Thanksgiving is one of my personal favorite holidays, and the message behind the holiday is extremely important in our lives right now. Being grateful, giving thanks, and being with those that you love is a theme that should be celebrated year-round, but Thanksgiving dedicates our time to that and that alone. For most, Thanksgiving is celebrated with family and friends with large meals and festive traditions. However, my family has started a tradition that gives us a whole new meaning of gratefulness. My family has created a tradition of using the money that would go towards a big dinner and festivities for creating care packages to pass out to the homeless in Denver, and here’s how we do it.
The first important step is to create the care packages. We go to the dollar store and buy things in bulk, and it’s especially useful to look at packages with multiple things in one (a six-pack of tissues, a four-pack of hand sanitizer, etc) so that you can still get multiple things with one dollar. Don’t forget the plastic, paper, or cloth bags you need to put the items in. My family usually gets things that people don’t think about when giving the homeless: toothbrushes, toothpaste, floss, hand sanitizer, lotion, lip balm, tissues, soap, socks, gloves, etc. You can really get anything you feel would be useful, but stay away from items that could be dangerous (for example, no razors or knives, and try to use alcohol-free hand sanitizer.) Keep in mind how many bags you are looking to pack, and try and get around the same numbers of items to put in each bag. (Side note: this year, because of COVID, reusable masks, latex gloves, hand sanitizer, and cheap thermometers might be useful!)
The next step is to assemble the bags. My family usually uses plastic Ziploc bags because although they aren’t great for the environment, you can easily see what is in them so the receivers don’t feel threatened or confused, and the plastic bags are easily reusable, waterproof, and can be helpful for the homeless people. Remember to put the same amount of items in each bag (unless you have extras leftover, then you can add those to certain bags) and try to make the bags look very uniform. An easy trick is to lay all of the items out on the floor in piles and then bring a plastic bag around the circle and fill it with each item, or, if you have enough people, have each person sit by a pile of items and have each person put an item in the bag as you pass it around. You can also write notes on the bag or put them in the bag.
Distribution is the best part of this activity because it’s when you get to see your hard work come to fruition. Bring the care packages to an area of your city that has a large homeless population, and start distributing them. (During COVID times, it might be beneficial to wear a mask and gloves while distributing.) It helps to bring duffel bags filled with the care packages so you can bring them out all at once. Looking people in the eye, conversing with them, and smiling are all ways to make the connection more meaningful. It is important to remember that this activity is being done for those less fortunate than you, not being done for you to feel better about yourself. Most people are extremely thankful, and this can remind you to be thankful for what you have every day that you might not even think about recognizing.
Giving care packages to the homeless population can be a great Thanksgiving tradition to start because it offers a different perspective on what it means to be truly thankful.