Monday, November 15, 2010

I heart big hearts.


How do I even begin to introduce Leslie from Top of the Page?
She has been gifted with creativity, passion and  intelligence, but the best part about her?  A beautiful, intentional, and generous heart.
I love to read the words that pour from her mind, and witness the journey that God is taking her on. I couldn't be a bigger fan of all of the lovely that is Tidbit, the friendship that she shares with Shauna, or the fun to be had at Cake and Cotton.  However, above all, when she shared this simple and meaningful idea with me, I could not contain my tears.

With that, I would like to introduce you to Leslie.
I challenge you to make this Thanksgiving about something more than food and football.  Our family is planning to adopt this tradition this year.  I truly believe it will change all of our hearts in unexpected ways.  

Socks are in my Cornucopia

 My family gets into Thanksgiving, especially the food part.  Every year, we have an excessive amount of food.  A turkey AND a ham.  Three kinds of potato preparations (mashed, cheesy potato bake, and marshmallow yams).  Several other vegetables, salads and breads.  And for only about twenty people, our spread always includes five or six desserts.  My dessert plate, to be enjoyed after my tummy is already well-filled, typically carries three different slices of something sweet.  After the chattering of mothes negotiating the minimum number of required green beans for excusal subsides, and all the emptied plates clank into a stack next to the sink, the men usually sink into a semi-comatose state in front of a football game.  Turkey, wine and the monotonous voice of the announcer are a sleep-inducing trifecta on Thanksgiving day.  The women stand around the kitchen island, exclaiming how much food is left over, then plotting and exchanging strategies for Christmas shopping.

This is what we've done every year, as long as I can remember. Until last year.
Last year, the squeeze of harder economic times began to seep into the world around us. We began to see signs of the impact in our communities. While driving through shopping centers, it was no longer rare to see a man begging, with a sign pleading for help. And no longer unheard of to see his wife and three children sitting on the sidewalk next to him.

I always have this train of thought: Do I hand him money? But then what will he spend it on? Do I drive through that McDonald's and buy him some lunch instead? Are they even homeless, because their clothes don't look shabby. Maybe it's just a scam. Maybe I better roll up my windows and hit the lock button on the doors. 


I hate that line of thinking. But I love the idea our church adopted to help us help others. The idea was to make up kits in plastic zipper bags to keep in your car and hand out when you came across a needy person in the community. The bags contain all sorts of necessities. And every one of those necessities is something I take for granted.
Take socks. One pair of socks is on the list of suggested items. Imagine not ever changing your socks. Do you know how many pairs of socks I have? Workout socks, tall socks for boots, cozy socks for the cold, slipper socks, colored socks...all crammed tightly into the drawer I have just for socks. My cornucopia, my metaphorical bounty of blessings, is stuffed with socks. And, for that matter, shampoo, soap, Tylenol, utensils, food, and everything else on the list. 


So last year at Thanksgiving, my family took on the challenge to spend the day packing these bags. We had 20 people, so we decided to pack 40 bags, two for each adult's car. Each person brought something to contribute, according to his or her ability. One person was able to bring 2 boxes of plastic zipper bags, and one person purchased 40 knit beanies. But everyone gave something.


We made piles of the items "buffet style" around a large table, and then walked through the line, adding each item to our bags. Some of us quietly prayed for the recipients. Some of us helped our children fill bags, explaining how we are called to share our blessings with those in need. Some of us wished we had more bags to fill.
But all of us walked away from Thanksgiving feeling more thankful. Instead of just indulging ourselves, we stood mindful of the scarcity of others and leaned into generosity. And counted our blessings with a holy awe.  


If you too would like to initiate such an event on Thanksgiving Day or any other day, here is the list of items and some things to note for making Blessed to Bless Bags.


Notes:
- A 1 gallon zipper bag can hold a lot more than I expected. We bought bigger ones, but the 1 gallons worked fine.
- Your bags could have any number of items in them. Don't feel discouraged if you cannot provide every item on the list. They are all just suggestions.
- I sent out an email to all the guests, asking them to sign up for one or two items on the list, and to reply to all recipients so that the items were not duplicated. You could also send out an Evite and utilize the function where guests can select something to bring off a provided list.
- Also, I did not host Thanksgiving. I just asked the hosts if I could initiate this activity, and they happily obliged. Sometimes you just have to be the one who gets the ball rolling.


