Why We Took Our 8 Year Old To See A Homeless Shelter (+ Give Back Bags!)
I've written an re-written this post about 100 times. I wondered if it was worth sharing and I battled with myself over the fact that I may not get 100% positive feedback. But, I think it's important to teach our little guy that the world is not all sunshine and rainbows and that it certainly does not revolve around him. He's an extremely bright boy and we hoped this lesson would stick.
In Reno, there are an estimated 869 homeless people. Reno has the 4th highest homelessness rate in the United States. All too often, we see these people as degenerates of society and we're scolded for offering them our loose change. They're said to have no ambition and to be relying on the kindness of strangers instead of putting forth effort, but in a city where 81% of those who are living below the poverty line are spending more than half of their income on rent, it shouldn't be a surprise that so many turn to the streets. Many of these people have not recovered from the housing crisis, where from 2009-2011 1 in every 11 homes were foreclosed on. This is just a brief snapshot of my city. The nation averages are even harder to look at.
There are dark things in this world. There are horribly sad and terrible things that we ignore from the comforts of our heated homes, and our cushy beds. We turn a blind eye as we sip $6 cups of coffee and throw away leftover food. I think it's important for children to have to see a little of that darkness. To understand that there are children just like them out there who don't have the luxuries that they do.
I strongly believe that charity work produces appreciative children and that's why we've decided to make it a New Year's tradition in our family to create Give Back Bags.
The premise of our Give Back Bags was to show Evan that it's important to give back when you have been blessed with so much. It's important to help those in need and to witness what it's like to have to go without. We started out with the hat, glove, and scarf donations we've been collecting since November. Then, we headed to the 99 Cents store to stock up on some essentials. I pointed out to Evan that all the things you see here cost us $20. That's it. For the price of $4 cups of coffee, we were able to make 10 people's days a little easier.
Each bag is filled with: 1 pair of gloves, 1 hat or scarf, 1 first aid kit (such a great deal for $0.99), 1 granola bar, 1 toothbrush, 1 bar of soap, 1 pack of tissues, and a few of them (the ones wrapped in the camo scarves on the left) have a package of dog food as well, because we noticed quite a few homeless people who had a companion.
We drove around town to search for homeless individuals and offer them some comforting items. We ended our day at the homeless shelter, where we gave away all other donations we received from friends, family, and coworkers (THANK YOU SO MUCH TO EVERYONE WHO CONTRIBUTED!). I was especially proud of Ev for being so caring and concerned for the people we spoke to. He was polite and handed out everything with us, never once complaining about the fact that it was 20 degrees outside or that he was bored.
Evan is a smart little boy, and after some initial silence on our way home, he said to us "I feel really sad for those people. I'm glad we gave them those things". Mission accomplished. We are going to do this every year (he even told us he couldn't wait to do it again next New Year's Day) and hopefully every year, we'll be able to give more and more.