Saturday, December 19, 2009

Love in a Bag

Yesterday my college-aged son spent one of his first days of Christmas break in a creative act of giving. He went to the Dollar Store and bought supplies for what our church calls Manna Bags—packages of non-perishable food and toiletry items—then took the bus to the downtown station where he handed some of them out. He didn’t intend it as an act of Christmas giving. After seeing so many homeless or down-and-out men and women hanging around the bus stop whenever he took public transportation to his college classes, he felt led to do it. He had gotten in the habit of keeping a Manna Bag in his backpack in case he saw someone in need and this was his chance to give several at once without worrying about the time. It wasn’t until he got home and shared about who he’d given them to that I saw it as a creating Christmas outreach.

If you struggle with how to handle requests for “spare change” consider making some Manna Bags. They are a great way to . . .
Show you care
Offer help without giving money

How to make a Manna Bag
• Use large zipper bags or lunch bags (that’s what Christian uses).
• Go to the Dollar Store or someplace where you can get a lot for your money, to buy items to fill the bags.
• Good Manna Bag stuffers include:
o Non-perishable foods – raisins, nuts, dried fruit, granola bars, and lunch sized fruit or applesauce cups, tuna & cracker packs (the Dollar Store often carries these), beef jerky, etc. If you include foods that require a fork or spoon be sure to slip in a plastic one.
o A bottle of water
o Toiletry items like a toothbrush & toothpaste or soap & a wash cloth
o Cold weather items like socks, a stocking cap, or stretchy gloves
o A treat – slip in a candy bar or snack cake to brighten their day. If you plan to do this before Christmas, you might want to include a candy cane.
o Extras – Our church included 20-minute phone cards from the Dollar Store with a note that said “Call your family to let them know you are okay,” as a gospel tract.
Christian’s are always very simple since he is a starving student. He fills his bags with food items, a water bottle, a treat, and a toothbrush.

Tips for handing Manna Bags out
• If you encounter needy people on a regular basis, keep one in your backpack or car so you are prepared when you want to reach out.
• If someone asks you for money, offer the Manna Bag instead
• Use caution – If you want to hand out bags in an area where you’ve noticed a lot of homeless people, go with your parents, some friends, or a group so you aren’t alone.
• If someone makes you feel uncomfortable, stay away. Never risk your safety.
• Think beyond the homeless. You might know of a kid at school or in your neighborhood who could benefit from one now and then.


Maria I. Morgan said...

What an excellent idea! Jeanette, you must be so proud of your son! What a difference this could make in a person's life. Definitely sharing this with the women of our ladies' ministry! Merry Christmas!

Sarah Anne Sumpolec said...

What a great idea!