I could see the wheels turning in her mind as I looked back at her in my rearview mirror. Sometimes, I forget she can read. Two minutes later, as what she read had rolled around in her mind a little, she asked me, “Mommy, what does ‘Hungry and Homeless’ mean?”
Isn’t it funny that these deep conversations about life always happen when you least expect them? In this case, we were on our way home from buying a birthday cake and there was a homeless person standing with a sign at the exit of our local grocery store. I’d seen a few different people there a million times, but maybe I had begun to look through them instead of at them. Not my girl. She saw and wanted answers.
As we drove, my husband and I both talked to her a little about what it means for someone to be homeless and how a person might end up that way. When we described to her why they might also be hungry, in true clear-eyed kid perspective she said, “But we have food. Why can’t they have ours?” I mentioned that we give food to our local food pantry and donate to every food drive we can. But that wasn’t good enough for her. She started to get upset that we had food right now in our car and this woman did not. It was a truth we couldn’t deny. We offered to turn the car around, hit the drive-thru and hand over some food. Being that she’s only seven and slightly introverted, this idea didn’t go over well. But she still wanted to help.
I told her that there were ways that we could be prepared for the next time we see someone who is hungry. I had heard of “Blessing Bags” on Pinterest and had tucked the idea away. I told her that we could gather some supplies, such as soap and Band-Aids, along with some non-perishable food to put in bags to have ready in the car the next time we see someone like the woman we saw that night.
The next day, I hit Target and gathered our supplies. Since we’d never done this before and I had no idea how well it would be received (or not), I only purchased enough supplies to make four Blessing Bags. I was at a loss for what to put in for food so I grabbed a few $5 MacDonald’s gift cards to throw in. Here’s what our pile of supplies looked like:
We sat in our living room after dinner one night and started filling the bags. Zoey helped sort the items and we took turns putting them into the bags. It was heartwarming to see how excited she was. She was “doing good” in way that was tangible to her. This wasn’t putting some cans in a bin at school that end up in a place she can’t even picture. This was hands-on, helping. I didn’t want to force a “lesson” on her since the idea of being kind happened organically. But I made sure she knew how awesome it was that she saw someone in need and decided to do something to help.
Hungry and homeless are concepts that a seven-year old can understand. They can understand how bad it would feel to be either of those things. They can also understand the difference between what we have and what others do not. I wanted her to know she could be a superhero to someone just by noticing and doing something small. She got to see firsthand how big of an impact small acts of kindness can have when we handed out flowers to moms on Mother’s Day. Maybe that’s what got her thinking about doing kind things. Whatever the cause, it made me proud to see her looking at the world around her and asking how she can make it better.
When we were done making the bags, I found a soft-sided cooler to store them in and put them in my car. We haven’t had the opportunity to hand any out yet, but when the time comes, we’ll be ready. For now, I’m going to bask in the light that is my kind-hearted, superhero daughter.