Shoeboxes for Christmas
by Nancy Twigg
Filling a shoebox with
goodies and sending to a child who would otherwise have nothing for
Christmas. It’s a simple concept but one that works well for
Samaritan’s Purse. Every year, through the Operation Christmas Child
program, people from all over America, Canada, and parts of Europe
have the opportunity to help children all over the world by simply
filling shoeboxes with small gifts and treats.
Christmas 2004 was my family’s first time to participate in
Operation Christmas Child. At the age of almost-four, we felt it was
time for our daughter Lydia to begin learning about Christmas giving
rather than just Christmas receiving. With some degree of
apprehension, I explained what we were going to do and then took her
to the local dollar store to select items for our shoebox. I was a
little worried she would get a case of the "gimmes" and want to buy
everything for herself. On the contrary, she had great fun picking
out things for "the little child who is poor." We enjoyed the
experience so much that we have participated every year since then.
As we collected items for our shoebox last year, a novel thought
occurred to me. The concept of giving shoeboxes for Christmas has
other practical applications. Here are a few I thought of:
Christmas gift giving – Whether you need to scale back for
financial reasons, or simply want to scale back because you
think it’s gotten out of hand, limiting gift giving to one
shoebox per person is a great way to go. Obviously if all gifts
must fit in one shoebox, that limits not only how many items but
what kinds of items can be given. You can still give more
expensive items if you want (gift cards, jewelry, cash, etc.),
but knowing that each person will only receive one shoebox
giving – As Lydia and I put together our shoebox, I noticed that
we included many consumable items—items that would either get
eaten up or used up. Most grandparents and older people have
more than enough of everything they need. They have little room
for trinkets and gadgets, but appreciate practical items that
won’t create clutter in their homes. A shoebox filled with
consumable items—food items, toiletries, stationery, health and
beauty products—would be a thoughtful gift idea for practically
any senior adult on your list for practically any gift-giving
Long distance gift
giving – Don’t you hate the expense of mailing large boxes of
gifts to long-distance friends and relatives? Limiting the size
of packages to a shoebox would definitely help control shipping
costs. This rule would also make shipping easier, as almost
everyone has plenty of empty shoeboxes and brown paper bags
around the house for wrapping up the boxes. What if you have
several shoeboxes to send to one family? No problem. Just put
your shoeboxes in one larger box for mailing.
Good for other
needy people, too – Children in foreign countries aren’t the
only ones who could benefit from receiving a shoebox of goodies.
We have many people right here in America who need a loving
touch. Why couldn’t a church or charitable organization start a
Christmas shoebox program for inner city families, the homeless,
people in nursing homes, or shut-ins? And why limit it to
Christmas? These people need ministry all year long. Shoeboxes
filled with practical items and special treats could be just the
way to do good deeds for people who are often overlooked.
experience for kids – One last idea. This year I plan to give my
daughter a Christmas shoebox, too. I believe it will be
educational for her to experience a little of how it must feel
for the children who receive shoeboxes from Samaritan’s Purse.
Of course, the effect is not exactly the same. Unlike most of
the Operation Christmas Child children, she knows she will
receive other presents. However, I hope the excitement she feels
as she opens her box will make an indelible impression and help
her to be more empathetic toward those who have so little.
So you see, giving
shoeboxes for Christmas is a smart idea. It works for Operation
Christmas Child and it can work in a variety of situations for your
family, too. By the way, if you’d like more information on how your
family can participate in Operation Christmas Child, visit
http://www.samaritanspurse.org A similar program exists
which sends shoeboxes of goodies to military personnel deployed
overseas. Learn more about Operation Shoebox at
Nancy Twigg is the author of the newly revised and expanded book,
Celebrate Simply: Your Guide to Simpler,
More Meaningful Holidays and Special Occasions
(Kregel Publications, October 2006).
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