One month away from turning four, I'm finding Cakes to be at an increasingly impressionable age. This will be the first Christmas I think she'll really have an awareness of the entire season from the buildup of all the holiday events such as decorating and Christmas carols to waiting for Christmas morning to arrive. As Christmas approaches I wanted to make the most of this time in her life and to teach her valuable lessons about kindness, compassion, and generosity.
Teaching concepts like kindness, compassion, and generosity aren't so easy to simply explain at this age. It's easier to show someone and give them a hands on experience to really get them involved and help them better grasp the hows and whys. What better way to show all of these wonderful attributes than to prepare a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child?
This is my first experience packing a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child. In case you aren't familiar with it, this is a program with a mission to show God's love to those that are less fortunate. It provides children worldwide with a tangible demonstration of God's love and let's them know that they haven't been forgotten. I also shared with her some of the videos of Operation Christmas Child in action so she could visualize a child in need and the happiness that these shoe boxes bring.
How to Pack a Shoe Box
- Locate a shoe box. If you don't have an actual shoe box, a plastic container with separate lid of a similar size will also work.
- Decide if your box will be for a boy or girl and then decide on the age range: 2-4, 5-9, or 10-14.
- Fill the box with gifts such as toys, school supplies, hygiene products, or other fun items. You can also include a personal note with a picture and a return address and the recipient might write you back.
- Make a $7 donation to cover shipping and project costs. If you make a donation online, you will receive a special shipping label and you can find out the destination of your shoe box.
- Rubber band the two pieces of your shoe box and take it to a drop off location near you during collection week. Collection week started on November 12 and will be going through November 19 so there's still time to drop off you shoe boxes!
Knowing that shopping for lots of fun items to fill the shoebox would be hard on her, I told Cakes what our plans were before we left the house. I explained that we were going to the store to find Christmas presents to send a little girl somewhere else in the world who's mommy and daddy can't afford Christmas presents. I told her that we were very lucky that we have been blessed with so much and that we were doing what Jesus asked us to do and sharing some of what we have with another little girl so that she could have a fun Christmas too.
Since Cakes is 3, I decided we would send our shoe box to a 2-4 year old little girl. This way she could pick out the items we would fill the shoe box with based on things that she liked.
I allowed Cakes to select items that she liked to bless this other little girl with. I could tell it was a difficult experience for her, choosing items that would ultimately go to someone else. But I feel really confident that a seed was planted in my daughter's heart through this experience with this gift she helped shop for, the drawing and letter she enclosed, and viewing videos of kids around the world receiving the shoeboxes.
The trip started out pretty well and with each item I added to the cart, Cakes reminded me that it was for the little girl or that she was sharing or that it was a present. I think commenting on the whole experience helped her to process what was going on and remind herself that this about giving to someone else.
When we got home, Cakes filled up the shoe box with all of the gifts for the little girl. I think I'm going to unpack the box so that I can wrap the outside and lid (separately) so it'll be more exciting to open. And since Cakes can't write on her own yet, she drew a pretty picture for the recipient instead.
While I still need to continue reinforcing this concept throughout the Christmas season and in our everyday life, I think Cakes now has started to gain a better understanding of helping those that are in need and less fortunate that we are. Participating in Operation Christmas Child is going to be one of our family's new traditions as well. In fact, when she sets the table for our pretend tea parties she puts out a cup for the little girl and little boy she saw in the videos. My heart is full from seeing Cakes embrace kindness, compassion, and generosity.