For years our church has participated in Operation Christmas Child and my sons have packed shoe boxes for three boys about their age somewhere in the world. It's one of several charitable things we do around Christmas time, and Samaritan's Purse is an excellent Christian charity on par with Heifer International.
Initially, I sprung for everything my kids packed in those shoe boxes sent overseas. I'd set aside stuff year-round, like boxes of Crayons I scored at back-to-school sales and washcloths and trinkets from birthday gift bags. A few years ago I forced Team Testosterone to have skin in this game, so they had to ante up their own money for half of the box's contents. They'd engage in this activity, but it didn't seem to leave any lasting impact. Once the boxes got dropped off at church, they were back to making their own wish lists of stuff they wanted.
Periodically we'd get a magazine in the mail updating us on Samaritan's Purse and I'd share it with the boys, showing them examples of what life is like in other countries, how much we can GIVE of our own abundance to love on others. They'd nod and seem mildly interested, then return to their Wii games and Minecrafting and Nerf battles.
Last Sunday they got the pitch for OCC during Sunday School and each of my sons dutifully took the information packets and declined the pre-fab shoe boxes since we always have shoe boxes at our house. I got gabbing with a few people and then I noticed Mr. B loading up on pre-fab boxes--with a person helping him count out a tremendous stack of info packets. You can imagine my curiosity (and concern when I know it costs $7 shipping/per box) at his behavior. He walked over to me balancing his load of unfolded cardboard and packets. "What's up, buddy?" I asked.
"I'm going to get my whole class to do this!" he exclaimed with a huge grin. "I got 25 boxes here!"
"We'll have to pitch this to your teacher first," I explained to him. "But if they won't let you do this at at school, maybe we can do a couple extra boxes from home." I wanted to prepare him for failure while encouraging his generous spirit. God, is this your spirit moving him or is my kid acting crazy? Help me to respond the right way.
Mr. B went to school with all of the boxes ("You sure you don't want to just bring one--then if they say yes you can bring the rest later?"-- how this mother doubts!), brimming with confidence that all would go to plan. He does go to a parochial school, so I knew there shouldn't be resistance to evangelism, but we've been careful not to trot our own church's practices into theirs. It's been my experience that Catholics have some specific and particular sorts of rules that I don't always understand and they're often unexpected to me. Don't take offense--I'm not judging, I'm simply stating an observation. I tried not to fret and let the entire business take its natural course--God, don't let Mr. B get discouraged, no matter what happens here. I'm sure there's a lesson for him, but it would be cool if success sparked deeper faith ...
Mr. B's teacher listened to his presentation and explained that she needed the principal's approval before she could let the class do the shoe boxes. Her ruling made sense, and Mr. B waited confidently for word from the front office. The principal's reply: "I've heard of OCC and it's a terrific thing for your class to do. Mission approved."
Eight years of shoe boxes, three boxes a year, twenty-four shoe boxes total, but this year the whole point of OCC seeped into one son's brain: There are kids who really have so much less and we sure have a LOT. Kids without shoes, kids who walk past landmines and snipers to get to school, kids without food or toys. There are kids who are blessed by our generosity, we can do more than we think we can. We can dig deeper, be bold and extend God's love to them--even from our spot in rural Wisconsin. And we can invite our friends and neighbors and classmates to do the same in His name. In one year we're going to send out more shoeboxes than we have in the previous eight years. All because Mr. B stepped out in faith and asked.
Emboldened, Mr. B has a new ambition: get the whole school to do the shoe boxes. And why not? We're supposed to have faith like a child. I get it, God. Thanks for revealing my own cynicism to me though Mr. B.