Happy Bags: Grants Pass, OR
The Sri Sathya Sai Center of Grants Pass is situated in Southern Oregon. In 2022, a study conducted by the community non-profit UCAN (United Community Action Network) revealed that approximately 99 homeless individuals per 10,000 residents live in the local area. Given the pressing local needs, the Center members decided to pursue an ongoing service project that could be efficiently managed and carried out during their weekly bhajans and study circle sessions.
First, Center members compile a list of things that might be useful to the needy or homeless, such as water, socks, hygiene products, food items with a long shelf life, etc. They volunteer to obtain the items and bring them to the Center on a prearranged day. After collecting what is needed, they devote a meeting to packing the items into one-gallon Ziploc bags. They call them Happy Bags, the name given by Wilma Bronkey who started the Center decades ago and originated the idea. These bags are then handed out to the many homeless individuals they encounter.
Some people see the homeless as a threat or a nuisance. Many pretend not to see them at all. When we have nothing to give, a smile and “hello” to acknowledge their existence can truly brighten their day. To be able to hand them a Happy Bag with snacks, water and much-needed supplies can actually make a tangible difference. Filling the bags while enjoying bhajans reminds us these items are really being given to Sai – there is no other. Not that we expect it, but usually the recipients are extremely grateful. Some even bless us, and we treasure it as a blessing from Sathya Sai Baba.
One Sai Center member reflected:
Sai says “You are not doing service for others. You are doing it always for yourselves, to the God in you, the God who is equally present in others.”
Ultimately, I know there is no other and by serving Him, we serve ourselves. Nonetheless I can’t help harboring the hope that He might reward me with a dream, or even call me in for an ‘inner-view.’ Sometimes He does!