Blessing Bags

  Blessing Bags: A Perspective

It was recently suggested that I write something regarding my thoughts on giving out Blessing Bags. I agreed… but only reluctantly. I am afraid that what I have to say will probably not inspire feelings akin to those aroused from a Norman Rockwell painting or a Hallmark movie. It seems that life experience has turned me into a bit of an absent-minded pragmatist. I say “absent-minded” because I seem to keep losing those ridiculous, rose-colored glasses I had when I was a kid.

That being said, I keep the Blessing Bags in my car and I give them out as the opportunity arises. I just see it as the right thing to do. The giving of Blessing Bags can be conduits for letting unfortunate people know that God loves them. However, most of the time there isn’t much talk or interaction because of the inevitable, impatient traffic around me. Often these bags are handed over a rolled down window. Sometimes I have to perform some sort of sketchy traffic signal dash and handoff (all the while upsetting other drivers no doubt.) I have a few regulars that I see, but mostly I just give the bags away when the opportunity arises. To be honest, they usually say, “God bless you” as a way of thanks… whether sincerely or out of habit I don’t know. So when I was asked to write something regarding the “why,” I had to… again reluctantly… step back and mull things over a bit.

Frankly, when I see the sorry state of the recipients, I wonder how much good a plastic bag filled with crackers and socks can possibly do. For whatever reason, most of those receiving these bags are either mentally or physically addled in some way. I sometimes find myself asking how they came to be this way. Was it just dumb luck? Were they born with genetically misaligned chromosomes? Have they suffered some sort of trauma that has scrambled their perceptions? Are their faculties misfiring due to chemical abuse? Maybe they were just born cross-threaded with society. Or maybe it could be something as simple as this is just their way of living free. Those of us on this side of the spectrum will probably never know for sure. What we do know is that they are fellow children of God and they seemingly need our help.

But again, how much good can one of these bags do? I have been thinking about this question over the past week. The obvious answer is that when you have nothing, a bag of goodies is welcome. But I believe there is more to it. Having had a bit of time for this question to percolate, the miracle of the “loaves and fish” seems to have floated to the surface. In fact, now that I think about it, I find it more than a bit humbling. Simply put, who am I to say what God can do with one of these bags?

Do I believe that God can use one of these bags to feed 5000? Sure, absolutely! Do I believe it is likely that a homeless person will be pulling burgers out of a bag like a magician pulling rabbits out of a hat? Not really. But what if this is a different kind of miracle? What if the simple act of giving this bag not only provides a bit of food or clothing but it also sparks a bit of hope? Maybe a little bit of hope will inspire a little bit of optimism. Maybe this little bit of optimism will inspire a bit of confidence. Maybe this confidence will inspire someone to fulfill God’s will for something greater than any of us can imagine. Who am I to say what God can do with one of these blessing bags? Really, who am I to try to limit what God can do with these humble contents?

As I ruminated a bit more I remembered something else. I once heard someone speculate that the feeding of the crowd from the few fish and loaves may have been a different kind of miracle. The real miracle may have been that Jesus inspired others in the crowd to also share the food they brought. In the same way that the first meager offering of food was shared, the entire crowd was fed as others shared. Having walked among humans on this silly planet for more years than I care to admit, I can honestly say that inspiring an entire crowd of tired and hungry people to be generous might be an even bigger miracle than divinely replicated fish and bread!

So maybe… just maybe… the recipient of the blessing bag takes out one or two items and shares the rest. Maybe they want the cookies but don’t need the gloves. Maybe the next person needs the socks and the next person needs the toothpaste. Maybe the contents are shared among many people. Maybe, in turn, those people share what little else they have with others who do the same. Maybe each act of sharing brings a bit of hope to each recipient. A little hope can go a long way. A little hope can be a miracle.

So maybe I am not generous enough or brave enough to give all I have. It is highly unlikely that I will ever invite a street person to live with me and get them into whatever sort of therapy they inevitably need. This seems to be a fool’s errand at best and quite possibly dangerous. I would say that the entire notion sounds ridiculous until I remember what someone else, roughly 2000 years ago, did for me. I struggle with this as I have been greatly blessed in this life for sure. However, despite my own selfish limitations…despite my own faults… still… as I give out these bags… I have hope. God can make good even with broken people like me.