I’m not a big go-to-the-mall and shop kinda girl. I’m more of the click-and-have-Amazon-deliver-to-my-door girl. Shopping till I drop is not my favorite way to spend a day.
The only time I enjoy shopping is when I’m with my kids the day after a holiday. My 11 and 8 year olds love to put on their explorers’ hats and find all the fun 75% off toys at drugstores, grocery stores and the big ones like Target and Wal-mart.
As they are looking at each item, they aren’t oohing and ahhing because they get to take the toy home. Instead, they are wondering if it will fit inside a shoebox, if a 10-14 year old boy might like it or if it will hold up for more than one use. They absolutely love finding gifts to fill up Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.
We’ve been packing boxes for over six years (with one year of packing 100 boxes!) so, they’ve got their system down pat. After each holiday (including the smaller ones like St. Paddy’s day), we head off to the store. We usually spend $25 or less and walk away with a nice load of pencils, toys, hair supplies and more. My kids get excited sifting through the toys and I get excited because I see something more than a shoebox full of gifts.
These five or so shopping trips a year, I get to see my kids spending time and energy on someone else. Growing up in an affluent American suburb, it’s easy to think gimme-gimme and me-me-me is the norm. Instead, I get to see my kids’ eagerness for someone else’s happiness. I can see their heart open to God and His desire for them to show His love however they can.
Our stash of goodies grows throughout the year and when the air gets cooler and fall comes around, we pull our our few Autumn decorations, plus the boxes or bags of toys and gifts we’ve collected for Operation Christmas Child. It’s always a random assortment of Valentine’s Day pencils, Easter stickers, Saint Patrick’s headbands, Thanksgiving notebooks and pencil pouches from Back-to-School sales but pulling out these items is like Christmas to my kids!
They remember picking them out during the year and when Operation Christmas Child’s National Packing Week arrives, the slow anticipation of giving we began on our first shopping trip becomes even stronger. Our small gifts enclosed in a shoebox are no longer tiny plastic toys, but year long prayers and dreams for another child. Year-round shopping for shoebox gifts, helps compound the desire to give and keeps it at the front of their mind instead of a one-time, give-at-Christmas mindset.
As a mom, I see sale after sale, gift after gift, box after box, the gift of giving growing and blooming in my kids’ hearts. I pray God will use these simple gifts as a springboard to greater giving, greater connection to others and greater desire to show God’s love to others. A simple gift makes an impact on the recipient and the giver!