Who Knew A Backpack Could Change A Life

Written By: Emme Showler


July 21, 2023

We don’t often see the impact that backpacks and school supplies have on children and families in need. To a family struggling financially, gaining those necessities is an immense weight lifted from them. It brings parents relief to know that their children have been provided for, and they can take comfort that their kids have all they need to learn and do well in school.

Each fall, Woodside runs a back-to-school backpack drive in association with the Community Housing Network (CHN) — a nonprofit organization that helps those facing homelessness find housing in southeast Michigan. The organization runs programs and events for families and individuals in need and provides housing for people who are encountering homelessness, crisis, or difficulty due to disability.

The backpack drive allows our church family the opportunity to fill backpacks with school supplies for students in need. Through this, we get to be the hands and feet of Jesus — displaying Christ’s love. As followers of Christ, our genuine desire should be to present ourselves as selfless and kind toward others. Jesus calls us to show compassion to those in need. When we are generous with our time, resources, and talents, we take a heartfelt posture of obedience toward the Father.

After a long day hosting CHN’s first backpack drive of the year, Alexandria Cracchiolo, CHN donor relations coordinator, was on her way out of the building when she realized she had lost her car keys. As she walked back towards the building to locate them, she quickly realized the keys to the building were lost as well.

For some reason, I wasn’t annoyed or frustrated,” Alex later recalled. “I finally found both sets of keys 30 minutes later — and I realized that I’d forgotten my clipboard inside. I went back in to retrieve my clipboard, and when I came out of the building, I was greeted by a man with a small 4-year-old boy.”

Out of breath and flustered, the man explained to Alex that he had been rushing to the backpack drive to get supplies for his four children. Alex reassured the man that there was plenty to go around, then gave him all the backpacks and supplies he needed for his children to begin school. With relief, the man expressed his thanks to Alex and the organization. He shared that his wife had passed away due to COVID the past November — making it his kids’ first school year without their mother.

Alex went home that day feeling like God had allowed each of those subtle inconveniences for a reason — to encourage and show Christ’s compassion to that man and his family.

I left feeling like God had kept me there for a reason — to be there for that man and reassure him,” Alex said. “What may seem like a simple back-to-school event to some of us, or backpacks, or simple school supplies — they literally mean the world to these families we serve. What we’re doing matters; every backpack matters.

This story is just a glimpse of the impact that the backpack drive has on countless families. Without the selfless generosity of our church family, the backpacks wouldn’t have been filled and the impact wouldn’t have been made.

As we walk in the way of Christ, He calls us to be like Him by bearing His image and setting an example. By modeling His character, God calls us to “give as freely as we have received” (Matthew 10:8). Often, giving isn’t easy. It can be difficult to give what you have worked hard to earn. Yet, Christ reminds us that everything is His:

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof, the world and those who dwell therein. — Psalm 24:1

It all comes down to the heart, which must be transformed by love and softened by the Spirit. We must determine in our hearts how the Lord has called us to steward our possessions.

Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. — 2 Corinthians 9:7

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. — Matthew 6:21

Giving generously — not just tithes, but physical items and supplies — brings us and others much joy.

How does giving away our money, possessions, and time bring us joy? Through the return of watching the joy on another’s face or seeing the fruit of consistent tithing. The more we indulge in generosity, the more we will realize what a privilege it is to give. When our eyes are opened to this, we experience that same joy when we see a child receive school supplies or an item of clothing that they wouldn’t have gained otherwise.

Generosity was something that Christ exemplified genuinely. As Paul recalls in the book of Acts, Jesus calls us to be generous in everything:

…remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he himself said, ‘it is more blessed to give than to receive.’ — Acts 20:35

The joy that comes from generosity is truly heart-transforming and life-shaping. The more we give generously, the more it will come naturally and become enjoyable. If God can bring so much life change from a backpack, who knows what else He can use to transform lives?

Give generously, and let the joy of blessing others change you.