“You get your greatest passion, I guess, from your greatest pain; because I know I did…
So says Cyndi Bunch, co-founder of Philip’s Wish, an organization founded by her son, Philip, and born out of their experience encountering and coming to know the Unsheltered Community in their area of the country. Their experience, prompted by husband’s and father’s schizophrenic breakdown and sudden runaway, plays out on the screen in the recently-released film 5,000 Blankets.
Cyndi and Philip’s frantic search for their husband/father Bobby leads them to engage with the homeless community, initially, on the surface level and then eventually, on a much deeper level born out of compassion and understanding.
As Cyndi and her son did in real life, the on-screen characters suffer, first, the loss of their loved one when he goes missing, then the loss of their home due to foreclosure. Becoming homeless, themselves, Cyndi and Philip continue to search for their loved one, refusing to give up hope, and, along the way, meet various homeless souls and get acquainted with their various sufferings- especially trying to stay warm outdoors and without shelter. When Cyndi is moved by compassion (Matthew 14:14-21; Mark 1:41, Matthew 9:36, Matthew 20:34, Mark 1:41, etc.) to give her son’s favorite blanket to an unsheltered woman shivering with cold, we are given a glimpse of what it means to truly be a genuinely caring human being and to give sacrificially- not simply respond as a “social activist” or a “good Christian…”
Through this seemingly simple random act of kindness, Cyndi and Philip are, eventually, moved and led to a new life purpose: collecting enough blankets to ensure that each and every homeless soul might be warmed- not only physically but also emotionally since the distribution of the blankets also includes conversations, hugs, and otherwise acknowledging the humanity and social and spiritual worth of displaced individuals.
Along the way, the Bunch’s efforts attracted the attention of various celebrity sports and film industry figures, and a partnership was formed to create the foundation Philip’s Wish.
Themes explored in 5,000 Blankets include both mental illness and homelessness- concepts not much talked about, much less depicted onscreen, and realities that often have some of us feeling helpless to remedy to a point at which we might prefer to ignore- due to discomfort- and fail to help at all.
The scriptwriter, Larry Postel, says his intent with the script is to both offer hope and inspiration that even little things we do to help can have a big impact.
One should not miss the connection between offering someone a warm blanket- along with some food- as a way of both helping them survive and demonstrating and extending care and comfort. With a special passion born out of their own, first hand, knowledge of homelessness, Cyndi and Philip’s aim with their foundation, Philip’s Wish, is that “everyone is warm, and cared for.” As someone with two Master’s degrees and a full time job who has gone through temporary periods of homelessness, especially sleeping in a vehicle in 36-degree nights, this reporter can state with authority that the additions of one single blanket can be an invaluable help to someone sleeping on the streets or in their vehicle.
This charitable act is not only a practical one, providing safety from hypothermia as well as comfort, but it is a gesture that sends a message of kindness and care to those (and, sometimes, those of US) often forgotten. All too often those living on the street are made to feel “invisible” while also being ill equipped with the material goods needed to survive. This film is a tangible reminder of this, yes, however, further, the film demonstrates how a loving idea can grow into a proper and effective outreach when and if those who are like-minded come together and take right action from the heart.
Although set in Fort Worth, Texas, the movie was filmed in Fayatteville, Arkansas for purposes of tax incentives. There is no disputing, however, the increase in the number of souls who are homeless in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. It is predicted there will be about 5,200 homeless, a number increased almost 1,900 from last year. San Francisco- and surrounding counties- has seen similar growth…
Again, so many throw up their hands and say “there is nothing we can do” about “the” homeless. Well, we can certainly do SOMETHING, and 5,000 Blankets is a great start to view to understand the “how.”
5,000 Blankets opened in 1,200 theaters nation-wide for two nights only: December 12 and 13. Tickets were available at theaters and online at: https://www.fathomevents.com/events/5,000Blankets.
This hopeful- and helpful- film is available January 5, 2023 for streaming view exclusively on PureFlix. Highly recommended viewing for church, synagogue, civic, and other service organizations interested in creating Good Change in the world, this film is also highly recommended for individual family viewings as both a great way to create family bonding time, a way to raise further consciousness- in a gentle yet impactful way- about exactly what “homelessness” entails, and as a reminder of what this Season of Holiday Joy is all about- and how this “season” must be extended outside of “the holidays” and continue all year long…