As a little girl, I stood anxiously in a store aisle clutching my cardboard shoebox. My eyes scanned the shelves in search of just the right item. The contents had to be perfect, although to this day I can’t tell you what I actually included in my first box; more than likely it was pink and sparkly.
I kept thinking about the girl who would open my box. Does she look like me? Does she enjoy the same things as I do? How will something so small impact her life? The feelings I had in that moment are ones I can still vividly remember: excitement, curiosity, hope and love for someone I would never meet. It is the feeling I get every time I shop and pack a shoebox.
Growing up, my family always showed generosity through action. Operation Christmas Child was a tangible way my church and parents modeled what it meant to give and love others generously. Now as a mother myself, I realize how often my words fall on deaf ears (for example, “Pick up your socks!”). But my actions and behavior carry far more weight. Little eyes are always watching. Much like when I was a child, my kids anticipate packing a box for a child their age who otherwise wouldn’t receive a gift along with other basic necessities. They too can be seen walking the aisles of a store, box in hand, as they meticulously choose each item. Teaching our children their colors and numbers can be relatively simple, but helping to build Christlike character traits in them can be a challenge. Operation Christmas Child is a simple way to leave a lasting impact.
When I became a MOPS coordinator, I felt called to rally moms near and far to pack boxes. We know when you activate moms you can move mountains! I witnessed dozens of women generously contribute items, take their kids shopping, and fold hundreds of boxes for the sake of reaching even one child. In partnership with our local church, friends and families, every year (all year!) we collect items for Operation Christmas Child. In the last six years we have been able to pack 446 boxes. I get chills every time I think about each child who is represented in each box; 446 kids and their families who will experience the joy and love Operation Christmas Child has to offer.
In each box there is one item more important than the rest, albeit unseen: an introduction to Jesus. Children and their families by the millions are learning about a God who loves them more than anything, so much so that he sacrificed his only Son for them. You see, Operation Christmas Child is more than a one-time gift of stuffed animals, hygiene products and school supplies. It offers an eternal gift that is changing the world because of the generosity of others. It is a tangible reminder of an intentional God who offers everlasting life and unconditional love. I may never meet the girl I packed my first box for, but it is my prayer we are united one day in heaven. What a celebration it will be!
As we enter into the busiest, and sometimes most stressful season of the year, will you commit to modeling generous living for your kids? Will you bring them to the store clutching their boxes in search of the perfect gift? Because every single box counts, every single child deserves to know the God who created them in his image and will experience his love through your generosity.
Let’s go make love our legacy this holiday season, one box at a time.
Yuliya and a Puppy
The Gift Giver