How to Make Care Kits for Homeless People

Hank and I made Homeless Survival Kits as part of a Life List goal to do a holiday project together. It surprised me by becoming an easy way for Hank to ask me questions, so I wrote about that over here: Talking to My Kid About Homelessness Without Giving Him Nightmares. This is something that has come up a lot in San Francisco, where we have a lot of folks on the streets.

We do give money to our local food bank, but I’d like to have something on me to offer when people ask for help, so Hank doesn’t get the message that you can be indifferent to people in trouble. I did a little research on what to put in our kits, and we ended up using:

Gallon-sized, rainproof ziplock bags
Disposable razors
Lip balm
Travel deodorant
Body wash
Folding travel toothbrushes
Travel toothpaste
Wet wipes
Kind bars (softer to chew than granola)

More items to consider:

Water bottles
Bus passes
Hand warmers
Shaving cream
Cheese or peanut butter crackers
Vienna sausages with pull off lids
Plastic forks and spoons
Additional ziplock bags to keep belongings dry

There’s a good thread on Meta-Filter that has a lot of suggestions in comments. You can drop your kits off at a local shelter, or give them out individually.

Also, some nice things to consider generally:

Softer food is easier for people to chew if their teeth are hurting. Homeless people don’t have access to dentists or often any way to keep their teeth in shape, so consider that when you’re choosing food.

Hydration can be a big problem when you don’t have a house. If you’re offering food, try to offer a drink as well.

Take your leftovers, and request plastic silverware. If you live in a big city, never turn down your leftovers when you can hand them to someone within a few feet of the door, or leave them on top of the nearest bench or post box for someone to find. I told a waiter I was leaving the rest of my dinner out, and he taped silverware and a napkin to the top. Genius! So now I request one if the place seems to offer takeout. Also, I like to write the date and time on the box if I have a pen.

If you have any simple habits you’ve adopted to help out the homeless people in your community, or any advice to offer if you’ve been homeless yourself, please let us know in comments. And Happy Holidays, team!

Feeling Like the Dumb One

I went to a good public high school, but my senior year a nearby school in the district closed, and my school absorbed its students.

Their advanced students joined our honors classes, and two things were clear: 1. The kids were just as smart as us. 2. Their education — at a public school just a few miles away — had not been as rigorous.

One girl joined our English class, and in the first two weeks it was obvious she was crazy bright and crazy frustrated. One day, our teacher used the word symbolism, and this girl kind of lost it.

“We don’t know what that means!” she said. “You guys know a lot about things we’ve never learned.” I leaned over, and said, “We barely know this. They just started talking about it at the end of last year.”

But she shook her head and pressed her lips together. “I don’t think I belong in this class,” she said. “You do!,” I said. “You’re smart! You’re really smart.” And she was.

But the next day she dropped the class.


I’ve been thinking about this because I recently learned that lots of American kids start kindergarten with a huge disadvantage that has nothing to do with their intellect, and everything to do with a shared vocabulary.

By age four, American kids from high-income families have heard about 30 million more words than kids on welfare, and 15 million more than kids in working class families.

Kids on the lucky end of the word gap obviously have an easier time understanding teachers and making themselves understood, an easier time learning to read, and other benefits that give them a leg up — the perception of a higher IQ than their low-income counterparts. The advantages persist into high school and beyond.

I’ve seen how much vocabulary disparities affect high school students, seen adults who feel stupid when they don’t know what a word means in a business meeting. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be for a four year old.


Closing the Word Gap means a cultural shift toward investment in kids – and who’s against this, really? We need more early nutritional programs, support of family stability, and widespread access to early learning in preschools or at home.

China has made such a substantial investment in early childhood education that they should have more college graduates in 2030 than the total size of our workforce in the States.

Fortunately, the biggest impact we can have individually is completely free. We need to treat babies more like little people.

When we see babies or toddlers, we should be talking to them, making eye contact, and reading whenever we get a chance. It lights up their little brains, and makes everyone’s future a little shinier too.


