A few weeks ago, we were complaining about the heat and the drought down here in Northeast Mississippi. Then, we were whining about the rain. And now, only a few days later, we are moaning about the icy cold temperatures.
I realize that murmuring over weather conditions is futile and downright unthankful. After all, God uses each of the weather conditions of the four seasons to sustain and grow the earth we inhabit. I know that, but I still find myself complaining just as loudly as everyone else when we have several dreary cold and rainy days in a row.
And that was exactly what I was doing on my lunch break last week as I left my home and ran pell-mell to my car, carrying a puny umbrella. Despite my efforts to avoid the wind, bitterly cold rain, and muddy, wet grass, somehow dreariness still found its way into my bones, my car, and my attitude.
I can’t remember the exact whiny words of complaint I was muttering under my breath as I drove back to work, but I am pretty sure they sounded something like the undecipherable rant of that old cartoon character Muttley the dog.
I had to stop my whining for a moment though, in order to pause at a neighborhood stop sign and look for any oncoming cars. At that moment, something familiar caught my eye. I took a second look and recognized a stack of bright red and green boxes piled just inside a neighbor’s carport – Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes.
As I looked a little further inside my neighbor’s carport, I saw two women sitting in folding chairs. Facing each other, each lady held an opened shoebox in her lap. They looked like they were having so much fun packing those precious gift boxes, and their obvious enjoyment instantly changed my mood.
The Holy Spirit nudged me to stop, but I was embarrassed because even though I recognized which of the two women lived in the house, I had never personally met her. Ashamed of being such a poor neighbor, I almost drove on by, but their joy was contagious. I had to obey His still, small voice and stop.
I parked my car on the side of the driveway and got out – immediately stepping into a wet puddle of muddy slush. But guess what! I did not even care; it never phased me. I marched right on up the driveway and introduced myself to my neighbor and her friend, Lynda and Charlene.
I told both of the ladies where I worked, and they immediately began to tell me how much they appreciated American Family Radio and the ministry of the American Family Association.
I asked if I could take pictures of the boxes they were packing. They agreed and started telling me about each of the objects in the boxes. As I snapped several photos, I learned both women had been making and collecting items all year to place in the shoeboxes. I also found out this was a joint project they had participated in for several years.
They showed me two piles of boxes, packed to the brim with gifts, one stack for boys and another stack for girls. In the girl boxes, one particular item of interest was a jump rope made of strips of old t-shirts woven together with love and patience. And each boy box contained small hammers and nails.
Impressed and inspired, my heart was soaring as I said my goodbyes and marched back to my car, totally oblivious to the rain.
In fact, I smiled all the way back to work thinking of the precious children who would receive and enjoy those gifts, packed by two Mississippi women who simply wanted to share the love of Christ through a shoebox filled with childhood treasures.
Now, if you have never packed an Operation Christmas Child shoebox full of small Christmas presents to send to a needy kid in another part of the world, you have missed one of the most pure and selfless joys on earth. It is a great activity for a family, a class, a club, or an individual. It can cost as little or as much as desired. Or, if you’re crafty like my neighbor and her friend, you can even make some gifts.
And guess what! Now is the perfect time to join in on all the fun. In fact, the deadline for packing a shoebox is November 18-25.
Go to www.samaritanspurse.org/occ and learn how to pack a shoebox. Discover which items are recommended and which are prohibited. Find information on how to register and track your box, as well as how to print a shipping label. Then, locate the nearest drop off location for your shoebox.
Once you participate in Operation Christmas Shoebox, you might even make it a yearly tradition, just as my neighbor and her friend do.