We were driving home from campus earlier tonight when Junia asked me this question. Last Friday we had gone to a church to help put items into care packages for the PSU Berks students. Junia excelled at this, marching through the assembly line and filling each bag with soda, ramen, granola bars, crackers, markers and tablets. Then today she went with me as we transported hundreds of these gift bags from the drop site (another church) to campus. In the midst of large men carrying anywhere from four to ten bags at once, Junia consistently carried her two, making sure to work hard and do her part.
Unfortunately it was getting late for her, so I took her home before we actually got to hand them out. Then she asked me why we do it. As I thought about how to answer, anticipating other questions she might ask, I realized how difficult it is to explain these sorts of things to a child.
“Well sweetheart, Daddy works with the college students, you know that right?”
“Well, my job is to help the students learn more about Jesus and God. We want the students to know that God loves them so one way we do this is giving them a bag of free goodies.”
“How does giving them a bag show them that?”
“Well, you know how when you love someone you sometimes give them a present, like at Christmas? One way we show we care about other people is by giving them presents. So we give them gift bags to show them we care about them and to help them know God cares about them and loves them. Does that make sense?”
“And you know what, when you go to college it is probably the first time you have lived away from home. A lot of the students have lived with their mommies and daddies their whole lives. Moving away from home can be scary, some of the students may be missing their families and friends. We want to make them feel welcome at Penn State Berks, to help them know people out there care for them. What do you think of that?”
“I think its nice!”
So there you go. That’s why we do it, reduced to a way a four year old can understand.
By the time I got back to campus from dropping her off, the students were already handing them out. As it is every year, it was a wonderful time. Many students expressed gratitude and joy at receiving these bags, some were even shocked to get something for free. Our prayer of course is that these bags remind the students that lots of people out there care about them and beyond that, that God cares for them.