Well, we did it – the “first run” of our sack lunch project, and boy was it a learning experience! That’s okay, though, because I really only wanted to use this “first run” as a way to learn and see how it would all work, what unforeseen problems we might run into, etc. Everything in the world went wrong, so that was a good thing! Ha ha! I mean, you can’t learn anything from everything going right… Right?
So, here are a few of the things I learned this time:
1. Making sandwiches and packing lunch bags takes a lot longer than I’d thought when you’re doing a whole bunch. I already have a few ideas about how to be more efficient at it next time. For one, I’ll put the mayonnaise in a squirt-type-bottle for faster sandwich assembly. ;)
2. It’s really hard – practically impossible – to single out just the young people, so we really have to be prepared to feed everyone when we run across a spot where there are a lot of homeless. What we did this time was give out food to everybody (we didn’t actually have enough, so we ran to a nearby Basha’s and bought more food, and packed more lunch sacks in the store parking lot before going back over), but we just gave out resource/information lists to the under 21 people. It’s not that I don’t care about the adults, by the way; it’s just that the resources I happen to have only apply to the younger ones. We also gave a small stack of the lists to a guy who said he knew where a lot of teens were, and he offered to pass them around.
3. Bringing a big trash bag along is a good idea. Not only is it nice to be able to gather up any trash that’s tossed on the ground (which has the potential to make us look bad and get kicked out of some places), but lots of things can come up, such as our having to run to Basha’s and make more sandwiches, that cause the car to get all cluttered up.
4. If possible, we should scope out “spots” in advance. I know we’ll have an easier time next time we go to the same spots, since we have at least sort of an idea of how many people hang out there. Checking the spots in advance can be difficult since we live way up in north Phoenix and most of the areas we go to are far south, and gas is expensive. I still think it’s a good thing for us to keep in mind, though, and do it when we can.
5. Don’t expect to drive home feeling all warm and fuzzy. Well, I actually already knew this, but I think it was a new experience for my foster son, who went with me on this project. It’s nice to be able to give someone a sandwich, some treats, even some information, but the bottom line is that you leave them there on that street while you drive home to your bed in your air-conditioned house. Not that there is anything wrong with that – don’t misunderstand me – but it is hard to go home and not continue thinking of them. Those who have so little comfort, so little hope, and such a struggle. You just wish you could do more, or encourage them to do more for themselves. In any case, you’re usually left with an overwhelming sense of just how big the problems are out there, both in a collective sense and for each individual you just met, and how little your own contribution can really do to help. A drop in a big, huge bucket, so to speak. Like I said, I knew this feeling already, but I think it’s healthy for the kids to experience it.
So, those are the things we've learned so far, and that’s the update for those who have expressed interest in our little project. For our next run, we are shooting for Saturday, August 8th, if anyone wants to join us. That’s just a tentative date, though; not carved in stone. If anyone’s interested, just drop me a line and I will make sure to keep you updated and let you know when the date/time is solidly planned.