We hear a lot in the news about children doing bad things. Kids seem to get blamed for everything. To be sure, kids can find all sorts of mischief to get into — and have done so since the dawn of time. But for every kid behaving badly, there are lots of others who are behaving in remarkably good ways. As part of my “People Making a Difference” series, I’ll be spotlighting some of these remarkable kids who are making their communities — and the world — a better place.
I’ve chosen to begin in Chicago, a city often in the news — and usually not for anything good. What we don’t usually hear about is all the good that is going on in Chicago.Jahkil Jackson is one of Chicago’s 2.7 million residents, and he noticed a problem in his hometown that he couldn’t ignore. There are an estimated 82,000 homeless people in Chicago. That number includes both adults and children. Some of them are able to find a couch to sleep on, but many of them live on the street. When Jahkil saw some of Chicago’s homeless camped out on the streets as he rode by in the car with his parents, he decided he couldn’t turn a blind eye. Jahkil told USA Today, “In a perfect world, I would buy every homeless person a house. But since I can’t do that, I will try to help as much as I can.” Jahkil came up with the idea of putting together what he calls “Blessing Bags” for the homeless. The bags contain toiletries, first aid supplies, hand sanitizer, bottled water and healthy snacks, and socks. He insists that his parents keep a supply of the bags in their cars at all times. “He yells at us if we don’t,” said Jahkil’s mom in an interview with Heidi Stevens of the Chicago Tribune. “I also yell at them if they do,” Jahkil added, saying if he sees a homeless person, he insists that his mom or dad pull over so he can give them a bag. At age 10, Jahkil set a goal to hand out 5,000 Blessing Bags to the homeless. On December 28, 2017, he packed his 5,000th bag. The next day, President Barack Obama posted a tweet drawing attention to Jahkil’s efforts.
With the help of his parents and other family members, Jahkil has established Project I Am to collect donations for his Blessing Bags.
Jahkil’s goal for 2018 is to pack and distribute 6,000 Blessing Bags. In addition, Project I Am distributes Blessing Bag starter kits to schools and individuals who have expressed an interest in getting involved.But Jahkil’s plans do not stop there. He wants to establish a tiny house movement, inspired by a similar program in Detroit, to build 300-square-foot houses for the homeless. In Detroit, organizations and corporations have donated money to build tiny house communities, and volunteers have stepped up to help with construction. Jahkil says he wants to “build one with his bare hands. I want to see how that feels.”
I am so moved by Jahkil’s story that I’m not sure whether to jump for joy or burst into tears. These types of stories truly give me hope. I know there is good in the world, and Jahkil embodies it in his spirit and enthusiasm.
Jahkil, you are an inspiration to us all.