Faith: Church fills 100 backpacks for needy local students
Darcy Crain-Polly | Contributor
It’s that time of year again, when our city’s population increases by about 35,000, and you’re inundated with back to school ads. At many local churches in Ann Arbor, this means one of the congregations' favorite service events of the year: stuffing backpacks for local students whose families are financially unable to provide them otherwise.
At my church, the brightly-colored tags posted on the bulletin board quickly disappear as families and individuals, young and old, seize the opportunity to help kids in need. They make their way to school supply stores with lists in their hands and buy a new backpack, stuffing it with supplies for a child they will never meet.
I wonder why the project is so popular, and I believe it is, in part, because charity is often easier to deal with than justice issues. Purchasing and filling backpacks offers a challenge that has a distinct beginning and end to it. The need is succinct and defined, as is the method of fulfilling the void.
Succinct needs and methods to meet them are attractive because they do not overwhelm the volunteer. Yes, there are greater justice issues that lie beneath the surface of the star-shaped backpack tag on our church bulletin board. There is the question of why these families cannot afford school supplies; including deep-seated issues of unemployment, public education and cost of living.
We do not ask our families to tackle the justice issues, though many seek to do so. We instead ask for charity. We ask for the simpler of the two. They are undeniably different, but both are undeniably necessary.
We may not fix any of the deep-seated issues of justice that lie beneath the surface, but we can outfit 100 kids for the upcoming school year. We can make a difference in their lives and in their education.
We each have different calls to service, whether yours is to the work of justice or to the work of charity, know that no matter what, you change someone’s life for the better. And that’s a great reason if I ever heard one, to get excited about backpacks.