Spread the Good: May’s Random Act of Kindness
As children, most of us are taught that we ought to leave the world a better place than we found it. But as we grow older, busier and perhaps even a little jaded, we may lose some of our idealism or simply fall out of the habit of giving. That’s why our “Spread the Good” series of blog posts will focus on simple, straightforward and practical ways that each of us can make a difference. And one of the great things about doing good is that it can produce a ripple effect as one good deed can inspire another and so on.
As the weather warms and you find yourself spending more time outdoors, you may notice the local homeless population becoming more visible as well. Though your first instinct may be to ignore the homeless, it’s more empowering and satisfying to acknowledge them as human beings and try to address their condition as part of a larger web of social problems that either directly or indirectly affect us all. While it’s unlikely that homelessness will disappear any time soon, we’re all capable of making small gestures that express solidarity with the homeless and help to alleviate their suffering.
Assembling a Care Package
The most common interaction that the average person has with a homeless person is being asked for money or food. Despite the familiarity of these requests, the homeless actually rely on a much longer list of common items to live in a healthy and dignified manner. Assembling and distributing care packages that contain a handful of these items can provide significant assistance to those struggling to survive and get back on their feet. Some great items to include are: toiletries, bus or subway passes, women’s sanitary products, first aid supplies, reusable water bottles, snacks, socks/gloves/hats (in cold weather) and food.
The Gesture of Giving
Giving a care package to another person is, and must be, a personal gesture. Presenting a gift to another person is a way of acknowledging their humanity. While most people in need will be happy to receive a thoughtful gift, you should be prepared for the possibility that an individual might have different needs than you expected. This is also a great opportunity to find out what an individual’s needs are, which is information that you can keep in mind when assembling your next care package.
Sometimes, the conversation that accompanies a care package is actually more valuable to a homeless person than what the package contains. While we don’t want to minimize the very real dangers and needs that the homeless must live with every day, the dehumanization they experience can also pose a major obstacle to their survival and reentry into society. Simply talking to a homeless person face to face as an equal is one way that we can all lessen the burden of homelessness.
Other Ways to Give
Giving a care package is a great way to have a personal interaction with a homeless person while providing necessary aid. However, there are many other ways to help the homeless, such as by volunteering time and energy or by donating financially. Working with a local homeless shelter or activist organization is a great way to learn more about the lives of the homeless and the societal conditions that contribute to homelessness. And while it may not be as personal, a donation to a homeless shelter or food pantry may actually have a larger material impact than a care package would.