More Than A Simple Gift
by Joy Martin, Set Me Free Ministries Co-founder
I’d like to start out by saying that I am one of those sticklers for tradition who believes Christmas decorations/lights/music should be kept tucked away until AFTER Thanksgiving. Call me old fashioned, call me silly, call me what you will, but I enjoy Thanksgiving Day and think it’s sad when Christmas takes over the entire month of November. That said, I’m going to blog about Christmas—kind of. After the experience I had with my kiddos yesterday, I couldn’t blog about anything else.
See, yesterday I took Justice and Julie shopping for our Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. In case you’re not familiar with the program, OCC is one of many ministries run by Samaritan’s Purse. Each year Samaritan’s Purse collects millions of shoeboxes filled with goodies—school supplies, toiletries, and small toys—and then distributes them to children around the world. Some of these children have never received a gift … ever! In addition to the goodies, Samaritan’s Purse places a Gospel tract in each box written in the child’s native language, making each box not only a very special gift but also an opportunity to share Jesus with children around the world. It truly is an amazing ministry.
So, as I said, Saturday was our designated Operation Christmas Child shopping day. Before we left for Family Dollar, I explained our mission. I gave Justice and Julie each a crisp $20 bill and told them they could pick out things they loved for another child on the other side of the world who may not get any other gifts for Christmas.
Now, I’d be lying if I told you I believed the entire trip would go smoothly. As we drove to the store, I braced myself for the inevitable whining and crying when the kids realized that they weren’t getting anything for themselves. And I was prepared to face Julie’s disappointment when she discovered we were giving her box away—forever.
When we arrived at the store, our first stop was the personal care aisle. The kids eagerly tossed toothbrushes and toothpaste into the cart. So far, so good. Next stop: the toy aisle. Justice headed straight for the Matchbox cars and carefully selected a few of his favorites before debating the merits of a bag of marbles. After all, marbles are pretty easy to lose, according to Justice, and he was concerned the boy who received his box would be sad if he lost his new toys. A yo-yo was the perfect replacement.
In the meantime, Julie squealed with delight at everything she saw—a small coloring book, a new box of crayons, huge bouncy balls, a mini Mr. Potato Head, baby dolls. If I’d left it entirely up to her, we would have needed a box from Daddy’s size 13 work boots to fit it all. We worked together to narrow down the selection, although I did let her pick out the perfect hair accessory (a five-pack of headbands) and stuffed animal (Winnie the Pooh) all on her own.
I couldn’t help but smile as I watched them pick out goodies and toss them into their respective shoebox totes. Packing the totes once we got home was just as fun. Justice paid careful attention to the order of his items so the coolest items (Matchbox cars and Mario socks) were on top. And when all was said and done, we had two gifts sure to make any child smile.
And you know what? The whining and disappointment never came! Justice and Julie both shopped, packed, and wrapped their shoeboxes with love and are anxious to find out where they end up. Of course, I will be quick to admit this has nothing to do with some amazing parenting skills on my part, and on a different day things might have turned out, well, not quite so amazing. But for that one day, at least, I got to enjoy childhood generosity in all its splendor, and for that I am truly thankful.
As I reflect on the Operation Christmas Child program and think about the millions of children all over the world who have so little, I am reminded of Jesus’ illustration of the sheep and the goats told in Matthew 25. When faced with the blessing they received, the sheep questioned when it was that they served Jesus by feeding Him, clothing Him, and caring for Him. He answered, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me” (verse 40). Likewise, when the goats questioned when it was that they turned their backs on Him without offering help, Jesus answered, “Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me” (verse 45).
So this holiday season as you deck the halls and celebrate the joy of giving, I ask that you take a moment to remember “the least of these,” whatever that looks like for you and your family. My kids may not be able to change the world with a shoebox full of simple gifts, but they can bring joy and perhaps a spark of hope to a child. And in the process, they do the same for Jesus, their Redeemer and King.