Last Saturday night we joined with three other families and hosted an Operation Christmas Child Packing Evening (and potluck dinner). I was so pleased with how the evening went that I wanted to share some thoughts on it, which may be helpful if you want to do your own “packing party”.
For those of you who haven’t heard of “Operation Christmas Child”, it is a project of the Christian charity Samaritan’s Purse. Basically, you fill a shoe box with items for a child in a developing country, children in some of our planet’s poorest areas who have nothing. Although a Christian charity, Operation Christmas Child distributes the shoe boxes regardless of the religion or background of the children receiving them, and after careful consultation with village leaders in the receiving communities. The items included are usually essentials, such as toothbrushes, soap and facecloths, pens, pencils and notebooks, as well as something to wear, such as a t-shirt or cap and something to play with (a ball, a soft toy). Over the three years since I’ve been involved with Operation Christmas Child I’ve seen a lot of wonderful, creative ideas for things to put in the shoe boxes. Items which are not allowed include: war toys (for some of these children war and weapons are an all too real part of daily life), religious or political material, food of any kind and anything which might break, melt or leak and potentially destroy the contents of the box (things such as play dough, bubble mix, toothpaste and shampoo are, therefore, not allowed).
Among the three families, we had 14 children packing the boxes, ranging from 10 years old down to a 9 month old baby. We had 6 adults present to oversee it all. We had asked each family to bring an item to pack (for example, one family brought soap, one brought facecloths, we provided notebooks and pens…). Prior to packing, we ate dinner and watched two video clips about children receiving Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes: a girl in Papua New Ginea and two boys, brothers, in Vietnam. After that we started packing.
I was so proud of all the kids and so impressed by how they all just “got on with the job”. Here and there, there were children admiring the things we were putting in the shoe boxes and the odd cry of “can I keep this?”, but in general the spirit of giving took over. It was interesting to observe, too, that some of our boys packed boxes for girl recipients, as well as for boys, and some of our girls packed “boy boxes”, as well as girl ones. The kids also didn’t just stick to packing boxes for those their own age. There are three age groups to choose from when packing an Operation Christmas Child shoe box: 2-4, 5-9 and 10-14. My 6 year old proudly told me that he was going to pack one for an older kid “because there might not be so many boxes for older kids and they might feel sad.”
Before we knew it, we had 26 boxes filled with gifts! That’s a classroom worth of children who wouldn’t otherwise have received one without us.
Operation Christmas Child is a great way to encourage our children to become “global citizens”, and think about important world issues which affect children, such as poverty. It is also a great way for our kids to become involved in giving for the sake of giving, without expecting anything in return. So find out about Operation Christmas Child in your area (you can Google Operation Christmas Child, followed by your country), have fun packing and knowing that you are sending out a box of hope and joy to a child.