“Why did you give him money?” my 9-year old son asked after witnessing me hand a few dollars to a homeless man.
“Because he doesn’t have a place to live and he probably doesn’t have any food,” I said.
“Why doesn’t he just get a job?” my son asked.
“I wish it were that simple,” I said. “No one wants to be homeless, but many factors can affect a person’s life and leave him on the street.”
A couple of years ago, I volunteered at a homeless shelter once a week. While talking to the residents, I learned how complicated life can be. At the shelter, I met all types of people – veterans, teachers, truck drivers, even a college professor with a Ph.D. Bouts with mental illness, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and domestic violence were some of the leading causes of the residents’ homelessness.
Their stories were heartbreaking and compelled me to help as many of them as I could. That experience affected me deeply. Now, when I see homeless people on the street, I cannot ignore them. Although, I don’t always give them money, I try to show some compassion by talking to them, looking them in the eye, and telling them about local shelters where they can get some assistance.
My children aren’t old enough to volunteer at the homeless shelters, but I always encourage them to do what they can to help. One way that I do this is by having them assemble care packages to give to homeless people when we encounter them on the street.
The packages include food, water, toiletries and a handwritten note of encouragement. We keep these in our minivan and offer them to homeless people who approach us at stop lights.
Making these care packages is easy and it gives kids an opportunity to serve others. Here are the basic instructions.
- Kellogg’s Protein Bars
- Bottled Water
- Personalized note
- Storage bags
- Tube socks (A reader suggested this item after the post was published – see comments)
I helped my sons to organize the items into an assembly line. My 9-year old son placed a bottle of water into the storage bag and passed it to my 6-year old son. The 6-year old insert two Kellogg’s protein bars. I added the toiletries and my 12-year old daughter completed the package by adding her note.
We packed the bags into a box and loaded them into our minivan for distribution.
After handing out a few of these packages, my children have developed a new appreciation for helping the homeless. In fact, they are looking forward to the day when they are old enough to volunteer at the shelter with me.
Question: How do you teach your children the importance of helping others?
Disclosure: I’m a paid member of the Kellogg’s #kchamps team