Operation Christmas Child—sharing the joy of Christmas with others.
Growing up I was taught that Christmas was not about getting presents, eating cookies, decorations or Santa Claus. Don’t get me wrong, we still had decorations around the house and a beautiful tree adorned with ornaments collected and handmade over the years. We also exchanged presents under the tree on Christmas morning together after our traditional brunch of breakfast casseroles, cinnamon rolls, and fruit. The focus though was not on the GETTING, it was always on the GIVING. Each year we always shared our Christmas with those who didn’t have family nearby, or didn’t have family at all. Usually it was international students from my Dad’s school or college friends of my siblings who joined us. I have memories of the many faces that graced our dining room table over the years.
More specifically, I remember the man from Nigeria who experienced Christmas for the first time along with his first sleigh ride down our back hill. He was smiling ear to ear and laughing when coming back inside the house. There was also Tomachika, my brother’s friend from Japan, Jeong Hwan Kang, my other brother’s friend from Korea, and my sister’s two friends who spent Christmas with us over the years. Even though at times I didn’t want to share my family with others, I now know why my parents were so insistent on doing so. It isn’t about us; it is about Christ, the little babe who came to earth to become our Savior. Christmas is celebrating God’s greatest gift of all, Jesus.
Being a mother now, I would like to pass on to my children this same message. Operation Christmas Child, a worldwide shoebox gift ministry, is a great way to do this. Communities and churches pack shoeboxes filled with toys, crayons, hygiene items, clothes, candy, etc. and they are shipped to children in countries around the world who are in need. My son is just now at the age (4) where he understands presents and now has started to ask about getting them. Ah ha! A perfect moment to explain to him that presents are special and not everyone around the world even has their basic needs met, like he does. In most cases presents are unheard of. We had the opportunity at church to bring in a few items and the Sunday school classes would pack the boxes for the children. Instead of bringing in a few items, I decided to pack a few boxes with my children to help put the emphasis on giving.
The other day the kiddos and I visited a Dollar store together. We found some great items for our boxes and had some good conversations about why we were doing this and why the toys were not for them. When we got home my son helped me separate the girl and boy items in the boxes while we talked about how the boxes would get to the children. Speaking of, you now have the option of being able to track your shoebox to see where it ends up in the world. Makes it a little more personal knowing where your box is travelling. As my children get older this will encourage us to get out our atlas (or Google maps) to find where it ends up. Hopefully packing shoeboxes will be a tradition we carry on each year. I also hope to do other things with my children as they grow up to share the joy of Christmas with others. It isn’t too late to pack a shoebox or two with your children. Collection week is this coming week, November, 14th -21st. This would be a great weekend activity. To find a collection center near you or get more information visit their website.
6 Simple Steps to Packing a Shoebox
- Find an empty shoe box or small plastic container (shoe box size).
- Decide whether your box is for a boy or girl.
- Have your child help you pick out items for the boxes. We chose these items: crayons, coloring pads, plastic animals, balls, hair bows, tambourine, socks, toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, combs, lollipops, stickers, crown, necklace, bracelet, and chewing gum.
- Pack the box and include a personal note if you would like.
- Include $7 to help with shipping. You can do this online or by using a donation envelope.
- Drop off at collection center.
Other Ways to Share the Joy of Christmas
- Making cookies and giving to neighbors
- Serving at a homeless shelter or food pantry
- Inviting people over for a meal
- Babysitting for someone’s kids to give them a break
- Surprise someone and buy their gas
- Buy someone’s meal
- Buy someone groceries or give them a gift card to a grocery store