I don’t know how long Operation Christmas Child has been around but I found out about it about five years ago through MOPS. I did not participate the first year. I was a little put off by how much service this particular group was seeking us to participate in and declined but I am glad the idea grew on me.
We have now participated in the program for four years. We started out with one box, then three, then four, and now we are at five. A few years ago, we recruited two of Jazmine’s cousins to come pack shoeboxes with us. It makes for a nice family memory and we can talk about being the hands of feet of Jesus.
Up until this year, we’ve always done our Shoebox shopping at the Dollar Store. We included princess tiaras, fairy wands, sidewalk chalk, crayons, coloring books, soap, toothbrush and toothpaste. We were heavy on the toys and since we are all girls, we pack boxes for girls. I thought we had always done a bang up job. That was until I read this article. It is called Unsolicited Advice About Shoeboxes. It was written by a missionary in Senegal who witnessed first hand the joy Shoeboxes bring children. She had great advice on what items work and what items don’t work in Shoeboxes.
We used to pack hats in the Shoeboxes. I was thinking of the girls in Russia or other cold areas who would appreciate another layer of warmth but since we don’t control where our Shoebox ends up, that may not be the best idea. I had no idea that sidewalk chalk may not be an ideal gift. Here, in the US, sidewalks are plentiful. That is our reality. It is unlikely that our Shoebox will be handed out in a place that would find the same joy we do in sidewalk chalk.
I had no idea that stuffed animals could strike fear in the heart of a child. I didn’t forward think to send sharpeners with colored pencils. We treated the Shoeboxes like mini toy chests, filled with fun toys and little necessities. I mean, who wants to get toiletries as a gift?
Well it turns out, my first world thinking was missing a dose of third world reality. The lists she wrote in her letter was so enlightening and helpful. I am only sorry I didn’t get to see it until after we turned in our shoeboxes last year.
In previous years, because of my Dollar Store shopping, I only sought to spend $20, no more than $30 dollars to fill up all the boxes and I stayed well within range. This year, because I was interested in giving things that the children would need and enjoy, I spent about $15 per box. It was a bit of a sticker shock this time around but I considered it a valuable investment. This time around, our boxes had flashlights, T-shirts, jump ropes, soap containers to go with the soap bars, a plate, and hard candy! We had other things too; crayons are a staple and getting a new toothbrush was always fun for me when I was little.
I am so appreciative of this article. I will have to print it out so I always have it before it gets lost in the internet 🙂