“Sandwich Saturdays” seemed like a great idea!
My wife and I have been kicking around this idea for years – spend a few bucks on the essential basics, whip up a bunch of sack lunches (in the same way my own Grandma used to make a balanced sack lunch for my siblings and me as we were kids) and distribute them amongst the local homeless population. While the plan seemed simple enough, we continued to put it off week after week, month after month until it became yet another item on the “Might Never Happen” list… Just one more thing we would occasionally reference in casual conversation, then immediately forget about.
As our lives have become increasingly hectic with the arrival of our first baby girl (young Ava Skye Walker, who is now just shy of 2 1/2 years old), we have found ourselves looking for any outlet to provide a much needed change of pace to the ordinary, day-to-day happenings in our life. While we have managed to keep ourselves occupied and generally busy, most of the time, the need for a more substantially validating activity has continued to grow within us. As part of a recent push to make our lives more productive and interesting, we finally agreed that we should give this random idea a try – we finally accepted that there would be no better time than “now”, otherwise we would continue to bounce the idea around forever without actually taking real significant action (by putting our money where our mouth was, so to speak).
After some prodding by my wife, I went to Wal-Mart and spent just short of $30 on the following items:
- 1 Loaf of Bread
- 1 Jar of Peanut Butter
- 1 Jar of Strawberry Jelly
- 1 Box Assorted Snack Crackers
- 6 Bananas
- 1 Bag of Apples
- 1 Pack of 28 Water Bottles
- 1 Box of Ziplock Sandwich Bags
- 1 Pack of Brown Paper Lunch Bags
Wasting no time, she spent the morning with our daughter making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, writing cute notes on the bags and packing individual lunches for distribution. Of course, Ava loved helping my wife organize and sort all of the food items (as well as make the actual sandwiches!), as she takes great pride in her organizational skills – the act of making the sandwiches and packing the lunches helped involve her actively in the process, thus ensuring the greatest level of personal interest on her part. As you may or may not be aware, toddlers have an uncanny knack for becoming deeply invested in certain activities, often on a very emotional level… Ava is no exception, so her involvement in the process was not only fun and fulfilling, but also provided yet another opportunity for her to put to use her growing skill set (in terms of motor skills, mental organization, emotional investment and empathy, etc).
During the process, my wife continued to reinforce to her the purpose behind our little project – we both want her to understand that there are people in the world who don’t have anything, and the sooner she can grasp this fundamental reality the sooner she can get to work (along with others of like mind and spirit) reducing the scope and impact of poverty in general. As a toddler, our little Ava understands so much more than even we tend to give her credit for, so it was heartwarming listening to her later explain why we were pursuing “Sandwich Saturdays” (which, ironically, finally got its start on a Monday). She not only understood what was going on, but she also took a personal interest and received just as much emotional satisfaction when we were actually able to hand the lunches out to people in our community.
Of course, making the sack lunches is the easy part – the difficult part of the process is going out and finding people to give them to! Once you find a suitable candidate, how do you approach them? Will you potentially offend this person by offering them a free lunch? What if it turns out to be just a dude hanging out in the park in his most casual, unwashed attire?? These thoughts and more crowded our minds as we pulled into a nearby park (Memorial Park in Upland, Ca – my wife had noticed a number of homeless people here, recently, so she thought it would be a good place to start). Neither of us was particularly certain how we would actually get started, although we had gone over various possible “opening lines” in our heads.
Upon entering the park, we didn’t have to wait long for our first opportunity – no more than one minute into the actual park, before we had even found a suitable parking spot, we passed a man who was clearly down on his luck and walking toward a small encampment near the park benches. Tiara (my wife) asked if we should stop and talk to him, so I jumped out of the car and grabbed a water bottle from the back, as well as a sack lunch – I took a few steps toward the man, not entirely confident in my approach, and stated simply “Hey man, my wife and daughter and I are offering free bagged lunches here in the park today – would you be interested in one?” Without hesitation, the man smiled and said “Yeah, that would be great! Thanks! By the way (as he indicated toward a beat up motor home stationed in a quiet corner of the parking lot) there’s an older guy over there who doesn’t have much – he would probably really appreciate one.” From that moment forward, the process seemed to flow naturally – we walked along with our bags of lunches, stopping to ask people who seemed down on their luck if they might be interested in a free lunch. At one point, we even had a few folks wander up to us (upon noticing what we were doing) and asked if we had a lunch to spare for them. The truth of it was, once we got started, the process seemed so fluid and natural that any previous thoughts of awkward encounters or concerns over what we might say seemed to slip away entirely.
On this particular venture, we were only able to distribute 11 pre-packed lunches to the folks at Memorial Park – a modest beginning to what we hope to now make a regular endeavor (including inviting others to join with us on our “Sandwich Saturdays”). While it may not seem like much, the people we spoke to seemed truly happy and showed a genuine appreciation for what we were trying to do.
We would have made many more lunches but as it turns out, the one loaf of bread proved to be the limiting factor… I guess one standard loaf will only make eleven sandwiches (including the so-called “heels” of the bread), although we were left with almost half of all the rest of our resources (sometimes more)! For the cost of one more loaf of bread, we still have enough product remaining to make another 9 sack lunches.
After doing some rough math, this initial batch of supplies will yield around 20 lunches, for an individual cost of approximately $1,75 per meal! This price includes everything from the food to the bottled water to the actual packaging. Considering the impact it seemed to have, this seems like a trivial amount of money to spend on a good cause.
While many have been posting positive comments on our initial Facebook post regarding our activities, the purpose of us sharing our experience is to invite and encourage others to join in our efforts. We obviously can’t feed everyone who could really use a free lunch, but combined with some of our friends and associates we might actually make a significant difference for a number of people. Hey, I know we’re not going to change lives with these actions – yet regardless of the long term impact, I know we can make a small difference in a few lives, even if just for a short period of time. In the end, I believe even that is worth the small effort it requires.
For my family, this seems like a great way to focus on other people once in awhile, allowing us to step outside of ourselves for a moment and remind ourselves of all we have to be thankful for in our lives. We would invite any of our friends, family and associates to join us any time to help maximize the overall impact – start by leaving a comment below to let us know you might be interested; we will let everyone know privately when we plan to do this again (probably next weekend and / or the following) and we can coordinate in some capacity to work together! At the end of the day, this was probably the most satisfying time we have spent together as a family in awhile, on par with the family playtime we are fortunate to share with our little Ava.