In anticipation of the coming New Year, I made some parenting resolutions for myself. I’ve been exposed to a great deal of parenting research lately, and it turns out I’m finding new and creative ways to arrest my child’s potential. More eye contact! Less Mario!

Anyway, have a look:

Family Resolutions, 2014

If you’ve been doing anything to be a better parent, godparent, aunt or uncle, let us know in comments.

If you like this post, you might also like:
Too Small to Fail: Bedtime
Teaching My Kid to Light Stuff on Fire

This post is part of the Too Small to Fail initiative, sponsored by Next Generation and the Clinton Foundation. They’re working to close the Word Gap, and I’m on board. More info here.

Blogalicious and Baby Dolls

I just returned from Atlanta where all the service people were so friendly it almost seemed like they pitied me. I kept looking down to see whether I had toilet paper stuck to my shoe, or a T-shirt on that said, “My Cat Just Died.”

I was there to speak at Blogalicious. It’s a multi-cultural conference for women in social media run by my friend Stacey Fergusen. (I’ve mentioned Stacey before, she’s the one who’s learning ASL so she can better communicate with her deaf sister).

The conference was amazing, so many pro-bloggers I’d never met before. It was like that dream where you discover a room in your apartment you didn’t know was there, “This has been here the whole time? We could have been having so many parties!”

I was on a keynote panel with five other bloggers — Patrice Grell Yursik of Afrobella, Shameeka Ayers of The Broke Socialite, Luvvie Ajayi of Awesomely Luvvie, Denene Millner of My Brown Baby, and Lamar Tyler of Black and Married with Kids. (Hi, guys!)

I was semi-terrified getting on stage because I’m used to knowing all the other panelists and 3/4 of the audience at these conferences, but everyone was so welcoming and friendly. (They must have heard the rumor about the cat.) We talked about how we got where we are in our careers, obstacles, and future plans.

At the end Stacey asked us to share a goal, so I mentioned that I wanted to help Rebecca Crump, who’s a Go Mighty member. Rebecca wants to donate 100 brown baby dolls in honor of her grandmother who made her an “adoption doll” for Christmas when her parents couldn’t swing a Cabbage Patch Kid.

It’s one of my favorite goals on Go Mighty right now, and she’s up to eighty dolls. (Technically eighty three, because I just ordered three.) So if you want to help push her over the top, you can order a doll from her Amazon wish list right here.

Do it for the children! Also to further terrify anyone who needs to use Rebecca’s guest room between now and Christmas.

Right before we spoke, Amy DuBois Barnett of Ebony magazine gave an excellent keynote speech, and my brain has been chewing on it. More on that tomorrow.

Photo from the Blogalicious web site.

Do You Know About Boys Hope, Girls Hope?

So a couple days ago, I told you about AT&T’s Camp Mighty grant. My share went to Boys Hope, Girls Hope (BHGH), an international organization that does something so cool.

They provide a home for underprivileged kids that functions much like a boarding school. Scholars apply, and the program gets them free access to a private school education at one of the local schools. Then they come to live in the BHGH house and are provided with the academic support they need to succeed. BHGH also works with families to ensure that kids receive whatever emotional support is available from home as well.

Such a cool idea, don’t you think? More information here, and if you’re interested in donating, working with them, or know of a child who could benefit, get in touch here.

I think giving kids access to education is one of the most profound ways you can shift the world, but what cause has your attention?

AT&T has been partnering with the Make a Wish Foundation to grant a wish every day for 28 days through their Wish-A-Day Sweepstakes. There are two days left, and each day’s wish with the most votes wins, so if you have a worthy wish, throw your hat in the ring.

Help Me Raise a Socially Conscious Kid

The five year old did not get why we were spending our afternoon buying electronic equipment we weren’t going to keep.

We were there because AT&T gave $35,000(!!) at Camp Mighty to purchase gifts for charities. My share of the windfall went to buy iPads to outfit the study rooms at Boys Hope, Girls Hope — an awesome organization that provides a boarding school environment and access to private school education for kids who otherwise wouldn’t be able to afford it.

I wanted Hank to be excited! Happy! To feel the way I was feeling! Feel the way I am feeling, 5-year-old! He did not.

