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Ink Slingers Michelle Pro-Life Issues Spiritual Growth Year of Mercy

How to Make a Blessing Bag

Blessing bag

A little over a week ago I returned from a mission trip with our parish youth group. We traveled to Cincinnati, Ohio to work with the Franciscans for the Poor. We worked at many different worksites throughout the city tending to those experiencing homelessness, poverty, and/or special needs. The trip was amazing and a wonderful reminder of not only how blessed we each are, but of how beautiful every single one of God’s children are, regardless of their circumstances and despite what our society tries to tell us.

homeless 1The world likes to think that all Americans are rich and each lives a life of luxury. The truth is that on any given night 564,708 people are experiencing homelessness. Over a half a million people have no place to call home. If we are the richest and best country in the world, how can so many of our brothers and sisters be without a place to rest their heads, to take a shower, or to eat a meal?

Our Catholic faith tells us that we are to take care of these people. The Corporal Works of Mercy tell us it is our Christian duty to feed the hungry; to give drink to the thirsty; to clothe the naked; to give shelter to the homeless; to visit the sick; to visit the imprisoned; and to bury the dead.

It can be difficult to be able to take time off to visit the imprisoned or work in a soup kitchen. It is probably even harder for people to take an entire week off to travel hundreds of miles away to serve on a mission trip. While it can be challenging to figure out a way to serve, there is a very simple way that almost everyone can help those who are in need.

Blessing bags provide a simple way for us to reach out and touch the lives of those who are suffering. They allow us to connect in a way that tells those who are experiencing homelessness that we not only see them but that we value them and love them. A simple gesture, a blessing bag can provide the hope and the little bit of extra faith that those who are downtrodden need to just make it through one more day. You can easily keep them in your car to pass on to those you see in need of a little bit of help.

To make a blessing bag first collect the items you want to put in the bag. Some of the most important items that many people experiencing homelessness say they need and appreciate the most are toothbrushes, toothpaste, hand sanitizer, and socks. These items are always needed and yet they almost never have access to them. The ability to keep clean is often overlooked and yet those who are experiencing homelessness want to keep clean every bit as much as you and I.

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In our bags we also put a small snack of a juice box, crackers, and a granola bar. We included a razor, tissues, and a small amount of money.

I know. I know… you are thinking that if you put in money they might by drugs or alcohol, right? Most people who are experiencing homelessness are not addicted to drugs or alcohol. Instead, they will use this money to buy a coffee or a small hot meal. Regardless of what they spend the money on it is a gesture of love and hope to offer it to them.  Please trust that your gift will be used in the manner most fitting to their circumstance.

Last, after packing your bag put a small note in to tell those you will give your blessing bag to that they are cherished and loved; that there is hope. Remind them that they can trust in Jesus and that He has not abandoned them.

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A blessing bag is a small gesture of love and hope to someone who believes that the world has forgotten about them. It reminds them that despite their current circumstances they are cherished.

To many who are experiencing homelessness one of the greatest trials in their lives is the feeling that no one sees them and no one cares. Each day people pass without offering a glance or they spew hateful things at them. A blessing bag can counter the hate they experience and instead replace it with love. It can help to restore their dignity and their faith.

I have no doubt you have heard it said many times, “Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” Do something small today and it may be the biggest thing you ever do for someone. Our tiny gestures of love have the ability to change hearts, inspire hope, and fan the flames of a dying faith. Be the blessing that someone needs today.

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Domestic Church Ink Slingers Marriage Michelle Motherhood Spiritual Growth Vocations

Three Things I Used to Know About Myself

I learned many things when I was in a junior in college and in my first year at the College of Education.  I took many classes and gained a lot of knowledge.  I have put to use most of that knowledge when homeschooling my own children, however, many of those classes are just a blip in my memory.  I retained the information I needed to succeed in teaching but the teachers themselves, the homework, and many of the students have become just a hazy memory.  There was one class though, that, to this day, comes to mind on a regular basis.

