I saw an amazing thing at church recently; not just my friends and the sermon, but something else. On Saturday before church on Sunday I was privileged to help with Operation Christmas Child. This program was started by Franklin Graham to help children around the world have a little bit of Christmas come to them. All it is is a shoebox filled with simple things and toys and then sent to children around the world to brighten their Holidays.
The amazing thing I saw was a video of some boys I believe to be in Africa receiving their boxes. As I watched them I was simply amazed. These young boys had not even opened their boxes yet. They were jubilant. Jubilant in the Thesaurus is described as, “over the moon, ecstatic and euphoric.” Now you might say these are extreme words to use, but if you could see these boys you would know I am not extreme. These boys were jumping up and down, pumping their fists in the air, screaming with joy, big smiles on their faces and then more jumping up and down. These boys had not even opened their boxes yet. They had no idea what was inside, but they were excited. I don’t remember ever expressing gratitude or being euphoric as much as these boys were. Inside the boxes we packed were items like a toothbrush, toothpaste, washcloth, soap, pencil maybe a pen, coloring crayons, or colored pens, notepad or other such items, and simple toys like coloring books, miniature cars, and small cans of play dough, hair ornaments, jump ropes and small stuff animals. Stop and think when was the last time you got excited because you had a toothbrush or toothpaste? When did you show gratitude because you had a washcloth in your hands to wash your face? These boys brought tears to my eyes. They didn’t care about what was on the inside, they just excited they got one.
As I sat here this morning reminiscing about what I had seen I wondered how these boys would react to having a shower with hot water, or running toilets, or TV, or a pet to call their own, or enough food at a meal that they could eat all they wanted and ask for more if they wanted, or more than one pair of shoes or the list goes on and on. If their reaction to a simple box with simple toys in it was ecstatic then what would their reaction be when they stepped into my simple home?
This video for me couldn’t come at a better time; the Sunday before Thanksgiving. “At all times and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.” Ephesians 5: 20 I realize how I take so many things for granted in my life. I know if I grabbed my toothbrush and did a dance like these boys every time I brushed my teeth Greg might have me committed, but couldn’t I just pause and say thanks that I can brush my teeth? Or when I grab a washcloth and washed my face in warm water, what if I paused and said thanks God that I have clean, warm water.
Many, if not all, have children and grandchildren, or nieces and nephews we will buy gifts for and give to them for Christmas. We will buy the latest and most popular toys and they will have an abundance of things under the tree. Are we teaching gratitude for each gift they get or are we teaching them it’s about getting the latest new gadget or toy or having the most and best things under the tree? What would happen if we gave our children a shoebox with the same items we are giving to other children around the world? Would our children be thrilled, ecstatic, or delighted? I am afraid not. We have taught our kids to want the best, want the most and want the newest thing out there. My parents did it for me, I did it for my children and my children are doing it for theirs. Yet, many children around the world don’t get to have many of the things our children are blessed with like IPods, Tablets, handheld electronic games, video games, and even the simpler things like a new dress or new shirt.
This Thanksgiving as we sit around our family table maybe someone will start a discussion about what they are thankful for. Families, children, memories, and good food will be mentioned. Things like toothbrushes, toothpaste, etc won’t even be thought of. I am wondering if you could be there to ask a young African child what they are thankful for what their response might be. It might be just that toothbrush that was sent or that bar of soap or that wash cloth or that plastic miniature car.
Thanksgiving is about families, memories, food and such, but God reminds us in the scripture to be thankful for everything. These boys reminded me I should be more euphoric about some of the things I have in my life. Who knows in honor of those boys maybe I will dance a jig and jump up and down the next time I brush my teeth or wash my face? Who knows? What I do know is thankfully these young men have reminded me I am truly blessed. These young men have reminded me what it is to be thankful for all the things in life; even those things I use every day and not think about or not thank God I have.
Operation Christmas Child is not just a Christmas celebration; for me it’s a time for me to reflect at Thanksgiving and to have a grateful heart for all I have. These boxes are put together so they can be shipped and received at Christmas time, but I think we couldn’t put these boxes together at any better time. It helps me to stop and reflect. Thank you to all those who give to Operation Christmas Child and better yet thank you for taking a video and posting it so we can see just how ecstatic, over the moon, and euphoric these children are to receive the basics of life; those things we take for granted.
Dear God: I am so ashamed at all the things I take for granted that others in this world would love to have. I forget what it would be like not to have a warm shower or running toilets, or all the food I can stuff in my mouth at one meal. Thank you for Operation Christmas Child and all those who work so diligently to make it happen. Bless each box and each child and next year as I sit and watch the children open their boxes may I have through the year been a bit more like them. Amen