Thursday, October 28, 2021

The Bag on the Bench


Something caught my eye as I walked into the professional building next to the hospital. A ziplock bag, neatly packed, sitting on a bench. I saw a granola bar as I passed by on my way to my doctor’s appointment.

“Oh, somebody forgot their lunch,” I thought. “That’s too bad. I hope they come back and get it.”

When I came out it was still there. I noticed how many different things were in it, including hot cocoa mix and a pair of new, thick white socks. This was not someone’s lunch. It was a charity bag, a Blessing Bag, I believe they are called.I’ve seen descriptions of them on the internet. Church groups make them. Good-hearted individuals make them. They’re primarily intended for the homeless, and may contain a variety of non-perishable foodstuffs as well as personal hygiene items. 

I couldn’t get that bag out of my head. Why did the giver choose that particular location? How would a potential recipient know it was for them?

What’s most important, I guess, is that someone made that bag and put it there because they know we have people in need in Columbia/HoCo and they wanted to help.

The residents of Roslyn Rise in Wilde Lake need our help. Roslyn Rise is one of Columbia’s first affordable housing developments and it is in bad shape. You can learn a little bit more about the people who live there in this post by Jenny Solpietro:

The Voices of Roslyn Rise  Howard County Progress Report

Enterprise Community Partners has purchased Roslyn Rise and is ready to move forward with redevelopment. You can learn more about this project in this piece by Jeremy Dommu:

Roslyn Rise - a Deep Dive Into The Proposed Redevelopment In Wilde Lake The Merriweather Post

You would be correct in assuming that there are some folks opposed to this project, largely concerned about potential school overcrowding. Perhaps that is why the County Council tabled the matter on October 4th instead of voting in favor. It will come up again for a vote on Monday, November 1st. 

The residents of Roslyn Rise are people in need. They are members of our community who deserve decent housing. But it is easier for many to make charity bags to leave on benches than to support fair and adequate living conditions for our neighbors. 

Why is that? Maybe it is because making these bags changes nothing about our own existence and challenges nothing about how we live our own lives. We can walk away with a feeling that we have participated in ‘good works’ while our lives remain unchanged.

I saw this photo on Twitter yesterday and it made me think.

When we set about trying to transform society, we must remember that we ourselves will also need to transform. Our imagination of what a different world can be is limited. We are deeply entangled in the very systems we are organizing to change. - - Mariam Kaba

Now this quote was not written specifically about housing, or acts of charity. But it is applicable nonetheless. While small acts of kindness are never wasted, that doesn’t excuse us from taking a stand for the big things. The big things may require us to transform: in how we think or live our lives. 

If we really care about others in our community we need to be willing to take these on because they are the right thing to do. Leaving a bag on a bench may very well be a blessing for a person who needs it at that moment but new and fully functional housing is more than a temporary blessing. It creates lasting wellbeing and stability for more people than we can imagine.

If you want to write the Council in support of CR 144 and CR 145 you can do so here.

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