Make a child smile this Christmas with Operation Christmas Child

In a world where our children are bombarded with adverts this time of year and we're surrounded by thoughts of presents to buy for family and friends it can be easy to forget there are children out there that won't receive a present on Christmas morning. It makes me sad thinking about that and so this year, we decided to take part in Operation Christmas Child; a project run by Samaritan's Purse that ships shoeboxes full of gifts to children around the world.
holly at christmas, focussed in the foreground, blurred in the background

What Christmas is about

When I was a little girl (think 8 or 9 years old) I remember  going to Midnight Mass with my Nan. She was a religious lady who wanted to involve me in everything she could. I couldn't believe she'd chosen to take me and felt privileged to go. My memories are fading now, but I recall the pastor speaking about helping others at Christmas, how it was a person's duty to help those less fortunate than themselves. That has always stuck with me and I like to think I've done my best to do that.

Christmas is a time to be together, to give presents to family and friends to show how much you care. But it is also a time to think about others, those less fortunate than ourselves, that may not receive a present at all. 

While I can't recall everything about Midnight Mass the pastor's words stay with me, as does the memory of the orange I received that night. It was wrapped in a red ribbon and had a candle in it. I have no idea what it meant but the image remains in my head to this day.

Operation Christmas Child

That's why, a few days ago when the Hubby told me about Operation Christmas Child I knew we would have to do it. 

Samaritan's Purse collect shoeboxes full of toys, toiletries, and other gifts to hand out "in the name of Jesus", and while this put me off slightly (being an atheist) it doesn't mean we shouldn't make a child smile this Christmas with a gift-wrapped shoebox full of toys. As with anything religious we simply ignore those parts and give because we care, because we want to.

The Hubby and I told LP about Operation Christmas Child and he immediately ran upstairs, picked one of his old favourite teddies and said "we could send this!". I asked him if he was sure, knowing that it had been his favourite sleeping buddy for a long time, I explained that he wouldn't be able to ask for it back but he was insistent. He wanted another child to have the same enjoyment from that teddy that he once had.

a 7 year old boy (pixelated face) holding a shoebox with a teddy bear inside, pink background with white spots.

After he'd chosen the teddy we went through his other toys to find anything appropriate. The Samaritan's Purse website was really useful here because it helped us decide what to put in the box. We got BP involved in this part too and he went through his things to find toys. It took a little while but in the end we settled on:

- an Iron Man teddy (our "wow" item)
- 3 Spider Man jigsaws
- 2 toy cars
- a Pokémon figure
- a reading book
- a comic
- a small Rubik's cube
- a small pack of Haribo

a 7 year old boy (pixelated face) holding a shoebox containing toy cars and books, pink background with white spots.

LP was satisfied that the toys were good enough and he said he wanted to write a little note to whoever received the shoebox. He spent a little time thinking about what he wanted to say and came up with this:

My name is LP, I am 7 years old and live in England. I like playing football and building Lego. I hope you like the gifts. Merry Christmas.

I was so proud of him.

Later today we're going to our local drop-off point to hand the gift-wrapped shoebox over.

You can do it too!

You still have time to make up your own shoebox and hand it in - the campaign is open until 18th November - so HURRY!

Once you've picked what's going in your shoebox all you need to do is donate a minimum of £3 (to cover the shipping of the box) and print off a barcode to put inside the box which allows them to track where the box goes. Then you drop it off at a local drop-in centre - you can find your local one by typing in your postcode.

When we drop off the shoebox I'll be remembering what that pastor said and smiling to myself because I've taught my children to think of others at Christmas too. I'll also be remembering my Nan, because if it wasn't for her I would never have experienced Midnight Mass, and being an atheist doesn't make me enjoy the memory any less.

Will you be taking part in Operation Christmas Child?