10 December 2013

Operation Christmas Child 2013

Brian and I want to cultivate a sense of selflessness and thoughtfulness in our children.  One of the ways we have tried to do this specifically at Christmastime, while the boys are still so young, has been through the "Operation Christmas Child" program.  Operation Christmas Child is a program, sponsored by Samaritan's Purse, which uses "gift-filled shoeboxes to demonstrate God's love in a tangible way to needy children around the world."

This year, instead of filling one box for a needy child, like we did last year, we were able to fill three boxes - one for each one of our children.   Since Oliver named the little boy recipient of his box last year "Happy Christmas," Bennett decided to name his little boy recipient "Henry."  I named Avonlea's little girl recipient, "Mary."  We helped the kids name their box recipients in hopes it will facilitate their better understanding that little children like them will receive the gifts they give.  Although we will never know the children who will receive these boxes, naming our child also helps our family pray for these specific children by giving them a name.

Last Christmas, I found an Operation Christmas Child magazine in the mail which I saved so that this year I could show the boys pictures of children receiving the boxes like theirs.  My hope is pictures will better communicate to the boys what it means for another child to receive the gifts we are giving.

And then, I pulled it out...all of it: every fast food kid's meal toy, plastic straw, unsharpened pencil, stamp, game and coloring book that I have been collecting all year long.  Since I was surprised, last year, how expensive filling a tiny shoe box from scratch can be, I came up with the idea that I could collect items throughout the year to place in our boxes

So, after every birthday party and school holiday party, after the kids were done with their little party favor bags or left their fast food kids' meal toys unopened, I would collect the items and place in a box under my bed.  The boys never asked about their missing toys.

But, when I pulled the box out, I warned the children that they might find items they hadn't seen in a while and encouraged them to understand that while these items once were their toys, these toys were now gifts that we wanted to give to our Operation Christmas Child friends.  I braced for the typical tears and childhood thrashing: "but that's mine!!"

For the most part, it didn't happen.  Bennett cheerfully filled his box and very much enjoyed finding his favorite things to put in "his" little boys' box.  Oliver, however, had a much harder time.  Oliver is older so he could appreciate some of the toys better but he also has a very sentimental personality that wants to keep things "forever."  But, Oliver also has a very sweet and sensitive heart who wants very much to be kind to others.  So, while we were filling our boxes, Oliver came up to me quietly and asked if he could take a few of the toys he really loved and "go over to the chair to pray."  I obliged and probably would have let the kids pick and item or two they wanted, had they really pushed for it.  But within a few minutes, Oliver was done praying and explained that he felt better and could now happily place his items in his box.

I don't really know what the child prayed (he prayed silently) and I certainly didn't prompt him to do so, but I was touched that when in a difficult place, in which his anxiety was getting the better of him, he felt the desire to draw near God.

Eventually, all three boxes were filled to the brim.  We saved some of our hard candy from Halloween, which we stuffed in to plastic bags to place in the box.  Both the boys drew a picture for their little boy and we sent them off.  I look forward to hearing back in a few weeks to which country our boxes eventually land.  But I loved being able to put to use all the tiny trinkets and plastic fast food toys our family had collected throughout the year.  I also love being able to give the boys the practice of giving. It is a challenge I have placed on my own life this year - ways to look to give generously - as I know that I am continually blessed by the thoughtfulness and giving spirit of others in my life.

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