It was a couple of summers ago when my kids came bursting through the door clutching Ziplock bags full of granola bars, water bottles and more.
“We made Good Samaritan Bags at church!” they roared. “They’re to keep in the car and hand out whenever we see someone who needs one.”
I’ve loved this idea ever since, and now we’re making them ourselves.
Here’s what we’re including in our care packages for the homeless:
- Granola bar
- Fruit snacks
- Crackers with peanut butter or cheese
- Water bottle
- Hand wipes
- Lifesavers or sugar free gum
- Hand lotion
- Dental floss
- Hand written note
- Good book
- List of free resources with phone numbers (including help for veterans, substance abuse and more. Print out the PDF here.)
These care packages won’t solve homelessness but they will let someone know that they are cared for on that day.
And that’s the point. Whatever your political/religious/personal views of homelessness are, it’s hard to argue with the story of the Good Samaritan.
Stick with me here because I’m going to talk about the bible but don’t hit the “back” button just yet. You might like this one. It’s got all the makings of a great tale: crime, hypocrisy and love conquering all.
The story of the Good Samaritan is a parable Jesus told. In front of a crowd of people, someone asked him how to get to heaven. Jesus said it came down to two things: love God and love each other. It’s actually when he said that famous line: “love thy neighbor”. His followers responded with something like “Okay, I can do that. But, um, who is my neighbor?” He could have just said EVERYONE but since that might not have sunk in, Jesus told a story to illustrate his point. Here it is:
A traveler is robbed and beaten, left on the side of a busy pedestrian road for dead.
When a priest (a holy leader) comes by and sees the man, he doesn’t stop to help. In fact, he crosses the road to avoid him.
Then a Levite (also seen as holy because he’s a descendant from one of the 12 original tribes of Israel) sees the man. He doesn’t help either.
But when a Samaritan (one of the most despised members of Jewish society) sees the man, HE stops. (Keep in mind, the crowd would’ve gasped here. Depending on your leanings, fill in the blank with “Muslim”, “Terrorist”, “Democrat”, “Pro-Lifer”, “NRA lobbyist” to get a picture of who this Samaritan is in Jewish society.) Shockingly, this sworn enemy addresses the man’s wounds. In fact, he takes time out of his busy day to bring the man to a local inn. The Samaritan goes on to pay for the man–a complete stranger–to stay there and even asks the innkeeper to keep track of any incidentals. “Put it on my tab”, the Samaritan says.
Things the Samaritan didn’t say:
“That guy shouldn’t have been traveling on this busy road alone. It’s dangerous.”
“I’d help but then I’d be late.”
“Someone else will probably take care of it.”
“I’ve got enough problems of my own.”
“Some people are just beyond saving.”
The Samaritan, of all people, turned out to be the only one who got it. To me, the whole point of life is taking care of each other. And “each other” is all people. Whether I like them, agree with them, respect them or fear them.
This is not always easy. I don’t always get it right. But I’m sure trying.
So when we hand out these care packages this winter, chances are we won’t know anything about the recipients. Why they’re standing on a street corner with a sign, what got them there, whether they have a drinking problem, if mental health is an issue.
All we’ll know is that they could use a little help.
And that’s exactly what we’ll be prepared to offer.