You see, in that class our teacher asked us the first day to make a list telling three things we knew about ourselves.  Then she asked us to pair up with someone we didn’t know to share our lists.  At the time my list was easy to write out:

  1. I am a great wife
  2. I am a great mother
  3. I am highly intelligent

The woman I shared my list with, Lisa, who would become a very dear friend, sat back incredulous.  Wow. That’s your list?” she asked me.   I answered that yes, it was.  I told her that I knew very little about myself but those three things were true and very important to me.  Thankfully our teacher gave us the time to sit and talk about our lists, otherwise, Lisa may have thought I was just full of myself.

I felt the third statement sounded the most like a fact and was easiest to explain and so I said, “I have a genius IQ and I have always been very proud of my intelligence.  As a kid it was the only thing that I thought made me important.  I knew I wasn’t pretty, I wasn’t athletic, and I wasn’t popular.  It was also what got me noticed by my parents when I thought I really didn’t matter much.  I clung to it and still do to this day.  It made me special and different from my siblings. It’s also important to me that others know I’m not just some dumb blond.  I actually am very smart.”  She said she could understand that, but what about the others?  Wasn’t it a little boastful and conceited to say I was a great mother and wife?  I blushed and shook my head and explained.

You see, at that time I had two children, was only just returning to school to finish my degree after taking time off, and had been able to dedicate every waking moment to being the best wife and mother I could be.  Being a wife and mother came naturally to me.  It was something I loved doing/being.  I was blessed with a lot of patience, terrific kids, and time to actually work on being a good mom and wife.  I would tell Lisa that there were few things in my life that I was ever good at and that these things were so important to me that they became the sole focus of my life.  Like an athlete who trains and practices to become good at his sport I had also worked hard to be good at what I did.  I was very proud of what I had accomplished.

As time moves forward I often think of that list and wonder if I was asked today what I know about myself, would the list be the same?  Unfortunately, I’m not sure it would be.  Sure, I am still highly intelligent, but what about being a great wife and mother?

Photo credit Vered DeLeeuw who blogs at Momgrind.com

There are many days now that I think about my actions and wonder if they are truly reflective of what is in my heart.  Am I the mom and wife that I hope and strive to be?  Most days the answer is no.  I fail so often.  I get mad and yell.  I lack patience.  I think to myself, “I can do this tomorrow.”  I don’t play with my kids as often as I would like to.  I treat my husband and children in ways I would never treat a stranger or a friend, saying things that hurt their feelings or make them feel bad or make them angry.  Why do I do that?  Why can’t I be that mother and wife I was 15 years ago?   I want to be that mother and wife again.

I know I’m not alone in my struggles.  I think all moms and dads/ wives and husbands face these kinds of problems.  I was lucky in those early years to have little to do other than focus solely on being a wife and mother.  Today it’s not so easy.  I now have 11 children, a husband who no longer works a regular shift but longer, harder hours, medical problems, outside activities, homeschooling, volunteering at church and youth group, friends, family, and the list goes on.  It’s no wonder I am not the same wife and mother that I was so long ago.  I have the world begging for my attention too!

Now more than ever I have to find that balance between the outside world’s demands on me and the needs of my family.  But how do I do that?  I think the answer lies in looking back at what I was doing right way back when I only had 2 children.   When I look back I can see that there were other problems that could have hindered me from being a great wife and mother, but I didn’t let them! That is the attitude I need to take now.  I need to commit, as I did then, to each and every day being the best at my job.  When I woke up each morning I didn’t sigh and think, “How am I going to do all of this?” Instead I thought, “Ok, today first I will do…” My attitude was definitely different than it is now and perhaps that is where the problem lies.

Mother Teresa once said, “Don’t look for big things, just do small things with great love….The smaller the thing, the greater must be our love.”  This is my new mission as a wife and mother.  I am going to do the small things- washing clothes, making my husband his lunch, getting up earlier in the morning to make a hot breakfast, bathing little ones, cleaning the kitchen, driving kids where they need to be, wiping noses- with great love and patience. My attitude is going to change.  Becoming the great wife and mother I once was will require this of me.

Mother Teresa also said, “Spread love everywhere you go; first of all in your house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next door neighbor. Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.”   I know that others see me as a good wife and mother.  I’m often complimented but they aren’t the ones who live with me and see me as I truly am. Only my husband and children know how far I have fallen away from the woman I used to be.  I hope that my husband and children will feel the extra love that I am putting into everything I do for them and that one day my list can once again say that I truly am a great wife and a great mother.