Boxing Day blessing bags


Happy Friday, everyone! Yesterday evening I did something I’ve been wanting to do for some time now. My co-worker and I headed downtown armed with blessing bags filled with goodies for the homeless. A few days ago, we each put in $30, hit up our nearest dollar store, and went crazy. We grabbed everything from warm wool socks, deodorant, and wet wipes to throat lozenges, tuna snacks, and granola bars. While shopping for these items, it hit me just how blessed I am to be able to run to the pharmacy or grocery store to get whatever I need, whenever I need it. Some people aren’t so fortunate.

It was a pretty cold night so we made sure to bundle up properly. First we walked along Queen Street close to the Eaton Centre and immediately spotted a guy panhandling across the street from City Hall. He was shivering. We introduced ourselves, gave him the blessing bag, and found out his name was Jeff. We helped him open the bag and he immediately put on the gloves. He told us we saved his life because he was absolutely freezing. We wished him a happy new year and walked away.

Next, we encountered James on the corner of Yonge and King streets. He was soooo grateful and we hung out with him for about 10 minutes. We asked if he’d mind telling us how he came to be living on the streets. He seemed so happy to be talking to anyone at all. He says most of the time he feels invisible. People rush by him morning and night and don’t give him the time of day. We learned that he worked in construction but lost his job six months ago. He went to a shelter and he gave them his identification documents for safekeeping. They ended up losing everything so now he has no identity. He said he can’t apply for welfare so he panhandles so he can eat. He says he’s surviving. Finally, we asked him where he was when the ice storm hit. He said he was right there in his little spot. He showed us his hospital bracelet and told us he had to be admitted because he developed a chest cold from being outside in the frigid conditions. We offered to get him a coffee and snack from the Starbucks across the street.

We walked around downtown for about two hours and decided to call it a night. We ended up handing out seven blessing bags and stopped to take pictures in front of random Christmas trees along the way. I can’t think of a better way to spend a holiday evening. The surprised and happy looks on the faces of the men we encountered on the streets of Toronto will stay with me. It was definitely an eye-opening experience and I’m happy we made their holidays just a little bit brighter!

blessing bag items (2)

Blessing bag items

blessing bag 1

  All packed up and ready to hit the streets!

Interested in putting together your own blessing bags? Here are a few ideas to get you started:

Accessories

  • Warm socks
  • Gloves
  • Wool beanie
  • Scarves

Personal care items

  • Toothbrush & toothpaste
  • Wet wipes (individual packets if you can find them)
  • Tissues
  • Deodorant
  • Bar of soap
  • Hand lotion
  • Chapstick
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Grooming kit
  • Comb
  • Mini first aid kit/band aids
  • Throat lozenges

Non-perishable foods

  • Tuna snacks
  • Fruit cups
  • Apple sauce
  • Granola bars
  • Trail mix
  • Cup o’ noodles
  • Canned soup
  • Hot chocolate packets
  • Tea bags
  • Instant coffee packets
  • Instant oatmeal packets
  • Dried cereal
  • Fruit juice
  • Bottled water

Treats

  • Chocolate bars
  • Cookies
  • Pudding snacks
  • Packets of gum/mints
  • Coffee cards

If there is one thing I can take away from this experience, it’s that life can change in an instant. We can lose our jobs at anytime. And while we might not end up living on the streets or spending the nights in shelters, for a lot of other people, this is the reality.

So be kind to the homeless. It’s as simple as smiling and saying hello when you walk by or offering them a warm drink on a cold day. Remember no act of kindness is too small. We can all make a difference. Have a wonderful day!

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11 thoughts on “Boxing Day blessing bags

  1. Ranting Crow says:

    It is so simple yet we do it to little. You have my gratitude, knowing what it is like to be there. I know that in that instant of a second a world changes. The magic of hat single smile. Beautiful thought.

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