…about a boy and a shoebox.
Before you hear the story, you might need a little background information. Have you ever heard of Samaritan’s Purse? This is an organization that was started by Billy Graham’s son, Franklin Graham. In the description of what they do, you can read on their site that ‘For over 40 years, Samaritan’s Purse has done our utmost to follow Christ’s command by going to the aid of the world’s poor, sick, and suffering.’ One aspect of this amazing outreach is a program called Operation Christmas Child. “It was a simple idea that became the worldwide ministry of Operation Christmas Child—to minister to children in war-torn and famine-stricken countries. In just two decades it has inspired everyday people to provide more than 100 million gift-filled shoeboxes to needy children in 130 countries.” (you can read all about that story in a new book called Operation Christmas Child, A Story of Simple Gifts).
I’ve been a part of this neat outreach over the years, from being a child and packing boxes with my parents, helping pack the shoeboxes that will get sent to the center in North Carolina, and even got to go distribute boxes when I was a teenager once: we went to Mexico to some of the children who received them. My husband had gotten to be a part years ago at the collection center where they check the boxes and get them ready to go.
But this year was different. It was special. And that’s where this story starts…
This story is really about 2 shoeboxes, and a boy and girl. But the story starts with a conflict, as all good stories do. What was the conflict? It was one of those inner struggles where a person (a boy) had a thought that he was wrestling with in the battles of his mind. That was where our story begins.
As we were trying to decide what we had time to do in our afternoon, the decision was made among the adults that the best choice was to take the grandkids shopping for the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. That ended up taking precedence over the zoo or shopping for their own Christmas gifts with Nonna and Opa. Then I informed the kids what we were going to do: go shopping for the shoeboxes and then go out for ice cream. And something unexpected happened:
“No! I don’t want to buy stuff for someone I don’t know!! I don’t even know what to get!”
Although surprised by the defiant response, I took a moment to observe where this disagreement might be coming from – this boy never before had a problem with sharing or giving. What could be the problem? I pulled up a chair, and the conversation began…
“Zeke, how come you don’t want to put together toys for a child who might not have any? Do you know what the shoeboxes are all about?”
“Mamma, I don’t know what to get him! And I don’t have any good ideas.”
“Well, don’t you think you can pray and ask God to help give you ideas of what to pick?”
After a pause, the boy was still unhappy with that. Then he says “Mamma, that’s too easy.”
Hm- asking God for help is too easy, it can’t really solve anything. How often had I dealt with the same struggle myself? But I pressed on:
“Ezekiel, He’s ready to help us, but we have to ask for help first. Do you think we could pray and ask God to give you ideas?”
It was not an easy struggle for him to win, this battle in his mind – he was not ready to see that prayer would really help him through the troubles he had inside. We talked for almost 30 minutes as the boy thought about, argued, asked questions, and then finally, agreed. The moment of turning was when he began to realize that God already knows the future and would know exactly what child would receive the presents Zeke would pick out. He knelt beside me and prayed for help.
“Jesus, please help me know what to get, and give me good ideas.”
Then we were ready to go.
The transformation that took place in the boy as we left for the stores was amazing. The girl was much more ready and willing, having the maturity to understand what giving means, and having experienced what it feels like to be the one giving. She was thoughtful and considerate in the items she picked, her heart fully in the task at hand. But the boy with the shoebox was intent: he had a purpose now, and he was on a mission. His eyes scanned the shelves, picked up an item and studied it, then made the serious decision whether that small token would be the right one for the box. And the ideas of what would fill it with treasures started to formulate in his mind as he changed from randomly searching the shelves to seeking out exactly what was on his mind.
It didn’t take long to fill the shoeboxes. And both children put their entire heart into the choosing, the purchasing, and the packaging. We celebrated a deed well done at our favorite ice cream place in Albuquerque, NM (I Scream Ice Cream – Bill serves the best ice cream in the best restaurant for it. Fun for all 🙂 ) Then it was home for the evening, ready to finish delivering the shoeboxes in the morning.
(pssst: tune in tomorrow to hear the rest of the story)