+
brown bag lady
Photos from Jacqueline Norvell

Compassion, served.

True

Compassion comes in many forms. Sometimes it looks like stopping to jumpstart a stranger’s car. Other times it’s volunteering time or donating. For Jacqueline Norvell, compassion looks like a delicious prepared lunch served in a brown paper bag.

Since 2014, Norvell, aka “Brown Bag Lady,” has arrived on the first Sunday of every month to hand out food and supplies to the homeless communities of Skid Row. Without fail.

Yes, even with the pandemic, she and her team have never missed a Sunday. During the first few months of COVID-19, everyone showed up in hazmat suits to serve.

The idea for Brown Bag Lady was sparked when Norvell was leaving a basketball game in Downtown Los Angeles. She took a wrong turn, putting her on Skid Row–one of L.A.’s biggest “tent cities” with a population estimated at 8,000 people.


This was around Christmas time, in the dead of winter. Los Angeles might be known for never-ending sunshine, but its winter nights are not forgiving. People were huddled together just trying to keep warm. Norvell, compelled to help after what she saw, used the holiday bonus from her corporate job, made 70 meals, and came back. The food was gone in five minutes.

What started out as a random act of kindness during the holiday season became a year-round cause. As an official nonprofit organization, Brown Bag Lady has helped feed more than 75,000 people, partnered with major brands including Vans and Lay’s, and has garnered the attention of Kelly Clarkson and Ellen Degeneres.

They even have a fully decked-out camo minivan with a mission statement painted along its sides: “Feeding the Body….Nourishing the Soul.”

Norvell credits social media as a major contributor to the nonprofit’s now enormous presence.

“Through Facebook and Instagram, we have been able to promote what we do by telling our story through pictures and video,” she explained. “We hope that all of our efforts and all of our hard work are relayed with compassion and love. I do not have a professional social media person. Every photo and every video that is posted, I tell the story myself.”

She added that thanks to the two platforms, items are purchased from all over the country and sent to BBL’s headquarters in Los Angeles. Plus many invitations for news appearances have come straight from her DMs. Like she said, no professional needed. Just letting social media work its magic.

Though Brown Bag Lady is becoming a widespread phenomenon throughout California, the personal touch is ever-present.

Each brown bag still features a lovely inspirational quote to deliver some hope along with sustenance.

Barbers stand for hours cutting hair for free, offering people that priceless feeling of self esteem.

Underserved schools receive backpacks full of important supplies, personally delivered.

Toiletry bags get filled with soap, toothpaste, deodorant, shampoo and conditioner and distributed along with food. (Considering hygiene is identified as a contributor to mental health for unhoused individuals, this is a big one.)

And don’t let the name fool you. The food is not your typical brown bag lunch with cold PB&J sandwiches. Nothing is ever canned or frozen. There’s a strict rule of “always fresh, always delicious.”

Norvell is also not some distant caregiver. “I try to fulfill as many needs as possible,” she told Upworthy. “If someone requests something specific I go buy it, and then I put their photo on the bag so I remember the next time that I see them.”

Below is an example of what her dining room looks like.

Coming to the same street corner year after year has allowed her to forge actual friendships with those she helps—many even have her cellphone number. To this day, she still credits this as being the best part of what she and her team does.

The more her organization grows, the bigger Norvell's aspirations get. The ultimate goal, she says, is to own a building with a commercial sized kitchen to allow for weekly meals, in addition to more space so that mental health services can be provided.

In the meantime, Brown Bag Lady’s latest project is reuniting foster siblings for a one-week sleep-away summer camp. It’s a perfect example of how social media can help bring people together to bring a big vision to life.

By posting photos to the Brown Bag Lady Instagram and Facebook page, more than 11,000 followers were made aware of a special Amazon wish list that includes items such as pillows, sleeping bags and hygiene kits for potential campers. Not only did this make it possible to spread the word, but people near and far could be part of the movement virtually. So far, the collective efforts have raised close to $30,000. Wow.

It seems like no dream is impossible for Norvell and the Brown Bag Lady crew. Just like their van promises, the team is serving up some true nourishment for the soul.

If you’d like to follow along the Brown Bag Lady journey, check out the Facebook and Instagram pages here and here.

Photo by Rich Smith on Unsplash

Interviewee's case of mistaken identity is pure gold.

We've all been there at some point or another, nervously waiting for a big job interview hoping you don't sweat through your good shirt. Interviews are stressful but there's likely no job interview more stressful than the one Guy Goma went on in 2006 for the BBC, when he was mistaken for an expert for a news segment. The person they were supposed to interview for the news segment was Guy Kewney, an actual music industry expert. But with cameras rolling and questions being asked, Goma took a deep breath and answered the newscaster.

Keep ReadingShow less
cseeman licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0.

Trevor Noah talked sex versus intimacy in a "Daily Show Between the Scenes" segment.

It started with a 2019 statistic showing nearly a third of men under 30 had not had sex in the previous year, which spurred a strange discussion about "incels" and debates over whether or not people—and men in particular—have a "right to sex."

You can read the original (widely panned) Twitter thread from Alexandra Hunt here, and an op-ed response ("Involuntary celibacy is a genuine problem, but a ‘right to sex’ is not the answer") from Guardian columnist Zoe Williams here, but the crux of the discussion is that some people seem very concerned that men who want to have sex aren't having it and someone or something must be to blame.

It's the kind of social discourse that seems to mark our time, with ample opportunity to scratch our heads, roll our eyes and mutter "WTF" under our breath. But Trevor Noah, as he so often does, has come riding in like a knight during a "Daily Show Between the Scenes" segment, elevating the conversation above the fray and tapping into a broader issue.

Keep ReadingShow less

Jack Black does impression of The Rock.

I don't know what it is about impersonations that are so fascinating to people but they're often hilarious, and Jack Black impersonating The Rock does not disappoint. From the 2018 clip you can't tell what prompted the impersonation but "Screen Junkies" interviewer looks to Black and asks him about his workout routine as if he's Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson.

The comedian adjusts himself in his seat and doesn't break character the entire time and somehow the interviewer is able to maintain a serious face throughout the process. Kevin Hart and the actual Dwayne Johnson cannot keep it together while Black does his impression of his co-star.

Keep ReadingShow less