This week, my 40 bag challenge continues for Lent.
I focused on my son’s belongings.
When he arrived, we received so much support and love. We filled his book shelves with stories to read. His closet and dresser overflowed with clothing for the first year. He received a mound of blankets that kept him warm each night. Church communities, friends, and family rallied around us to offer resources and supplies.
But we live in Canton, Ohio. Our city is ranked #29 for the most single parent households in cities over 50,000 people in the United States. Canton made national headlines 10 years ago when 64 girls at Timken High School became pregnant in one school year. Even as national teen pregnancy rates dropped- Canton’s numbers remained high, and teen pregnancy cut across all ethnic and cultural lines.
So in the very same city where our son has been encouraged and spoiled- we have neighbors who struggle to provide for their sons and daughters. The disadvantages faced by teen moms in Canton and across the country are heartbreaking.
Nationally, studies show that the average cost for baby clothes alone is about $60/month for the first year. Usually basic toys, books and blankets average $20 to $40 per month as well.
Diapering is another story. Parents spend on average $76 a month on diapers.
These costs are only a small part of the expense of having children.
We know through Felix’s journey with allergies that health costs can be astronomical. Additionally, we pay roughly $10,000 a year for childcare.
This week, as I thought about what we have, and what we really need- I realized we have beautiful, gently used clothes that can help other moms in Canton. We have a stash of extra cloth diapers we can pass on that will help a mom cut costs. We have extra swaddle blankets, more toys, an extra baby carrier and baby bed that we can pass along to children who did not receive the support of churches, friends and family as they came into the world.
So bags #5-10 are going to a support center for moms in Canton, Ohio.
It is a small gesture. There is still so much work to be done. But what if we each took a step every day to be generous with our neighbors? Could the world be different?
“Love, overflowing with small gestures of mutual care, is also civic and political, and it makes itself felt in every action that seeks to build a better world.” –Pope Francis