Thursday, May 28, 2015

We Are What We Teach

by Allyson Haas

homeless help
I know I promised an update on the potty training, but the truth is that I’m failing miserably in that department. Well, not me personally – I have my beautiful and woefully unsung Mother to thank for that – I meant my attempts to train C. So instead of wallowing in the misery that I’ll likely be changing swim diapers whilst his peers are frolicking at camp, I instead turn to thoughts that make me happy.

This year I embarked on a project I’m calling #365waystogood, wherein every day I do a kind deed. The organizations I’ve become involved with, the people I’ve met, the things I’ve learned have all been life altering. The capacity to make effective change is seemingly endless. Granted, some days are “bigger” than others in the scope and scale of their reach as, to be fair, I’m only human, but just as important are those days where I affect change in only one person’s life. And this is something that, though not as socially expected as potty training, is an equally important lesson for me to teach C.

Homeless people are a common sight here in the City of Angels, especially at traffic lights and highway off ramps.  If you're raising children in any sort of urban environment your kids are exposed, from a young age, to the harsh reality that many individuals are needy.  I know that quite a few of my fellow Angelenos find the inevitable "guy with a sign at the stoplight" experience to be awkward, especially when kids are in the car.  I think that with a simple, small act, we can turn an otherwise uncomfortable situation into one that not only brings some joy to a needy individual, but also teaches the little ones sitting in the backseat (and observing everything we do) the importance of helping those who are less fortunate. 

Thus, the Betterment Bag was born: a large plastic storage bag filled with a day’s supply of essentials for people in need.  Eventually, I’d love to have a few like-minded companies send a steady supply of goods (cough, Lara Bar, Kiehls, Trader Joes), but for now, I make said bags with odds and ends: shampoo/conditioner minis snagged from hotel stays, bottles of hand sanitizer, nut/energy bars, water, gift certificates to a local quick service restaurant, a piece of chocolate to remind people that life, though sometimes bitter, can be equally sweet.  Part of what makes the Betterment Bags great is that putting them together is a fun and easy activity to do with your kids. C & I put these together, keep them in the car and hand one out to anyone we see asking for money who looks as if they could use some restoration in the faith of humanity.

Sometimes all the need surrounding us feels overwhelming, but I'll never forget the reaction I received the first time I handed out one of our Betterment Bags.  At the stoplight just down the hill from our house there was a man holding a sign that read, "homeless, hungry, please help.” So I reached behind my seat, grabbed the Betterment Bag and gave it to the gentleman.  The man put down his sign, dropped to his knees and tucked into the square of Ghiradelli chocolate I had put in the bag.  Each time I hand out one of our Betterment Bags I know that it might brighten someone's day, but the real impact is being made on Caleb, who is learning how simple it is to "be the change".

Here's what we put in today's Betterment Bags:
Betterment bag

If you don’t happen to have such items on hand, and still want to make a difference today, right this very minute, click this link and support my participation in this weekend’s Pedal on the Pier, a collaborative event with the incredible Echoes of Hope, an organization that does some of Los Angeles’ most important work in supporting foster youth.  Your support of this event will directly benefit an Echoes of Hope youth by giving him or her an incredible summer camp experience and will help teach these children that, despite the struggles they face daily, there is much good in the world to be celebrated.
Plus there's nothing like doing a little bit of good to make you forget about how very badly the whole potty training thing is going. 

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