November is also the month to think ahead to Christmas. I noticed in the newspaper flyer last night that baking supplies are on sale this week. All kinds of advertisements are beginning. I've started my Christmas crafting. Before the blogging world gets into the full swing of Christmas, I have a story to share about Christmas Shoeboxes. I'm in the process of filling mine right now and was thinking about the following story. It's longer than my normal posts, but very meaningful to me.
For years Samaritan's Purse has organized Operation Shoebox to help send a little Christmas love to children who might not have any other Christmas celebration. Filling the boxes is fun, and we do several every year. I was so privileged to be able to give out some of the shoeboxes one year in Ecuador, in a different way. Usually they are passed out at events planned in the neighbourhoods. One year, a double supply of shoeboxes arrived in Ecuador (a long story, has to do with customs and no boxes the previous year), and our church allowed individuals to take the boxes and pass them out. Along with the boxes we'd collected bags of groceries.
How to decide to whom to give the shoeboxes? We put four of the boxes and two bags of groceries in our trunk and headed home after church on Sunday morning. We lived out of town, in a neighbourhood that had huge houses with pools, tennis courts and triple garages hidden behind tall brick walls, side-by-side very humble two or three room wooden houses. The class difference in Ecuador is enormous. As we drove around, we noticed two young boys in a field. They were looking after a couple of cows pastured there. We had two boxes for boys about their age, so we stopped. Like any child should be with strangers, they were a little hesitant. I explained that these boxes were a Christmas gift for them and handed them over. A bit bewildered, they politely said, "gracias," and went back to their work.
We had two boxes left and the groceries. No one seemed to be out on the roads that day, which was unusual. Continuing our drive we noticed a woman walking along the road. We stopped the car and asked her if she had any children. She said, yes, she did, two girls. Their ages were the same ages on the boxes we had left! We gave her the boxes and the bags of groceries (her home was very close). She kept asking why we would do this - we explained that we just wanted to show her that God loved her. With tears in her eyes she told us that this would be the only Christmas the family would be able to celebrate - these boxes would be the only gifts her children would receive. We left her smiling.
Driving home we passed the two boys in the field. There was no hesitation when they saw us this time. They had opened their boxes and were examining everything. They had candy in their mouths and jumped up, waving and calling out "gracias, gracias," over and over.
These scenes are repeated over and over in the world because of Operation Shoebox. If you ever wonder if they make a difference, I'm here to tell you that they do. I just wish everyone who fills a shoebox could see the joy they bring.