The benevolent bag lady

By Gerre Joiner | Published Wednesday, December 10, 2014

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Ron Johnson, youth minister at First Baptist Decatur, and I drove to Governor’s Ridge Retirement/Assisted Living place recently and had a sit-down with some dear folks.

Beth and Ralph Roper moved to Decatur recently from Acton. I learned a few weeks ago that Beth has a wonderful hobby that meets needs in the following areas:

  • She’s putting plastic shopping bags to a great use.
  • She’s staying busy in her new home.
  • She’s keeping Ralph busy helping her.
Gerre Joiner

Gerre Joiner

Let me explain: Before Ralph and Beth moved to Decatur, they had a conversation with a friend in Grapevine who was creating shopping bag mats … actually cutting them into strips, looping the strips together in very long strips and crocheting the strips into a 6-foot by 3-foot blanket.

The friend told her they were ideal for homeless individuals because they insulated the person from the hot (or cold) surface on which they were trying to sleep. They kept the rain out. They dried out easily and completely.

Beth was convinced that she would especially enjoy creating these mats. The craft project appealed to her. The idea of serving homeless people in this small way really appealed to her.

Her group created 14 mats and presented them to an organization in Fort Worth called “Beautiful Feet Ministries” before they left Acton. When they moved to Decatur, she established her network of folks who saved their bags for her, and she was in business.

Ron Johnson was interested in Beth’s work and wanted to know how he could help her. In a flash, she said, “Save your bags for me.”

Most of the time, this column is filled with funny stories, but I’d like for this particular column to prompt a few serious thoughts as we enter into the Christmas season and the coldest part of our winter months:

  • When you meet friends like Beth and Ralph, affirm them. Congratulate them on their hard work and tender hearts.
  • When you see a need (homelessness), try to do something to meet that need. Your small act of kindness could be a huge blessing to someone who simply needs a mat.
  • When you are inspired by someone like the Ropers, consider learning how to do what they are doing. (Beth uses the simplest of all crochet patterns.) Then get busy doing what they’re doing.
  • If you know you can’t learn to do what they’re doing, ask if there’s a way you can help them. Your help might be as simple as saving your grocery bags for your thoughtful (and crafty) friends.

Thanks, Ropers! You are inspirations to us all!

Gerre Joiner is a semi-retired church musician and has lived in Decatur since 1999.

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