July 24, 2021
I thought it was appropriate after yesterday’s blog on the despair felt by the working class to end the week on a positive note. When I visited city hall last week, I noticed they had set up a Blessing Box along the front sidewalk. I had seen similar boxes in front of several churches and was intrigued that this one was in front of a public facility. When I asked about the box, I was told the mayor had placed it and that her office primarily keeps it stocked, although others donate as well. The weatherproof box has a clear plastic front window to allow donors and recipients to see what is available inside.
When I looked online, I found similar Blessing Boxes have been popping up across America since at least 2016 and have become somewhat of a movement. These neighborhood boxes contain things like food, soap, diapers, and other necessities. People who have items to donate fill (and refill) the boxes, while people who need items take them. Many of the boxes are emblazoned with the slogan, “Take what you need, give what you can . . . above all, be blessed!” These boxes are another way to provide a blessing to those in need.
The idea seems to have originated with Jessica McClard of Fayetteville, Arizona, who started her Little Free Pantry in March 2016. She often passed, and borrowed from, the Little Free Library in her neighborhood. She realized addressing the social issue of literacy was only secondary to allowing people to practice neighborliness. That is when she decided to use the idea to address another social issue, food insecurity. Later that year the idea was picked up by a church in Oklahoma and the women who organized the project dubbed it a “Blessing Box.” The church created the Blessing Box Facebook page a few weeks later and the concept spread, with more than 150 Blessing Boxes being erected that first year. It is estimated that as many as one thousand boxes have been erected by churches and neighborhoods under various names.
Thoughts: The Blessing Boxes have become a tangible way for communities to practice neighborliness. While the unrest of 2020 brought fear to some, it also brought a feeling of togetherness to those who marched arm in arm in the streets. While the pandemic brought nations to a standstill, it also forged innovative ways to come together. The evening singing in Italy and the repeated displays of thanks to first responders and hospital workers are representative of more community acts than can be counted. All of these are ways of serving as a blessing and giving back to our communities. While it often takes a tragedy to bring people together, we need to always count the blessings we both give and receive. Do the work. Change is coming and it starts with you.