August 10 at 12:46pm

The Power of a ZipLoc Bag


An essay written by Michael Williams, Volunteer


The other day, I was handing out bag lunches at the morning breakfast.  The volunteers who pack the lunches had run out of brown paper bags so some of the lunches were in those clear large ziploc transparent bags.  I noted two things concerning this occurrence.  The first being, each person who came for a lunch was pleased they could immediately see what was inside. Like most of us, the homeless want to have some choice in what they eat.  I suspect some element of choice gives us a sense of some control in our lives. Maybe we all need a little of that for any degree of emotional stability. Secondly, and maybe more importantly from a learning potential is the fact that on that day there was a mixture of both brown paper bags lunches and lunches in the see-through ziploc plastic.  A large percentage of the people preferred the see through ziploc lunches.  I asked a gentleman, “So, you like what you see inside?” He replied, “No, I want the ziploc bag.”

Then I looked around the nutrition center, most folks had multiple bags in their possession. There were backpacks, shopping bags, plastic bags, paper bags, small bags, large bags, tent bags, tool bags, duffle bags, garbage bags, shoulder bags, and any bag imaginable.  The average homeless person had a minimum of three or four bags.

When one is homeless portability of one’s possessions, and daily necessities is a critical skill to master for survival.  This is the reason the gentleman who answered my question that day answered as he did.  He realized the bag was as valuable as the contents.  It could be washed out and reused for food each day he came to Interfaith.  There are always a multitude of people who have disposable Tupperware containers and/or bags, and fill them with food for later in the day.

For most of us, we could hardly ever imagine that one of the most valuable things that Interfaith can distribute is a clear ziploc plastic bag. However, bags are an indispensable tool of survival for the homeless.  A variety of bags provides an opportunity for folks in a precarious situation to exercise choices and effectively plan and organize, i.e., some diabetics need some form of bag that can contain ice or cold for insulin.  This process is crucial to survival.

At Interfaith we see things others do not; and may not deem important. That is unless you are homeless and you are forced to go hungry because you do not have that one bag or container that would have allowed you to plan and organize your food for the day. There are few among us who would have seen what the homeless gentleman saw in the moment he requested the lunch in the ziploc bag.

His request demonstrated honesty, humility and courage. He asked for a lunch in a ziploc bag because that was the reality of his needs.

None of us alone can end the pain of homelessness however we can choose to not let what we cannot do prevent us from doing what we can do. We can demonstrate the honesty, humility and courage of the homeless man described above and do what we can in this moment to diminish the pain of homelessness. Donate today to Interfaith and enjoy the authenticity of your own honesty, humility and courage. You will instantly feel more whole and loving in the process because you will be honoring your own need to do what you can!

Imagine how powerful your contribution is compared to the power of a zip lock bag!

Written By: Michael Williams

An Honorably Discharged Veteran Who Distributes Bag Lunches to the Homeless