“Can you spare a dollar or some change?”
It’s a question that’s posed across the country on a daily basis. A homeless person approaches a total stranger and appeals to their heart strings for a little charity. While some of us are quick to turn a blind eye, Barbara Lasaracina, a high school math teacher from New Jersey, comes ready with a few dollars, and so much more.
“I am often in cities where there is a preponderance of homeless people,” Lasaracina recently told the Parent Toolkit. “I’m ok with giving them some money, but I think that money isn’t just the only thing that they need.”
While the money can certainly go a long way, Lasaracina believes people begging for a few bucks are also usually in need of food, clothing and just a little bit of good luck. For the past decade, she has been trying to bring some of that luck with her as she travels. In addition to packing all of her clothes and toiletries, she will often stow away a few homemade “Blessing Bags”. These overstuffed Ziploc bags are filled to the brim with granola bars, bottles of water, lotion and some socks. During the winter, she will usually add in a warm pair of gloves as well. When a homeless person solicits her for money, she’ll not only give the person a few spare dollars, but will also hand them one of her Blessing Bags as well.
“You don’t have to be a wealthy person to be doing this. You could go to the dollar store and spend less than 10 dollars and make up a Blessing Bag,” Lasaracina said.
As part of the Parent Toolkit’s Goal To Be Greater Campaign, Lasaracina has pledged to continue to spread kindness with her Blessing Bags and to encourage friends and family to make them as well.
“I feel very fortunate that we have what we have. We probably have more than we need and these people have less than they need,” Lasaracina said. “I get more out of it than I think the person that gets the bag.”
Giving to those less fortunate has been a lifelong calling for Lasaracina. She has tried to incorporate her passion for helping others into all aspects of her life, including in her classroom.
“I tell my students all the time that they are very privileged,” Lasaracina said “You can’t go through life with a catcher’s mitt on and think ‘What is coming to me?’ You have to give back.”
Inspired by her generosity, a few of Lasaracina’s students have started their own Blessing Bags and passing them out in New York City during the holiday season.
“All the math stuff, they can look it up. But learning how to be the best person you can be, that’s the most important lesson they can take out of my classroom,” Lasaracina said.
In addition to teaching about variables, equations and geometry, Lasaracina adds inspiration into each one of her lessons. As a way to teach her students about the value of giving back, she’ll often highlight the small gestures and simple ways to make a difference.
For example, on a recent trip to the Jersey shore, she was standing in line behind an older man at the neighborhood grocery store. He slowly unloaded his cart and placed his items on the belt. There wasn’t anything frivolous, just the usual weekly staples. After the cashier scanned his items and told him what he owed, the older man realized that he couldn’t afford everything and was faced with the dilemma of what to put back.
Lasarcina stunned the cashier by digging in her wallet and offering to pay for the man’s entire order.
As Lasarcina recalled the young cashier said, “I can’t believe you did that. In my whole life I’m never going to forget I saw someone do that. Now I should do something like that when I can.”
When she got back to her car, she broke down and cried.
“You don’t know the other people you are impacting when you are doing these gestures,” Lasaracina said. “And that’s where the goodness spreads.”
This piece is part of the Parent Toolkit’s Week of Giving. Click here to read more inspirational stories.