As I have written before now is the season of giving back, but it is often difficult to know where to start or what to do. Even knowing what to give is hard, especially if you have never done it before. Know now that not all donations are equal, and that sometimes it is the simplest things in life that need to be given the most. So, what can you do this holiday season?
Not all food donations are made equally, in fact I would always error on the side of simplicity here. Every homeless shelter that I have volunteered at has asked for one thing above all else: an easily transportable breakfast. This means breakfast or cereal bars. Something that can be given out quickly and efficiently, every shelter I have worked at has run out this time of year. If you have no idea what other foods to give, breakfast is a great place to start.
Just as not all foods are created equally, so too are clothes. While it is easy to just go through your closet and sort through the clothes that you want and don’t – and is something that I recommend you do – that isn’t really the best action. For most, all they have are the clothes on their backs, and what they need includes clean underwear. It may not always be at the top of the list when you think of donation items, but new or used will make a world of difference and cost you very little.
I know it isn’t fair, but there are a lot of homeless kids out there. They lost their parents, their families, they had nowhere to go, maybe the parents lost their jobs and there is just not enough in the house to go around. We don’t need to know why, all we need to know is that they are people too, and a little recreation goes a long way. Somethings you might want to include in your next donation:
- Prepaid cell phones with minutes already loaded
- MP3 players
- Art supplies
- Movie tickets and gift cards
It is incredibly easy to dehumanize the less fortunate. It is easy to side-step them or stick your nose up, to let them be lost in the crowd. It is easy, but that doesn’t make it right. A little kindness, or just the genuine expression that they exist can go a lot further than you think. While I am not asking that you take homeless people into your home, it might be worthwhile to stop and talk with them. These are people who feel left behind, forgotten. Stop and talk with them, maybe grab a bite to eat. That sort of compassion takes a lot. It isn’t common in this day and age, but being reminded that they are not alone can have a greater impact than anything else.
Shelters run out of or are very low on shower and personal care goods almost constantly. Some of the items to give include:
- Reading glasses
- Baby wipes and diapers
- Shampoo and soap
These are simple, everyday items, and that’s typically what those in need need the most. According to the Portland Rescue Mission, these are a few other things they could use.
I have a simple story to share before I finish this entry. My family fell on hard times when I was in the seventh grade. My brother and I were left alone, isolated from everyone around us. We thought we had lost something very important and we were lost for weeks. The only thing that kept us going, that kept our spirits up was the kindness of those who reached out to make sure we were ok. This largely came in the form of our dad’s best friend who took us to dinner and tried to keep our minds off it. I know he has no idea how much that action meant, how much good he did by providing two kids with dinner, but my brother and I do.