Instead he was mostly grumpy about running an errand. This made me grumpy too, and a little panicky, because when I went to the United Nations Social Good Summit we learned that activism starts in childhood. Hence, I am concerned about failing in my duty to raise a Citizen. And the United Nations telling everyone I am a bad parent.

So I’m wondering how you were raised. Did your parents teach you that it’s important to help others? And if so, how? How did they do it? And if they didn’t do it, are you currently a serial killer instead? Please tell me.

And if your parents did raise you right, here’s a chance to do a little good yourself. AT&T, is partnering with the Make a Wish Foundation to grant a wish every day for 28 days through their Wish-A-Day Sweepstakes. Wishes with the most votes win, so if you have a worthy wish and a Twitter account, get cracking.

Huge thanks to AT&T for being such goodies. In gratitude I pose jubilantly with your logo!

You guys are lovely.

Married, Baby

60 Moments that Gave Me the Chills During Seattle’s First Day of Marriage Equality (via Evany) reminded me of the day I went down to San Francisco’s City Hall to photograph the couples who married during the month that Gavin Newsom granted marriage licenses to about 4,000 couples. California is the only state that once granted same-sex marriage licenses and has since discontinued the practice.

Weddings always make me cry, but right now I’m weeping openly in a coffee shop. The women who’ve been together 36 years? The young couple holding their new baby? I find it strange and awful that people who’ve made such profound commitments still can’t marry in many states. Congratulations, Seattle!

Is marriage for same-sex couples legal in your state? And how do you feel about it? Have your opinions changed over the years?

Photo by Matt Stopera.

Thanks, Rebels!

Thank You | Mighty Girl

A couple of weeks ago, I announced that team Mighty would donate $500 to Charity Water once 100 people had posted photos of themselves wearing white after Labor Day to the Tide Vivid White + Bright Rule Breakers of the Week Contest on Facebook.

Through your  efforts, we reached that goal, allowing us to pledge $500 toward our Camp Mighty Charity Water fundraising project this November.

Thank you so much to all of you who took the time to defy tradition, share your photos, and make a real difference for those in need.

Interested in working with us to help out even more? Learn more about this amazing organization that helps deliver safe, clean water to people around the world — and, support our Charity Water project for Camp Mighty.

Image courtesy Maile Wilson of Epiphanie Bags. I’m saying something like “You guys rule!”

Hugs, Kisses, Big Naps

I haven’t slept very much in the last few weeks.

I hosted a W.A.S.P.-Off Challenge for Labor Day, and the fourth-annual Mighty Summit, attended the first-ever XOXO Festival, and now I’m in New York for the Social Good Summit, attending as one of the United Nations Social Good Fellows. (Which whaaaa? No big deal, just hangin’ with the UN, you guys. We should totes go dancing with the Secretary General later.)

So things have been going well, right? Very well. I’m feeling happy, and grateful, and in need of a three-day coma.

Woof. I have so much to tell you, team. Let’s meet here next week for some good, long chats. I’ll bring the Secretary General, you bring the beer.

Whoa. Thank You!

No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted. — Aesop | Mighty Girl

Yesterday, as part of Shot@Life’s Blogust campaign, I asked you to tell us the nicest thing anyone had ever done for you in the comments.

When the post went live, with three days left in the campaign, we were about 1,000 comments away from our final goal of 10,000 comments. Not only did you guys spread the word, you came through with all 1,000 of those comments, and the acts of kindness you shared were so inspiring.

I have on my Life List that I’d like to get in the habit of grand loving gestures, but all of you reminded me that it’s often our smallest words and acts that sustain each other. We’re busy collecting favorite stories over here, from the grandfather who held a paper route to help his grandchildren through college to the boy who told a self-conscious teenager she looked pretty one day, so look for that post soon.

For now, I’m passing the baton to my friend Stacey Ferguson of Justice Fergie, so please head over to celebrate with her. Even though Team Blogust — and everyone who has commented on or participated in this campaign — has reached our goal, it never hurts to do a victory lap.

Image courtesy United Nations Foundation.