Imagine waking up on Christmas morning and finding not one gift under your Christmas tree, if there is even a Christmas tree in your home.

Some would say that gifts are not what Christmas is all about, and in a way, I agree with them. But Christmas did begin with a gift — God’s gift to mankind. That gift is still being given to all who will receive.

There are thousands of people around the world who will find no other gift waiting for them on Christmas morning. Many of those will be children who will not understand.

While we cannot help all those children, there is a very simple way we can help one. Or two. Or maybe even three or more. We can pack a shoebox for Operation Christmas Child.

Operation Christmas Child is an international program overseen by Samaritan’s Purse, providing Christmas gifts to millions of children in more than 100 countries around the world.

This weekend a young man from Africa who received one of those shoeboxes as a child will be speaking at a church in Indiana, telling how that simple little gift from someone he may never meet, changed his life forever.

Shoeboxes are a lot of fun to pack; we have been doing it for more than 20 years. As I look for gifts for my shoeboxes, not knowing where they will go, I try to imagine the children who will receive them. Every child needs school supplies, so those are easy to buy, especially during the sales before school starts. Buying something when it’s on sale doesn’t make it less valuable; it only means we can buy more.

In trying to imagine the children who will receive our shoeboxes, we try to think what type of small toys might be special for them, might challenge them, might encourage them. As soon as our shoeboxes are collected in mid-November, we start looking for gifts for next year’s boxes. Christmas and Easter provide dozens of opportunities, when many stores have special selections of “stuffers” for stockings and baskets that fit very nicely into a shoebox.

A couple years ago the donation list had to be revised, due to the ugliness of terrorism. Now we can no longer include the bags of lollipops and boxes of candy canes, or even simple hygiene items like toothpaste. But that doesn’t mean we can’t fill a shoebox. It just requires a little more effort and creativity.

And lots of prayer. Oh, yes, I pray for the children who will receive the boxes we pack. Most likely we will never meet those children, but I can pray for them and pray that somehow their lives will be blessed with the shoebox gifts they receive, just as a shoebox blessed that little boy in Africa.

Not only is packing a shoebox easy and affordable, it brings a blessing to us as we try to be a blessing to children who need a blessing.

If you have never packed a Christmas shoebox and think this might be a good time to start, everything you need to know is available at www.samaritanspurse.org. Then, on Christmas morning, you, too, can imagine the happiness of the child who received a gift on Christmas — a gift that you gave, with no thought of receiving anything in return except the knowledge that somewhere, a child is smiling because you cared.

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Thought for the week — I’m going to give until there’s just no more to give. (Bill Gaither)

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