In a lot of people’s lives, we’re gearing up to gift-giving season. (Not in my life. I give gifts when I see something that makes me want to get it for someone.) While you’re getting things for your parents, kids, siblings, aunts, uncles, best friend, and landlord, stop and think about someone else: the stranger, the outcast. The homeless.
Make a Giving Box. (Giving, because you give it; also because the box itself keeps giving.) Get a box or bag with a handle; waterproof is a definite plus, such as a resealable plastic gallon baggie or something similar. Now, go put some things into it. Not toys, not tchotchkis, not stuff that’ll be thought a nice novelty and then tossed as it proves un-useful. Not that stuff. We’re talking real stuff. Important stuff. Vital stuff. There’s a list below, but feel free to adjust it to suit your ability to give and your local populace’s needs. Once your stuff is in your baggie/box/whatever, stick that in your car in a place that you can reach without asking anyone’s help, in case you’re the only one in the car. That way, if you’re out and about, it’s there and handy even if someone approaches your car on a freeway and asks for loose change. You just reach into your glove box, pull it out, and be on your way without holding up traffic when the light changes.
Here are the things I can think of, for putting into these Giving Boxes. Think of more stuff, and comment. All these things should be trial-sized or mini-sized, when possible.
- Soap, washcloth, and face towel. When you’re homeless, the hardest need to meet is the need to be clean. People often give money or food, but how many of them will open their home to a stranger and let the stranger shower? But it is possible to get most of your body clean just by using soap and a cloth in a public bathroom.
- Hotel/sample sized shampoo and conditioner. Comb or brush.
- Toothbrush and toothpaste. Bonus points for dental floss and alcohol-free mouthwash. Alcohol-free because there are enough problems for the homeless, and they don’t need something that will trigger a dormant addiction if they’re trying to quit.
- Chapstick or other lip balm. Band-Aids and a teeny bottle of rubbing alcohol. Package of tissues.
- A couple of dollars in quarters. A small amount of laundry detergent.
- A packet rain poncho.
- Tampons and/or maxi-pads, individually wrapped.
- A laminated list of resources such as shelters, food banks, and the like. Also places to get assistance getting out of an abusive situation.
- Sealed, non-perishable or long-lasting foods. Raisins, nuts, granola bars, perhaps a microwave meal since 7-11 will usually let a person heat those up in the store.
- A gift certificate to a nearby restaurant or grocery chain.
- A bus token, train pass, or the local equivalent.
- A prepaid phone card.
Again, you don’t have to put everything on this list into a box, but let this list serve as inspiration for your Giving Box. Very small, simple things can save lives, or at least make life more bearable for someone.