- ABOUT US
Karlie Tipton, Associate Editor
Photo by STEVEN WALKER
By Karlie Tipton
April 23, 2015
I have given about eight seconds thought in my life to the thickness of plastic bags. At one time or another, I’m sure I was carrying groceries and my bag almost broke, but no specific instance comes to mind, so I’ll just estimate. But last weekend, my husband, brother, sister-in-law, and I met a group of people who spend a great deal of their day thinking about the strength of this store’s bag versus another when we volunteered at the Austin Street homeless shelter in Dallas.
Thankfully, we weren’t alone. About a dozen members of the Spring Valley United Methodist Church arrived around five in the morning to help distribute hundreds of sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, pieces of fruit, and water bottles.
After setting up on metal tables inside the shelter—our little group proudly displayed the thirty chicken and tuna salad sandwiches we had prepared the night before—everyone took up a position along the distribution line and waited for the men and women staying at the shelter to queue up. Someone from the church asked who wanted “bag duty,” and, desperate to be useful, I volunteered, not really knowing what it entailed. My sister-in-law Melissa offered to help.
Had I been one of the almost three hundred people waiting for food, I would have been starving, tired (they have to leave the shelter by six so the staff can clean), and quite frankly, cranky. But as each set of five men or women approached and I gave them a bag to carry their breakfast, not one of my chipper “good mornings!” was met with a bit of annoyance. In fact, anytime I habitually asked “How are you?” before realizing it was an idiotic question, the response was always kind and positive, and we got more “God bless yous” than I could count.
The only hitch in the entire process came when I would occasionally offer a Kroger or Walmart bag and the recipient could see the next bag on my stack was from Target.
“Do you mind if I take that one instead?” a soft-spoken women politely asked me.
Matthew, my brother-in-law, noticed my confusion and explained that Target bags are thicker and won’t break as easily.
She didn’t just need that bag to hold her next meal; she needed it to hold all of her possessions, which likely were only a few articles of clothing. These were the same bags that my husband and I used as a trash bag or just recycled because we had no use for them.
To say that the whole experience totally opened my eyes would be false. Granted, I will definitely be saving my Target bags from now on, but aside from that few seconds every so often, my life remains the same. However, maybe the value of something is not in a life-changing lesson, but just the doing of a thing that is good. In any case, I will be going back next quarter, bringing an arm-load of Target bags with me.