My job takes me on quite a long commute, often through the stop-and-go traffic of Baltimore city. A lot of my time, then, is spent in the car. Oftentimes, I will drive through the downtown traffic at a snail’s pace and see individuals outside with signs indicating that they need help. They are hungry. They are cold. As temperatures drop in the winter, I, like many people, want to help but are unsure about giving cash to every individual I see in need of assistance.
But I feel the weight of my inaction, especially with my son in the backseat.
So I started giving out extra protein bars that I shoved in my bag for those chaotic mornings when I didn’t get the opportunity to eat breakfast and then learned about “blessing bags.” Meet Dori Chait, chairwoman of Good Deeds Day, who has been creating blessing bags with her children and members of her community through the Jewish Volunteer Connection under the umbrella of the The Associated: Jewish Community Federation of Baltimore.
“We have received tons of feedback from children and families about blessing bags,” says Chait. “Kids are eager to create them and distribute them. It also allows families to engage in conversation about bigger issues in our community and what we are able to do to begin to tackle it.”
Blessing bags are great because they can be changed to adjust to your target population and when you are distributing them. For instance, if you are creating blessing bags for the homeless in the winter, you would want to try to include socks, sock or glove warmers, hats, gloves, trail mix and bottled water. Blessing bags made for men in a homeless shelter can include things like soap, razors, shaving cream, body lotion and healthy snacks.
Individuals who work near a hospital might want to create blessing bags for children who spend time there for treatments or appointments. These blessing bags could include art projects, crayons, small activities, stickers and stress balls. These bags are an opportunity to look around your community and create a little gesture of kindness for encounters with those who may need it.
Never underestimate the power of being personal. Chait says that she likes to try to include a handwritten note in the blessing bags as well, for a personal and encouraging touch. Human connection is huge!
Chait is aware blessing bags do not fix long-term systemic issues, but emphasizes they have an important role as “sprinkles of kindness and make one day better for someone that is need.”
These bags are a really wonderful alternative to giving money or to doing nothing and allow for a really positive interaction between the giver and the recipient.
So have a party in your office to make blessing bags for the kids in the hospital next door or have your family make them for the homeless you pass on your way to work. Keep them in your car or on your desk so you can grab it when you walk outside and make someone’s day — and yours — just a little better.