Suggested Items:
1 gallon Ziploc bag
1 Juice box
Throat lozenges
Trial size Ibuprofen/Acetaminophen
hand sanitizer
hand or face lotion
packaged hand wipes
lip balm
soap/shampoo
Small selection of ready-to-eat protein rich food such as:
   Cheese and crackers
   Power bar
   Tuna in a bag (no cans requiring an opener)
   Vienna sausages
   Beef jerky
One sweet item such as canned fruit or pudding
Plastic utensils and napkin
Washcloth
Small bible or bible tract
Bus Schedule
Prepaid phone card
Gloves/ knit beanie (someone found them for $4/ea at Walmart)
Resource list for the homeless
Pair of men's socks


You will bless Someone. And this Someone may have no one to eat with, drink with, or be grateful for this holiday season. Someone thinks no one sees him, but I know God sees him. 


Let's be God's hands, opening our own, remembering all our blessings are from Him to begin with.


And wearing our socks with gratitude. 
*********************
Visit Leslie's blog.  You will leave stretched and encouraged.  Think about getting your family together to make your own sets of Blessed to Bless bags.  Blog about it and challenge others to participate too.  Something seemingly so small, could make such a big difference in the lives of the hurting all around us.


From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.  -Luke 12:48

52 comments:

  1. Love this. We usually do this around Christmas time with shoeboxes...but really...we need to get in the habit year round. Not just at the holidays. Thanks for reminding me to go shopping this weekend! :)

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  2. this is such a wonderful!!! Perfect scripture at the bottom!!

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  3. crying.
    so simple.
    it is such a great way to handle that situation. i am doing it.
    thank you leslie and julie.

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  4. This was written for me. Every year my husband and I argue about this situation. The solution I came up with was buying those paper gift certificates for McDonald's and also I kept some of my husband's old coats in the car. This is perfect!!!!!!!!

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  5. This is fantastic! I am going to get together with my tea group and do this! Thanks so much for sharing.

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  6. leslie is my favorite.
    really.
    i really can't wait to adopt this into my family as well.

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  7. tears streaming...
    we are doing this! i've been wrestling with what we could do to step away from the focus of 'us' and this is it! thank you so much for posting. we're IN and will be cruising costa mesa on thanksgiving with bags of blessings.

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  8. This is awesome!! Last christmas we made christmas cookies and decided that since there was only two of us and too many cookies, that we would divide them into plastic bags and give them out to any homeless person we saw while driving around doing errands, since Austin is full of homeless people. But during our christmas break, there were NO homeless people around!! Then all the cookies got eaten so it didn't work out. THis is a great idea - not perishable, so can just leave them in the car until we see them!

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  9. Looooooooooooooove this! Simple gesture - Huge reward!

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  10. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this idea! This post brought tears to my eyes...wow. We will be do this for either Thanksgiving or Christmas this year. Amazing. Thanks for sharing Julie & Leslie!

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  11. What a cool idea! I can also see adapting this idea for different types of needs like women's shelters, kids, etc.

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  12. Great idea! We'll be doing this for sure!

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  13. Oh wow. I love, love, love this. Beautiful. Mmm... love it.

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  14. This was an amazing post! I got goose bumps! I want to do this! I need to talk to my mother in law and see if we can make this happen! I will never take my socks, medicine, juice, gloves, or the little things for granted again! You put it in a whole new light for me! Thank you soo much Leslie & Julie!

    Karin Marie :)

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  15. this concept is completely lovely!! and so is the way leslie shared about it. she is such a great writer. thank you for sharing and spreading our wings.

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  16. This is so great! I've been doing this on a smaller scale for years! It always made to sad to see people holding those signs in the bitter cold with bare hands. So I started keeping gloves in my car to hand out along with a GC to a fast food place and information about our church where they could get further assistance. I really like this idea too!

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  17. this is sooo cool! what a great idea as I have the same thought processes everytime I pass someone in need or asking for help. I've already initiated two evenings - one with my family in MN and one in my home with my girlfriends...I hope they're all on board...and I'm excited to see the humbling it can do for some and the gift it will give to another. THANK YOU!! ><>

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  18. Yay! I'm so completely encouraged and humbled to see all of your excited responses to start this tradition amongst family and friends. It really warms my heart. I know our communities will be changed. Thank you, everyone.

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  19. Ok, weird. Complete dejavu! Did this with the young adults, shared the idea with small group last week & now your blogging it. LOVE how God works!

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  20. I love this! I've done it with church groups and it's lead to such great interactions. One word to the wise though....one guy that I gave a bag to told me that bar soap flavors everything in the bag. We started including liquid soap instead.

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  21. This is an AMAZING idea. I have never heard of anything like this and I love it. Very humbling.

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  22. I've been thinking about doing this for some time, and never have. Just the push I needed. <3

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  23. I worked for a semester of my social work masters program at a community court set up for homeless offenders. We handed out items like this all day long. A couple of things I would add that are great to include in stuff like this are 5.00$ gift cards to fast good restaurants so they can get hot food or a hot cup of coffee...so appreciated at this time of year. The most often requested item I got was for UNDERWEAR. I realize that this would mean having bags for men and for women, but seriously...clean underwear...now we're talking a blessing. Also for the ladies, they always asked for pads and tampons...which by the way...how humbling to have to ask for. Thanks for posting such a needed thing that is so easy to do.

