Monday, November 24, 2008

Operation Christmas Child

With everything else going on, the holidays have really snuck up on us this year. I actually saw something this morning that taunted me with “31 days until Christmas” and I laughed like crazy until I consulted my calendar and realized that it was telling me the truth. A month? That’s all I have?

Because we’re so far behind we almost missed out on something we’ve been excited to do for months: participate in Operation Christmas Child. I’m not sure how I first became aware of the program, but after reading the website and watching the videos I was in tears and knew it was something we had to do. To sum it all up, people all over the world in countries like the US, Canada, UK (traditionally more privileged nations) donate and collect shoe boxes full of Christmas presents for children who otherwise would probably not receive anything for the holidays. We won’t know if our Christmas boxes are headed for El Salvador or South Africa, but in a month there will be a child somewhere who will sit with our Christmas shoebox in his lap and wait with his friends until the volunteer signals them to rip open their packages. Inside he will find Matchbox trucks, bouncy balls, crayons and coloring books, a stuffed frog, and other various toys along with toothbrushes, toothpaste and soap. In many cases, this will be the first time the child has ever owned a toothbrush. As I sit here and check my 401k with concern it’s hard to wrap my brain around the fact that there are children without access to clean water, medicine, and even more heartbreaking, without love. They may be orphans living in a state hospital, or working in a sweat shop to help provide food for their 14 member families. I have no idea what hardship is compared to these poor kids. But it’s nice to feel that for a few minutes on Christmas they will know that someone cares enough to send them a present.

We had a blast shopping for our shoeboxes. With my baby fever running rampant anyway I was able to go crazy in the toy aisles and purchase as many girlie trinkets as I could fit into my old (but newly wrapped) Bini shoebox. I picture in my mind a little 5 year old girl prancing around on Christmas, her shoulders draped with a pink and purple boa, tiara gleaming in the sunlight as she adjusts her lipgloss in her shiny makeup mirror. She might share her bracelets with her friends, but the cashmere soft teddy bear is all hers.

I know that our Christmas boxes are not going to change the heartbreak that these kids have in their lives every day. New lipgloss is not going to feed families, and toothpaste, while necessary, is not going to save any lives. But Christmas isn’t about saving lives for any of us. It’s about putting smiles on people’s faces, and letting them know that on that morning, along with so many other mornings, you’re thinking of them and praying that God takes care of them. It’s about celebrating the good and letting go of the bad, even if just for a morning. And if we can give one boy and one girl a morning without tears just ONE day this year, I feel like our Christmas will be more special than any other.

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