Operation Christmas Child is a charitable program which donates shoeboxes full of goodies and supplies to needy children around the world. Its umbrella organization is Samaritan’s Purse, an international relief organization spearheaded by Frankin Graham.
As I sit here trying to recollect how I became acquainted with this program, I am drawing a blank. At this point, I don’t think it’s essential to this post. All I know is this; I readily embraced this cause. Last year, my oldest daughter and I went shopping to fill some shoeboxes of our own.
I am a firm believer in giving, a practice which can be observed whether you are wealthy or not. Sometimes, the giving of love, time, and a listening ear are the most precious gifts of all. Moreover, they don’t cost a dime. Being fully present with those who love us is a great gift. Furthermore, this act is entirely free.
Giving, in my birth country (France), looks a bit different than in the United States. Americans are givers; at least this is my personal experience.
In France, I witnessed giving as donations of the homemade canned garden bounty from my poor grandparents* to my parents and other small gestures from one neighbor to another.
*As a side note, my Mamie – grandma – canned the best green beans ever.
Aside from the alms on Sundays, I also saw my mother give to the transient beggers in the streets of my town. She took a particular liking to a “regular” who knew her by sight as well as by name. She would often give him donations of fresh food rather than money knowing well enough that cash went to the bottle rather than the stomach.
Altruism for me is a part of life.
As I mentioned above Americans are givers. My mother was confounded upon hearing that my husband and I would be receiving dinners for two weeks after the birth of our firstborn child. Likewise, upon hearing that again we were privy to free meals – some from total strangers – when our daughter was in the NICU.
“Why are these women doing that?”, she asked, suspicious of their intentions.
This generosity even made her believe my husband and I were part of some strange cult.
Maman was equally gobsmacked upon hearing we would be opening our home to a friend in a bit of a pickle (and three of her kids). Ditto when a young man – we had known since infancy – spent nine months with us due to familial tensions.
Despite the fact my parents were quite dumbfounded by their daughter’s peculiar behaviors, they learned to accept them and no longer were surprised by my antics. Neither did they continue to believe I was part of a cult.
Random acts of kindness (RAK) are part of the fiber of our family. My husband and I believe it is more blessed to give than to receive. Benevolence profits the giver as well as the receiver.
Having been on both sides of this equation, I would say this statement is true. Receiving always gave me a complex combination of feelings from gratefulness, relief, humility, but also feeling undeserving, maybe even a smidgen of shame. Weird huh?
Giving on the other end is pure joy. It nourishes my soul.
Operation Christmas Child 2016
I learned a few lessons in the course of packing last year’s shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. Let me share them with you:
- Shoeboxes are constructed from cardboard which makes them flimsy and prone to falling apart (an issue solved with duck tape).
- Not all shoeboxes are the same size. This fact means some kids may hit the jackpot of shoeboxes (boot box) while others might not be so blessed (toddler shoebox).
- Shoebox lids do not make tight-fitting covers which infer they tend to pop off (also an obstacle resolved with duck tape).
- Shopping while your shoebox remains at home is not practical. You may end up with too many items. Furthermore, leaving your shoebox at home also means you will have to stuff the shoebox which will make issue number 3 (above) more pronounced. This turn of event will require the use of more duck tape.
Conclusion, shoeboxes are for shoes and have a roll of duck tape handy.
Operation Christmas Child 2017
This year, things were going to be different. First, no shoeboxes. Second, I was going to enlist the help of a few more of my kiddos.
Doing my own Happiness Project has made me more mindful as well as more creative. For these reasons, I decided to mobilize the help of my youngest kids. They would go shopping with me to pack their own shoebox (or in our case, sturdy-plastic-container-with-tight-fitting-lid).
Ahead of the trip, I asked each participant to pick a gender (girl or boy) and an age group (2-4, 5-9, and 10-14).
We drove to our neighboring Wal-Mart (twenty-two miles away), with a list of do and don’t items.
Our first order of the day was to purchase our sturdy plastic boxes with snap-on lids. In size, these containers were equivalent to a large shoebox (not boot size). They came in a pack of four for around $5. We also purchased an additional box since there were five of us participating.
We filled our boxes as we shopped to ensure the items we selected fitted in our container without requiring the use of a roll of duck tape.
It was also essential to choose age and gender appropriate items: toys, articles of clothing, approved toiletries, pen and paper, as well as some fun and smaller items such as pretty stickers.
Our shopping spree lasted quite a while.
Packing our Shoebox
Upon arriving at home, we each took our plastic bin – as well as the items we had selected – and proceeded to fill our respective containers. We did use a smidgen of duck tape to secure our lids for transport.
Some of the kids colored some drawings to add a final and personal touch.
We printed some labels and called it done!
My husband and I delivered the “shoeboxes” to a collection center before the collection deadline had passed.
A Cynic’s Response
Yeah, my kids’ measly few dollars from their allowance didn’t pay for all the items in their box.
True, it wasn’t their idea.
Equally correct, they will continue to live with their two-parent family, in a safe environment, in a house endowed with running water and electricity, with plenty of food in fridge and pantry, in relative ease, and in a country free of war.
Blah blah blah.
All true statements.
I believe I planted a seed. We created memories, maybe even a habit.
Any act performed with the intent to love and bless is an act of kindness in my book. Moreover, I don’t allow the cynics’ voices in my life; I am too busy living to listen. So, move along please, because I have things to do.
Furthermore, at 10, there isn’t a whole lot my boys can do. However, at any age, in almost any conditions, each of us can do something, even if that something is just a smile or a hug, or putting a shoebox full of goodies together.
Likewise, plant some seeds of goodness and ignore the haters.