We have eight weeks until the collection week for Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child project. If you have not started collecting gifts, school supplies, and toiletries, it is not too late to begin. Find a drop off location close to you in these four countries: USA, Australia, UK, Canada.
On Saturday, I was up early to take Emma to a wonderful science and math activity with Expanding Your Horizons. On my drive, I passed dozens of yard sales. People were backing into driveways with trucks and running (yes, running) to garages for bargains.
I was sorely tempted. I do love a deal.
But the reality is that I have no place to put any more stuff. And for now, we have no pressing needs.
Instead, I channeled my urge for bargains into shopping for my Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. The items in a shoebox need to be new, so although you may find some new gifts at a yardsale, for the most part, thrift stores and garage sales are not a good place to fill the shoeboxes. Besides, I really couldn’t handle the temptation of the yard sales at all.
So I headed to Target and was there when the manager unlocked the doors. I shopped alone, in the quiet of the early morning store. It was so delightful to focus on buying things for others instead of hoarding for myself.
God really blessed my time just as I prayed He would.
I landed five big, cardboard shoe boxes with lids that the sweet employee was eager for me to take off her hands. Those were free.
I found clearance shorts and flip flops to go with some shirts I bought about a month ago. I even found a battery operated ball toss game for half price ($4.50). I was not in a hurry, so I leisurely scoured all the clearance sections of the store, looking for suitable goodies for my OCC recipients.
With each decision, I prayed God would guide my purchases — the right size, the right color, the right item. He knows what each family needs.
But I didn’t get bogged down in those kinds of worries, “Will this fit? Will they like it? Is this what they need?”
Here’s the reality. The children who get these boxes are in need. And their families are in need. They appreciate the gifts. If something doesn’t work for them, they will pass it to a sibling or friend who can use it. Other societies are far more communal than our own; a gift that can bless mom, dad or big brother is not a disappointment for them. (This is a factor for spoiled Western kids but not in the places I’ve visited abroad.)
Now that’s not to say that we give inferior gifts with an attitude that they will be happy with whatever they get. It is our honor to bless these children with the very best our money can buy, within our frugal budgets — and what can fit inside that shoe box. That is why I scour the clearance racks months before the collection date to find quality items at reduced prices.
This year I have made an effort to buy fewer but more practical things. I wanted to avoid the dollar store and the dollar aisle altogether so that I can buy things these children really need and can use for many months or for the whole year. So each of my boxes has an outfit. It is simple, but a full outfit for less than $10:
- a t-shirt ($3 clearance, originally $9)
- a pair of shorts ($5 clearance, originally $17)
- a pair of flip flops ($1.75 clearance, originally $2.50)
What about cold weather? Well, many of these boxes go to tropical climates. And even if it is cold, these items can be layered or worn when the weather turns warm.
So I shouldn’t put in socks, gloves, or hats? No, those things are also useful. Remember that gloves are good for working as well as for protection against cold. Socks cushion your feet even in warm climates. And hats protect from the sun as well as lock in heat.
What about sizes? I veer towards smaller sizes and look for adjustable waistbands. Most people in developing nations are very resourceful. They can always sew a quick alteration to make something work. And if not, the recipient can pass it to someone else.
The bottom line is that I shop for practical gifts but trust God to provide through my purchases.
I’ll be posting more about what I included in my boxes and tips for packing them in the weeks to come. For now, find some shoe boxes and start hunting for deals.
I invite you to join me in preparing OCC boxes. If you blog about it, please add your link here. And if you tweet it, use #OCCboxes.
As a member of iHomeschool Network’s Samaritan’s Purse Blogger Team, I write about the ministry on a volunteer basis. All posts are my own thoughts and do not necessarily reflect the views of Samaritan’s Purse. I am not an employee, agent, or contractor of Samaritan’s Purse. For official information, please see the Samaritan’s Purse website.