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Perspectives from Sam’s Blessing Bag project

I wasn’t necessarily going to write and post about the Blessing Bags. But once again, it has recently been So. Damn. Cold. And some folks actually have to live daily out in this weather. Southern climate or not, homelessness is brutal. This is a good time to remember how good we have it. . . .

“We got the keys!” “Party at my house!”

Simple celebrations at the end of a closing.  For those of you who have been to a Hartmanlaw closing or followed us on Facebook or Instagram, you’ve seen our blue ‘celebration’ signs. Sharing a buyer’s joy and pride of home ownership is my favorite part of running a real estate closing practice. Hard work paying off. Dreams realized. Planning a future of backyard cookouts, movie nights,  babies’ first steps. To me, home ownership has always been a given. A part of the web and fabric of the lifestream. So why not make it fun?

The idea of literally being “homeless” seems so far-fetched to most of us that we cannot even imagine the possibility. I think we tend to reserve homelessness in our minds for drunks, the mentally ill and some breed of uninitiated “lazy folks” who could just shower up and go interview for their dream job if they really wanted to. But instead they actually prefer to wander streets and panhandle.

I had an employee once, a very nice young person, who lived in her car for a time prior to working for me. She explained the circumstances that led her to that predicament. A simple series of three or four bad decisions or bad breaks hit you in a row, and without a financial safety net you will be living in a car; or perhaps a tent city behind Wal-Mart. The bottom line is that we should humble ourselves a bit and realize that there, but for the grace of God, go I.

Last fall I noticed several friends doing homeless outreach programs and I wanted to help. At the same time my wife and I were working on finding a hands-on charitable endeavor for our family. I came across this “blessing bag” concept and last year our son Sam assisted in filling about 60 of them to distribute to the homeless.

This is the 2nd year that we have filled one-gallon Ziploc bags with various needful things for a homeless person, and we doubled our efforts to about 150 bags this year (and even received some donated items!)

The concept is that in one bag, a person can receive a refillable  coffee mug, snack, some protein, toothpaste, toothbrush, a pair of socks, stocking cap, gloves, etc. A few items to get by on the street. Nothing that will save a life or sustain a person indefinitely, but a blessing, nonetheless. “Someone cared enough to make this little pack of gifts for me” – they might think.

There are countless ways to be creative as to what goes in the bags, and many people also like to include words of encouragement or spiritual quotes or passages. Always a personal choice. It’s important to consider what should not be in the bags as well. Overly fragrant items (they will ruin the food items); chewy, hard to eat food (many homeless have serious dental woes); and research your municipality, as I have recently discovered that the City of Atlanta banned the distribution of food on the streets this year.

If you are actually still reading this, I am posting more as a call to action because I feel like the need is there for us to do more, and more often. Homeless need help in the summer. Not just at Christmas. Judgment about why someone is down on their luck and/or figuring out how to pull them out of it – is for another time, or place. Or it can be someone else’s project. We’re in it to pass on a simple, much needed blessing. In this moment.

We also learned along the way that it’s not just churches and underfunded government groups assisting the homeless. Quite often it’s just a band of like-minded good Samaritans trying to “pay it forward”. Like these folks that gave out some of our bags near the Big Chicken to some very grateful human beings.

Some of the groups we helped this time were Never Alone in Woodstock, The Good Neighbor Homeless Shelter in Cartersville, a few church groups, and the “rogue Samaritans” mentioned earlier. But there were tons of needy folks we missed.

The Dow Jones recently hit something like 26,000. By all accounts it is going to be a good year. Our little Hartmanlaw team, with the assistance of my son, fills these “blessing bags” and distributes them around. We will keep growing this project – I’d like to open it up to other parents and maybe we could make a fun day of it with the kids. Sam learned not just about the plight of homelessness – but also how to organize and assemble a multitask-oriented project and develop his own little system to get the products in the bags (and we have ADHD, people).

I am open to some ideas for a “summer project” to get involved with outreach in the community with those who are struggling with homelessness. Who is in?