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  24. i am doing this too.
    as we speak i am gathering up items.
    i will blog it soon.
    thank you for such a wonderful and simple idea that we should all do!
    the world is more beautiful because of people like all of you!

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  25. I love this idea! We're definitely borrowing it for Thanksgiving. Even though we have a very small get-together, I love that my kids will see that it's about more than turkey and pie.

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  26. Wow! What a simple thing that any of us can do, I'm going to suggest it to my clinic and see if we can do something similar.

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  27. Wow. How much do I love this idea...Thank you!

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  28. So, so lovely! Thank you for such an amazing idea.

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  29. Wow. what an awesome inspiring idea. I love this! I plan on making some of these myself!

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  30. I love this. Love it. This would be great to coordinate with family or a group of friends. Thanks for this and what a great thing you are doing.

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  31. What a Wonderful idea!! it is like Operation Christmas Child right in our own back yards! ;) Bless you! ha ha... I am just noticing that is what Jeannett said too... we just finished our boxes and turned them in on Sunday at church! I am hoping to fit this into our lives... maybe for Christmas time shopping! ;)

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  32. I hope you get a chance to stop by my blog. I posted about these bags today and the other day. I am so glad that you shared this!

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  33. Blogged it here: http://sweetsaritadesigns.blogspot.com/2010/11/blessed-to-bless.html

    What a great idea!

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  34. I also made an entry on my blog about the many ways to be Blessed to bless. We are called to love one another. We are given the gift to be the hands and feet of Jesus here on earth. The beauty is that there isn't a dollar amount required, an specific time needed, or even a particular item called for. The possibilities are endless. All we need to do is to open our eyes, listen to the voice of God, and respond with love. It is amazing what can happen...

    Wishing you and your family a blessed Thanksgiving.

    P.S. I am sorry I used the Blessed to Bless phrase without permission from you or the other blogger. I am hoping that since I did link back to you it will not offend you. I also hope that you can see that I was only trying to spread good will to others. It was a catchy phrase and I was already mid way through my latest entry when I read your entry and was inspired by the phrase. Here's hoping a few more will be Blessed to Bless in someway, shape, or form.

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  35. I blogged about Blessed to Bless bags, thanks for the great idea!

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  36. I linked to this in my sidebar today -- five star, standing ovation, just full of Jesus and so wonderful!

    Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

    People like you change the world!

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  37. This is perfect!!!! Such a practical way to intentionally bless. My children would love this. Thank you!!

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  38. This actually made me cry, it's such a small gesture, but I know this would truly touch people. I rarely see people with signs (mainly because I'm secluded in a smaller town), but I love this idea and I'm keeping it in mind. I know I'll be able to use it in some way.

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  39. Awesome idea! I love the fact that I now have a way to put to use all the free samples I send off for and all the samples from hotels that I never use...thank you for this inspiration!

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  40. I found your post via Pinterest and KWAV's blog. Thank you so much for sharing the idea! I'm a social worker and see homeless people on a daily basis. I will definitely try this and pass along the idea!

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  41. Thanks for the great idea. I blogged about it here!

    http://afewextraminutes.blogspot.com/2011/10/blessing-bags.html

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  42. We have a ministry to the homeless and needy every Sunday, where we provide a meal, as well as have church without walls to minister physically and spiritually...I happened to see your blog post pinned on pinterest...love this idea and I intend to use it. Thank you for sharing this!

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  43. Hey Julie,
    We started something just like this! Check out Agapebags.org when you have a sec. It's just a free resource for people and we've also created a way for people to buy starter bags at cost that include the harder to buy items like travel sized toiletries, Bibles, tracts, etc.

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  44. We just made these tonight!! These are so great to make for the Christmas season and to pass out to those less fortunate than us. I posted this on my babys blog!

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  45. Thank you for posting this!! I will be linking this on my blog and facebook.

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  46. Such a wonderful project. Your family is ever so thoughtful to prepare these special bags.

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  47. I shared this on my blog today. Hope that is ok. It is just an awesome idea! As couponers and price matchers we get many of these items free sometimes! Thanks for sharing! http://www.thebargainhuntingmomblog.com/2013/01/blessing-bags/

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  48. My husband travels so much for his job & was bringing home way too many hotel toiletry samples home. I normally would donate them all to the local thrift store, but will now put them to better use thanks to your idea!

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I love sunshine, happy people, and the power to delete. Sparkles! Rainbows! Unicorns!