"Look!" he exclaims, proudly wriggling the toilet paper roll down into the gallon ziplock bag. Two water bottles stand erect beside it.
He pauses and I slide two folded pieces of paper down inside the bags with our picture smiling out through the plastic.
"Did you get the oatmeal?" I ask.
"OH!" and there is a rustle of cardboard and brown paper.
"Strawberry-flavored," I read aloud. "Nice."
He rolls two white socks up in eight year old concentration and places them inside the bag. I press out the air and seal it shut, before grabbing another.
In a month of riots and unrest, police officers and political conventions, there are summer storms that are brewing. Newscasters predict record high temperatures for much of the United States this week, and humanitarian organizations send out emails about severe dehydration concerns for the elderly and the homeless.
And we just wanted to do something tangible, something constructive, to help people around us.
In fumbling words, I wrote:
Hi, I realize that this bag is simple.
We don't have a ton either right now, but we wanted to share some of what we have to help, even if it's just a little.
So, on these hot summer days, we wanted you to have clean water to drink. We wanted you to have a pair of new warm socks. We included a packet of instant oatmeal for rainy days, hoping that you could grab some free hot water and a spoon and cup from any fast food place, and we are praying that it is a hearty snack some day right when you need it. The toilet paper is because I know what it's like to appreciate bath tissue from my days living overseas.
We know that homelessness is complicated and wide-spread, and that this small bag isn't much, but we wanted you to know that we are thinking about you, that you are not forgotten, and that we have prayed over this bag and for you.
We wanted you to know that God sees you, he loves you, and he is near to the broken-hearted. In the attached paper here are some sentences from the Bible that have been vital to me. I pray they are helpful for you as well.
Warmly and respectfully,
Jennifer and MarkDaniel and I rolled socks, slid in oatmeal packets, stood up water bottles, squished in a roll of toilet paper, and slipped notes into twelve bags. Twelve bags seemed so small and yet so exciting as they sat on our cherrywood dining table.
Softly, warmly, we talked to God about the strangers whose names he already knew and we thanked him for the chance to help.
If you, or your friends or family, want to assemble similar bags, please feel free to use our ideas too. We were inspired by our church's Vacation Bible school project, although we chose our own items to include. Or share with us other fun ways you've enjoyed reaching out in love and kindness. Those in email can click here to join the conversation.
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