Living in Boston is expensive. In fact, it’s rated as being in the top 5 most costly places to live in the United States. So it’s no wonder there is an expansive homeless population all around us. While my heart aches for each of them, it’s difficult trying to explain to a 3 year old why someone doesn’t have a house or how they don’t even have money to buy socks. That’s why we spent a day creating winter care packages for the homeless of Boston with the little bit of spare money we had on the side.
A few months ago I sat at a red light in the middle of Boston. A homeless man held his sign that read “Hungry. Anything helps.” And my heart was split in half. I scrambled looking for something in my car unopened, but only found a half-eaten bag of seeds my daughter ate for snacks.
I rolled down my window, and sadly said “I don’t have anything really. I do have these seeds, they’re my daughter’s and they’re open. I understand if you don’t want to take them, but I wanted to offer.”
He graciously took them while my, at the time, 2 year old, screamed in the back seat.
She didn’t understand that we could buy more if we needed to. She didn’t understand that he had nothing to eat. She just didn’t understand that her snack would fill someone else’s stomach & heart.
This incident sat heavy on my heart. I mentioned to my husband that I felt this overwhelming need to give back to our community and to the homeless. That I wanted to make some small care packages to keep in the car when we saw someone in need. And that our daughter needed to understand what it meant to love people, even those we didn’t know, by giving our extra to those that had nothing.
But I told him I felt like I only had enough money to make one care package and that it wouldn’t be enough.
But he said, “Then just make one.”
So that’s what we’re doing. We’re taking the money we have when we have it to make winter care packages for the homeless in Boston and the surrounding area. And what I thought was going to just be a lesson for my preschooler, turned into a lesson for me about doing what I can with what I can.
This holiday season, the ‘Everyday Money Boston’ program by Capital One will celebrate local heroes and shine a light on the efforts these Bostonians are making to better their city with money from their very own pockets.
And while I by no means consider myself a hero, I do hope that we’re making a difference. As the winter approaches and it gets colder, I know that both warmth and food are a premium to those in need and I am hoping that raising my daughter to recognize those needs will make this world and the city of a Boston a better place.
What the homeless really need this winter season
Sometimes a well-meaning gift to a homeless person can be a lot of stuff they can’t use. And since we’re all buying with the extra money we have, let’s do something meaningful that won’t get thrown away.
We tried to strive for small bags of stuff so that it wasn’t an overload. Because many times it will get picked through and the rest thrown away. We also stayed away from name brands or anything that could make someone a target since there is a danger on the streets for having things that are “too nice”.
- Thick, thermal socks
- New gloves – Also, any gloves that can be layers if needed.
- Chap stick – especially the medicated type in the cold can really help this winter season.
- Soft, shelf-stable food – Things that aren’t chewy and sticky are the best because access to dental care is a luxury.
- Lots of protein – Beek jerky and anything that’s loaded with protein is always so helpful. Even small packages or cans (if they have the easy-open pop top) of tuna or other meat.
- Water – always.
- One-use toiletries – Toothbrushes with a cap, single use razors, and anything that’s not cumbersome to tote around.
- Fresh Food – Food that needs refrigerated or should be eaten warm should be taken at that time. Pack some fresh fruits too if you’d like.
- Wet Wipes
- 2 Gallon disposable bag to stuff it all in.
As my daughter did all the stuffing, we chatted about how much it means to be able to brush our teeth or sleep in a warm house. By the end she was exclaiming “gift for people that need warm socks!” and it warmed my heart that she was learning to love others above herself.
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I was selected for this opportunity as a member of Clever Girls and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
Kara is an author, wife, and mother of 3 children living in Boston, MA. She has her degree in Secondary Education & Adolescent Childhood Development and is passionate about connecting with and even helping other parents on their journey to raise awesome kids!