Part of that proverbial kick in the pants was the request to write on my efforts for The Designed Man. I immediately felt that good, healthy guilt which reminded me that I need to get it back in gear and remember the reason I started doing this in the first place. People need people. Everything you do that is selfless - great or small - is a drop in the ocean of change. And what is the ocean but a collection of drops?
If you’re looking for somewhere to start, here are some step-by-step instructions you can follow:
1. Go to Goodwill and purchase gym bags, back packs, etc. $6 - $7 a piece. On the first Saturday of the month everything in Goodwill is half off, so go then to keep your costs down.
2. Below is a list I used as a guide for what I would plan to put in the bags. I could get all items for $1 (max) at places like the Dollar Store, Dollar Tree, or whatever is found in your area. You can also order online in bulk. I didn’t find many good deals buying in bulk at Costco, so you are usually better off at convenience stores. A big reason is because you need everything you’re buying in individual packing. You don’t want to buy a bunch of trail mix and put it in Ziploc bags because the person you’re giving it to doesn’t know that you’re not a nut who sprinkled rat poison on everything. Give them the peace the rest of us have from that Safety Seal. Having people collect items from hotels is also a big help. If you are filling a bag for $20, you’re on track. You can always stray from the list...it’s just a starting point.
3. Let people around you know what you’re doing. You will be amazed how much people want to help. They just need someone to take point! Leaders are only leaders because people will follow them. Get people involved. Do not bite off more than you can chew though -- that’s a quick recipe for burnout, and it is something that happened to me.
4. Give your bags away to people in person or find a local distribution channel. I began working with a local substance abuse facility (privately owned -- that is important too, no government involvement) that also had homeless outreach. I also kept a few at my church's building where people could take them as needed.
5. Repeat. Have some type of frequency so that you can hold yourself accountable.
If you have any questions, I would be happy to answer them. Remember, people need people. Love is what changes people and reminds us that we are all cut from the same cloth.
Supply List: 10oz Vienna sausages, 1.5 liter water bottle, large package saltine crackers, bag of peppermints, cereal bars, 8oz jar of peanut butter, stick of jerky, 10oz box raisins, snack pack of apple sauce, tube of toothpaste, toothbrush, generic deodorant, 1.5oz baby powder, 2.5oz body wash, pack of 2 lip balm sticks, pack of 60 bandages, 1.5oz hand sanitizer, 10 pack white crew socks, backpack. I have also included a checklist version of the supplies at the bottom of this article.
Danny Coleman-Guest Author
Danny gets to work from home as the project manager for a real estate investment group in middle Tennessee. His free time is spent with his wife, daughter, family and many wonderful friends generally just having a rad time. You can find out more about Danny on: