Meaningful Christmas Gifts
By Nancy Twigg
Filling a shoebox with goodies and sending
it to a child who would otherwise have nothing
for Christmas - it's a simple concept, but
one that has enriched the lives of impoverished
children all around the world. Every year,
through Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas
Child program, people from wealthier nations
have the opportunity to help children all
over the world by simply filling shoeboxes
with small gifts and treats.
The first time my family participated in
Operation Christmas Child was in 2004.
Our daughter Lydia was almost four years of
age, and we felt it was time for her to learn
about Christmas giving rather than just Christmas
receiving. With some degree of apprehension,
I explained what we were going to do and then
took her to the local dollar store to select
items for our shoebox. I was a little worried
she would get a case of the "gimmes"
and want to buy everything for herself. On
the contrary, she had great fun picking out
things for "the little child who is poor."
We enjoyed the experience so much that we
have participated every year since then.
As we collected items for our shoebox last
year, a novel thought occurred to me. The
concept of giving shoeboxes for Christmas
has other practical applications. Here are
a few that came to mind:
Scaling back Christmas gift giving
Whether you need to scale back for financial
reasons, or simply want to scale back because
you think it's gotten out of hand, limiting
gift giving to one shoebox per person is a
great way to go. Obviously if all gifts must
fit in one shoebox, it will limit not only
how many items but what kinds of items can
be given. You can still give more expensive
items if you want (gift cards, jewelry, cash,
etc.), but knowing that each person will only
receive one shoebox controls expectations.
Clutter-free gift giving
As Lydia and I put together our shoebox,
I noticed that we included many consumable
items-items that would either get eaten up
or used up. Most grandparents and older people
have more than enough of everything they need.
They have little room for trinkets and gadgets,
but appreciate practical items that won't
create clutter in their homes. A shoebox filled
with consumable items-food items, toiletries,
stationery, health and beauty products-would
be a thoughtful gift idea for practically
any senior adult on your list for practically
any gift-giving occasion.
Long distance gift giving
Don't you hate the expense of mailing large
boxes of gifts to long-distance friends and
relatives? Limiting the size of packages to
a shoebox would definitely help control shipping
costs. This rule would also make shipping
easier, as almost everyone has plenty of empty
shoeboxes and brown paper bags around the
house for wrapping up the boxes. What if you
have several shoeboxes to send to one family?
No problem. Just put your shoeboxes in one
larger box for mailing.
Good for other needy people, too
Children in foreign countries aren't the
only ones who could benefit from receiving
a shoebox of goodies. We have many people
right here in North America who need a loving
touch. Why couldn't a church or charitable
organization start a Christmas shoebox program
for inner city families, the homeless, people
in nursing homes, or shut-ins? And why limit
it to Christmas? These people need ministry
all year long. Shoeboxes filled with practical
items and special treats could be just the
way to do good deeds for people who are often
An educational experience for kids
One last idea. This year I plan to give
my daughter a Christmas shoebox, too. I believe
it will be educational for her to experience
a little of how it must feel for the children
who receive shoeboxes from Samaritan's Purse.
Of course, the effect is not exactly the same.
Unlike most of the Operation Christmas
Child children, she knows she will receive
other presents. However, I hope the excitement
she feels as she opens her box will make an
indelible impression and help her to be more
empathetic toward those who have so little.
So you see, giving shoeboxes for Christmas
is a smart idea. It works for Operation Christmas
Child and it can work in a variety of situations
for your family, too. By the way, if you'd
like more information on how your family can
participate in Operation Christmas Child,
A similar program exists which sends shoeboxes
of goodies to military personnel deployed
overseas. Learn more about Operation Shoebox
Nancy Twigg is the author
of the newly revised and expanded book, Celebrate
Simply: Your Guide to Simpler, More Meaningful
Holidays and Special Occasions (Kregel Publications,
October 2006). Learn more about it at www.celebratesimply.com.