To kick off my series on the works of Mercy, I am compiling my five favorite ideas for families to live the virtue of Feeding the Hungry. There are so many who are hungry out there, it truly is the easiest to start with. In raising our children, we want them to not just know the faith, but live it. St Paul said that faith without works is dead. Please join me for this twelve part series on living the works of mercy and see the faith of your family blossom and bear fruit!
Make Bag Lunches for the Homeless
Our parish participates in “Midnight Run” where our priests, youth group, and parent volunteers travel to “the City” and distribute goods to the homeless. Out of the back of minivans, they spend the night handing out clothing, blankets, and toiletries. They also distribute bag lunches that includes a sandwich, soft fruit, drink, and dessert. For the past few years, my children and I have packed lunches for this venture. Each family only has to make five lunch bags but it quickly adds up to feed hundreds of people. I realize that not everyone has this opportunity through their parish. However, there are still ways to participate. If you know of an area where homeless are regularly, make up lunch bags and hand them out as you go down the street, or contact a local charity or ministry that is aimed at the poor for clothing or shelter, offer to drop off x amount of lunch bags for their clients. Packing a lunch bag is so simple but it nourishes the body and soul.
Raid the Pantry to Fill the Pantry
One year for Lent, we took an item a day from our pantry to donate. In the beginning it was easy, however, since we only grocery shop once a month, it got more difficult by week two and three, and down right sacrificial by week four! I wanted the children to really experience giving, though. Going out to buy bags of food for the food pantry is a noble effort. However, do you buy the same things that you would want to eat? It is fun for the children to shop, but are they really learning to give of themselves. Have a contest to see how many items you can give out of your pantry to serve someone else. Once you have filled the bag with the items that aren’t yours or the kids favorites, challenge yourself to give what you had been looking forward to enjoying. Bless another by giving til it hurts, I promise you won’t be sorry.
Have a Nickel Drive
Have you heard of Mary’s Meals? It is one of my favorite charities. With a nickel, a starving child receives a nourishing meal at a place of education. All food is purchased from local sources, further aiding the community. Volunteers cook, serve, and guard the food, building a cycle of self sufficiency. By providing a meal at school, more children are educated and are able to complete school because they are not hungry and sick. This truly is a hand up! Best of all 97¢ of every $1 raised goes directly to feeding the children!
Grab a jar and start collecting change. Any change will do, but nickels really hits home the idea. Each nickel saves one child from starving for one day. Start thinking, or rethinking, about your everyday purchases in terms of Mary’s Meals. That coffee on the go is 40 meals. The cheap toy at the dollar store is another 20. Skipping bagels after Church, another potential 160-200 meals. Once you begin calculating everything in terms of meals, it becomes much easier to go without and simply give.
Have a Grocery Bag Drop
One Advent, our Teams of Our Lady group created letters asking our neighbors to fill a grocery bag with food for donation to the poor. We then attached the letter to a plastic grocery bag and hung it on each neighbor’s doorknob. We requested that those who wished to participate, leave the bag at their mailbox by 10AM on Sunday. We left early for church and took a trip around the neighborhood to pick up the bags. It was truly humbling to see how many people filled their bag, and how many more decided to fill two! The children then sorted the food, boxed it up, and helped deliver it to the local food pantry. It was truly one of our favorite Advent activities, ever!
Simply Share a Meal
Feeding the hungry doesn’t always just mean the homeless or disadvantaged. A great opportunity to preach the gospel through our actions is to deliver a meal to a family in crisis. I have been on both the receiving and giving end of this endeavor and I can tell you the meal is always a blessing. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it just has to be done! Have a neighbor whose husband is deployed? Know a friend whose parent is seriously ill? Parent in your co-op or preschool out of work? Whatever the reason, share the light of Christ through a hot meal. When asked why you are doing it, tell them because Jesus asked you to love your neighbor as yourself.
Have any other ideas of how to feed the hungry in a hands on, family friendly way? Please share!
Linking up with Rachel.