Last Christmas, apart from our usual dinner and gift exchange, my family decided to do something different: we set up a booth near our home to give away necessities and festive items to needy residents.
The idea came from the devotional Give Us This Day, which my two children love. After reading an article on being generous towards others, we felt challenged to respond. We talked about it and soon our thoughts went to a rental block in our neighbourhood. How, we asked ourselves, could we help the residents of that block, many of whom were facing financial or health difficulties?
Inspired by God’s commandment in the Bible that land-owners were not to harvest to the edge of their fields (Leviticus 19:9–10, Deuteronomy 24:19–21) so that the poor could glean the remainders, as well as an online video on food donations, we decided to set up a simple booth at the void deck of the rental block. We would buy and stock our booth with food and other necessities, and residents could freely take whatever they needed.
My kids played an active role in shopping for the items (though I had to turn down a couple of suggestions, like potato chips). In the end, we got face masks, wet tissues, biscuits, batteries, pain relief patches, and a few other items. Back at home, my son and daughter designed and decorated a simple placard inviting passers-by to help themselves to the items.
Our handwritten invitation on a simple placard
On that morning of the distribution, we carried the items to the block (with the help of an old shopping trolley, whose wheels sought to go in different directions), laid out the items on a borrowed foldable table—and our makeshift distribution booth was “open for business”!
I was so heartened and thankful to see my two usually-shy children opening up and inviting strangers to the booth. They even talked to some of the residents, who gave us a peek into their lives and touched us with their stories.
There was an elderly lady in a wheelchair, for instance, who recently had a fall. She asked for prayer, and was delighted when my kids prayed for her. There was a jovial man who arrived on his mobility scooter and shared that due to life’s circumstances, he and his wife had only each other for company now. He took a slab of chocolate for his wife, saying she would love the treat.
A middle-aged man with a walking stick told us about his difficult past; he was still visibly struggling with old injuries from an assailant's attack. He was grateful for the pain-relief patches, and our hearts and prayers went out to him.
The children engaging with the residents
As we were packing up for the day, I reflected on our mini-stall. It seemed that our efforts to help needy residents in our neighbourhood were not really earth-shaking, and perhaps even seemed insignificant. But I hang on to the hope that God, in His divine grace, can multiply our humble five loaves and two fishes for His glory.
I pray that through the interactions we had with the residents, they were able to catch a glimpse of the joy and meaning of Christmas, and see that they are not forgotten in society, but are loved by a personal God who says: “The very hairs of your head are all numbered. Don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows” (Luke 12:7).
As Chinese New Year approaches, our family is once again excitedly planning to set up another stall to spread festive joy to our fellow residents (we’re already eyeing those cute face masks with Chinese New Year designs!). In what ways can you and I offer up our five loaves and two fishes?