Copyright © 2016 Janice Alonso
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“You’ve got to be kidding!” Jada laughed as she tucked a strand of long black hair behind her ear.
Louisa adjusted her backpack and shook her head no. “I laughed when I first heard about it, too.”
“Did I miss a good joke?” Charlotte asked as she joined her two friends. Her brown eyes sparkled and her lips lifted upward as she felt the sun’s spring warmth on her shoulders. “What did you hear about that was so funny?”
“I was asking Jada to help me collect plastic bags,” said Louisa. “You know, like the ones you get from grocery and drug stores. My abuelita and her friends need them.”
“What’s so funny about that? We recycle plastic bags at our house.” Charlotte extended her arms and motioned around her. “We want to take care of all these beautiful trees and flowers.”
“Oh, I agree with you, Charlotte.” Jada held up both hands as if to ward off an evil spirit. “And my family does things like reduce, reuse, and recycle to help the environment. But listen to what Louisa’s grandmother and her friends do with the bags.”
Louisa continued, “They meet at Abuelita’s house once a week to cut the bags into strips, tie the strips together, and then crochet them into mats.”
Now Charlotte laughed. “Why would anybody want to do that and who would want a mat made from plastic grocery bags?”
“They give the mats to their church.” Louisa paused and stared intently at each girl. “Then their church gives the mats to groups who work with homeless people.”
“I thought homeless people slept in shelters,” said Jada.
“Many do,” said Louisa, “but during the day a lot of the shelters are closed.”
“And some areas don’t have a shelter,” added Charlotte. “I saw a documentary on homelessness on television and the reporter said there are over three and a half million people homeless in the United States … and over a 100,000 million homeless people around the world. In the United States over a million of the homeless are children.”
“Sounds like we should be working to end homelessness instead of crocheting mats,” said Jada.
“We do need to work to end homelessness,” admitted Charlotte. “But the Bible tells us we also need to care for the needy.”
“How do people become homeless in the first place?” asked Jada.
“I know the answer to that,” interrupted Louisa. “My Sunday school class studied about it. Sometimes it’s because people are ill and have no one to take care of them.”
“I thought only poor people were homeless,” said Jada.
“Not true,” corrected Charlotte. “Sometimes people who have money lose their jobs and they can’t afford their house, and then the family has nowhere to live. Or, sometimes a family’s home is destroyed by a tornado, fire, earthquake, or another natural disaster.”
“Like Hurricane Katrina,” added Louisa.
Jada nodded. “I remember my church sponsored some families who lost their homes in Hurricane Katrina.”
“Well, making mats isn’t so silly after all,” agreed Charlotte.
“With this project, anyone can get involved.” Louisa held up her fingers as she ticked off the ways people could help. “Some people collect the bags, some cut the bags and tie them into strips, and others roll them into balls of parn -”
“Parn?” Jada squealed and threw her hands over her mouth.
“It is a funny word.” Louisa laughed. “It’s a combination of the words ‘plastic’ and ‘yarn.’” Louisa became serious once more. “But there’s nothing funny about homelessness.”
“I think it’s a wonderful project,” said Charlotte. “It’s good way to help the homeless. And it costs practically nothing to make the mats. All you need is a crochet hook and a pair of scissors.”
“And it makes my abuelita happy,” added Louisa. “Last year she volunteered three day s a week in a Soup Kitchen that provides meals to the homeless. Then she fell while working in her garden and broke her hip. Now she can’t be on her feet for long periods of time. She heard about these mats and organized a group in her church. They call themselves the Mat Makers.”
“I guess the joke’s on me,” said Jada.
“You can get the directions online,” said Louisa. “It takes about 700 to 900 bags to make one two and half foot wide by six foot long mat.”
“Wow, that is a lot of bags!” exclaimed Jada.
“That’s why I’m asking for your help,” said Louisa.
“Well, count me in!” exclaimed Jada. “Let’s start a plastic bag collection drive in our neighborhood.”
“Maybe we can get the school and our churches to help, too,” said Charlotte.
“But what else can we do to help the homeless?” Jada asked Louisa. “When your Sunday school class studied about homelessness, did you learn about other ways to help?”
“One way is to pray for them to find places to live. Everyone, even children, can do that. But God needs hands and feet to help the homeless. My teacher said that we need to educate others about homelessness. Collecting and giving donations are good ways to give.”
“And toys for the children,” said Louisa.
“Adults can volunteer in shelters and Soup Kitchens like my abuelita,” said Louisa.
“Habitat for Humanity is a group that actually builds houses for people who need a home.”
“So I guess that means people could donate things for a home to them,” said Charlotte.
“As children we can make a difference by helping others make a difference,” said Charlotte. “Like collecting these bags.”
“I’m going to make a flyer to explain everything thing I’ve learned, and we can give one to everyone we talk to when we’re gathering the bags,” said Jada.
“That would be wonderful!” shouted Charlotte, unable to control her excitement. “You’ll be helping educate others by using your artistic skills.”
“Thank you so much!” exclaimed Louisa. “It’s easy to think of ways to help others when you get together and share ideas!”
Find more books in the series Love God. Love Others.
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Louisa is explaining to Jada and Charlotte that she is collecting plastic grocery bags for her abuelita so that she can knit them into sleeping mats for the homeless. Her friends think this is a silly idea until they learn more about homelessness and ways to help. The fifth book in the series Love God. Love Others. Book five focuses on Matthew 25:40 “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Geared for grades K-2 and to be read to the child. Great teaching aid.