Making blessing bags for homeless people is a nice addition to your Thanksgiving holiday. We all know Thanksgiving should be much more than turkey, football and family close-encounters. An approach based on Christian mindfulness turns the day into a celebration of gratitude and a chance to help others.
Blessing bags can be in your car or your bag (if you take a train or bus around town) all year. When you see a homeless person asking for money, you can ask them if they would like the bag.
Use a see-through container – either a large ZipLock bag or a see-through plastic bag. Then fill it with items to feed and help the homeless, such as:
Toothbrush and toothpaste
Peanut butter crackers
Single-dose packs of pain reliever
Comb and brush
Tampons for women
Fast food restaurant gift cards
A few dollars
A note of blessing (You can buy a pack of blessing notes at Hobby Lobby.)
If you keep a place in your home for blessing bag materials, you can put packages you get at the dentist and other freebies in the bag. Assembling these bags can make a great Thanksgiving activity for kids and other family members.
Other aspects of a mindful Christian Thanksgiving can include:
Send thank you cards to people who have made your life better this year.
The last two years have taught some of us that we might be more racist than we think, at least unconsciously. A research-based article in Mindful Magazine’s December 2021 issue argues that mindfulness exercises may give us tools to reduce unconscious bias. And I see the point.
Neuroscientist Wendy Hansenkamp, who is a visiting assistant professor at the University of Virginia, wrote the article. I cannot find the article online. But discussions about it and other information on mindfulness and bias are on the magazine’s website here.
She writes that “society, culture, media and power structures” can instill prejudice in our subconscious without us realizing it. The big idea is that engaging repeatedly in practices that increase awareness, focus on our similarities as humans, and develop care and kindness can combat this implicit bias.
Hansenkamp goes into several studies that indicate that this works. I believe it on its face, and I think Christian mindfulness gives us an even better chance of rooting out stereotypes and subconscious fears.
She focuses most on the loving-kindness practice, which I have adapted for Christian mindfulness here. This practice retains enough distance from the subject to emphasize our common role as God’s beloved children. Hansenkamp also discusses a 2014 Yale study that showed that participants who had been practicing loving kindness reduced their implicit bias, while those who only learned and discussed the subject did not.
By seeing each individual around us as a creation of God and blessing those people in our words and actions, we can come closer to ending any unconscious prejudice we carry. Take a look at your practice and see if you can incorporate the faces of those different from you in your work on your own compassion.
Developing a mood box or book is a good exercise in contemplative Christian mindfulness, particularly when you are fighting against negative thinking. I’ve used this practice with people struggling against serious illness and/or depression. It is just as effective for the ups and downs of daily life.
The first step is to determine what mood you want to feel. You can create mood boxes or books to encourage hope, joy, optimism, trust in God, contentment and more.
Select an attractive box or blank book that, if possible, reflects this emphasis. This is a private exercise, so the box has to speak to you and no one else. You also can decorate the box or book to please yourself. I’ve also used decorated photo storage boxes to get a head start on the look I wanted.
Then fill the box or book with cues that encourage the mood you want. Try to appeal to many of your senses. You can add:
Quotes from books
Images cut from magazines or books
Items from nature
If you are creating a book rather than a box, you can put essential oils or perfume on the pages to get scent. Continue to add to the box over time, or to remove things if they lose their appeal.
One of my friends has a mood box based on hope, originally created as she served as caregiver for a sick loved one. When the person died, she made a ritual of emptying the box and starting to collect box contents again.
Put the mood box or book in a place where you can see it daily. When you feel far from your desired mood, use it for a few minutes to help yourself go on the right path.