I was supposed to post this weeks ago, but I've been so incredibly busy, I had to keep putting it off.
So far, I have given away over thirty-five Bundle Bags to the less fortunate. I thank God for the opportunity to be in a financial position to help others, as there are some greater things I'm looking forward to accomplishing this year (2016). Thirty bags may not seem like a lot, but when broken down to simple parts, it is. Each bag cost about $5-6 each, that's $150-$180 for all bags combined. I only gave out bags to the homeless while en route to where I was going, meaning, I didn't make any special trips to seek out people to find. Almost everyone we gave a bag to was at a traffic signal or stop sign intersection. Sometimes I would make a U-turn if I couldn't get to someone- these bags are made to be given away, not hoarded in the car. But, I digress. I have learned some strong lessons with these thirty bags, and not necessarily things I was completely ignorant of, sometimes it was a "refresher" lesson or confirmation of my thinking, belief and conviction. There were many eye-opening experiences. Should you, reader, decide that you want to be a blessing to those less fortunate, I really believe these will help you. Mind you, these Thirty Bags of Lessons are not in any particular order. Lesson 1: Don't Assume All homeless people are not dirty, scruffy, and stinky. They are not all homeless because of alcohol and substance abuse. Sometimes I found it difficult to tell if a person was homeless or not, but I used context clues, like if they were sitting on the ground in an unlikely area. Homelessness doesn't equate to dirty. Remember that. People are able to keep as clean as possible by using public bathrooms to freshen up. So just because someone appears to be clean, don't assume that they must be a liar trying to steal people's money. Lesson 2: You Might Have To Assume There's an intersection off the highway near our church where there's a run-down hotel. From what I can tell, and what I've been told, the hotel is basically a home for drug addicts and prostitutes. And sure enough, sometimes we'll see people who clearly look like they are on drugs. Need I describe? Didn't think so. They would basically stand out at the intersection and beg, and the use the money to fund their drug addiction. Sorry, but my money doesn't fund that. In this case, it's safe to assume that anything you give someone in a known "drug area" may get traded for drugs. And that's not what we're here to do. Lesson 3: People React Differently I've seen a lot of reactions, and none of them have been of ungratefulness. Some people will just say 'Thank you and God bless you", and others will act with a lot of emotion (usually women lol). But don't think that because someone isn't kissing your feet with gratitude for this little bag of supplies, that they aren't grateful for it. Everyone has a sense of dignity- so just smile, say "You're welcome", and be humble. There is one woman that I will never forget- she was so incredibly excited about the bag we handed her. She kept thanking us specifically for the hygiene products, and said that she had not had a clean pair of socks in a long time. It brought tears to our eyes, and we were completely humbled by this woman. It made me happy that we were making a difference, but it broke my heart at the same time. I thank God that everybody didn't react like that, because my heart wouldn't be able to take it. Lesson 4: Don't Seek Your Own Glory This thing was never about men . From the beginning Project Lovingkindness has sincerely been about helping the less fortunate. I am a FIRM believer that everything does not have to be posted on social media. We live in an age where people are so entangled with instant gratification. If you notice, I never post pictures of me handing Bundle Bags to the homeless. Why would I need to? I really hate seeing stuff like that because you're basically telling me that you only have that item so you could get some Facebook or Instagram likes. How would you like it if your face was sprawled all over the Internet getting a handout? Be humble, and stay humble. Think about it this way, these people are already at a low point in their life. Why would you make them feel needy? Why would you make them feel less than you? Why would you try to make yourself feel like "somebody" at the cost of someone else's dignity? My goal is to help people, not to get attention from it. Let God bless you for the work. Lesson 5: There Are Seasons Sometimes weeks would go by and I wouldn't see anyone to give bags to. I kept a log of the date, location, whether it was a man or woman, and how many bags. I later chopped this down to date, whether it was a man or woman, and quantity because I felt some of those details didn't matter in the long run. Where were all the people at? I had to put two and two together- if the weather was inclement or extremely cold, maybe they were somewhere trying to stay warm. Maybe they found a homeless shelter, or got back on their feet. Maybe they were in jail, or living with someone. Who knows? Both there are seasons, especially during the winter months it gets really slow, and still hasn't quite picked back up yet, and it's March. Lesson 6: Seek Quality and Excellence I started out using gallon size storage bags to carry the contents of the Bundle Bags. But then I got to thinking- these bags could tear, melt in the heat, and generally wear out fairly quickly. This was not acceptable, and I needed to do better. I've been sewing for what feels like a really long time (13 years!) and have plenty of fabric at home. Why not make some sturdy, reusable tote bags for Project Lovingkindness? I bought about 10 years of duckcloth on clearance a few years ago, and never really used it. Duckcloth is a fabric similar to a combination of khaki and bluejean- it's very sturdy. Now my bundle bags come in a reusable tote (pictured above) which is much more effective than a single gallon size bag, and will last likely as long as needed. Lesson 7: Reflect Every time someone was given a bag, it made me reflect on how much grace and mercy I've been shown. It made me grateful for the things that God has blessed me with. That could have easily been me. In fact, when I was in elementary school, my mother and three kids (myself included) were a breath away from being homeless. My uncle allowed all of us to live with him in his one-bedroom apartment. We lived with him for a long time, I think maybe a year or so. Needless to say, it makes me feel good handing off a bag to someone. It may not necessarily change someone's life, but at the same time it could. Maybe that single act of lovingkindness can avert a suicide attempt, or give someone the encouragement to overcome their situation. Maybe it's the only thing that has made them feel loved, or to know that someone cares about them. Have you given any survival bags to the homeless? What eye-opening experiences or lessons did you learn?