Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Gift Bags Held So Much More

Before Christmas, I wrote a post titled What to Do When the Spirit Grabs You, about just wanting to do something nice for someone because of the season. One of the ideas I had was to buy thermal socks, wrap them and give them out as I saw street people in need. That ultimately morphed into four gift bags that my daughter and I put together for me to give to homeless people on Christmas Day.

Vanessa, my daughter, and I went shopping for the thermal socks, some gift bags and a bunch of stuff to put in them while she was here visiting me the weekend before Christmas. The last thing we did together before I had to take to the airport was to put the four bags together.

We stuffed them to nearly overflowing with socks, Christmas candy, peanut butter crackers, Vienna sausages, deviled ham, soda crackers, plastic utensils, wet wipes, razors, cookies, warm scarves and the one extravagance – scented soaps. She and I shared a truly special few moments. I only wish she could have been there to help me give them out.

I chose to spend Christmas Day alone so after opening presents with Vanessa via Skype, I went in search of people who could use a little cheer on a cold holiday morning. It took me a while to spot the first three men huddled near the street; one with a very neatly arranged shopping cart and two with nothing but themselves. All three were rubbing their bare hands together in an attempt to keep warm. I pulled up in my little red Yaris and they eyed me suspiciously.

When I got out with three brightly colored bags in my hands, their faces lit up. I was suddenly embarrassed and wasn’t able to be as open and loving as I’d planned. I mumbled Merry Christmas and nearly shoved the bags at them. They thanked me profusely, which embarrassed me even more. I do think I managed to smile and when I drove off I honked my horn and waved at them. It was excruciating for me and I don’t really know why.

So, I had one bag left. This time it took a bit longer, but finally I came upon a fellow standing in the median with a sign asking for money. I pulled into a parking lot and walked ½ way across the crosswalk to give him the last bag. He was a mess; dirty, rumpled and reeking of alcohol. But he was so happy to be given the bag. I spoke to him longer than I had the other three. He was alone and he needed a kind word or two as much as he needed what was in the bag.

I wished him Merry Christmas and crossed back to my car, where I cried for a few minutes. I’m so lucky in my life.

So, these gift bags that were filled with “stuff” for the homeless and were also filled with lessons for me. The first was to appreciate all that I have – every day.

The second was centered on the idea of giving what’s needed instead of the easy answer – a buck or two. I often see people I would like to help out, but I do what many people do – struggle with whether or not the money I give someone on the street will be used to support an addiction. The internal arguments I go through each time are painful for me. Now, I have an answer. I will always carry gift bags in my car so I can hand them out instead of money.

Today I bought two turquoise bags at the Dollar Store and enough goodies to fill them. I like this plan.


  1. Kathy, I loved your post. It made me cry. You have such a sweet heart and are a gift yourself. Thanks for sharing with others and for being the loving, caring person that you are.

    Deep Peace,


  2. Oh gosh, that is so lovely of you! What a special thing it is to think of others; it blesses us even more than it does them. You're beautiful!!

  3. Great idea, Kathy. And wonderful thoughts. You always get more by giving than you do getting.

  4. Hi, I just nominated you for a Versatile Blogger Award! It means you get a shiny graphic! I love reading your personal stories, they're a guaranteed warm-fuzzy.

  5. Thank you to everyone for "getting it" because I was a little hesitant on this one. Mari - you are so cool. I'm going go see what my shiny graphic looks like. Thanks very very much.

  6. Oh wow. This made me so teary eyed. Wow. This really left me speechless.

  7. I wanted to give everyone an update. I've given two more bags out this week, both to women. One women I spotted on my way to work, on a freezing morning, as she sat shivering on a blanket on a sidewalk. A small pack of her belongings sat beside. As I got out to take her the bag, she was worried that she'd done something wrong. I assured her she hadn't and gave her the bag, which this time was filled with food and juice drinks. She was terribly thin and desperately wanted to talk but I was on my way to work and just couldn't. I really wish I could have. She needed the human interaction as much as something to eat. I really, really recommend you give this a try if you're even considering it. It centers you.