So, you want to teach your kids about compassion and giving to others by filling up a shoebox. You deserve an A+ for good intentions! Since you are going through the effort and expense of filling a shoebox with your family, let’s get serious and make it a gift that SIGNIFICANTLY impacts another child’s life besides your own!
Making a trip to the Dollar Store and putting all those items in a box and dropping it off at the church collection table feels GREAT. I know. I’ve been filling shoeboxes for over twenty years…first with my kids and now with my grandkids. But….and I really hope you’re open to hearing this..…what if our shoebox-filling ministry isn’t great? What if we inadvertently make things worse just so we can feel good about being generous and responding to the call to participate?
I’d like to share with you my own thoughts borne out of multiple trips to foreign countries on missions trips and visiting Peace Corps sites. In my humble opinion, we could be doing this so much better with just some simple changes:
Step One: When selecting a box to use, get a sturdy plastic reusable box with a snap-on lid. Many children who receive our boxes live partially outdoors and exposed to the elements and all the bugs and critters we don’t have in our well-built homes. The box itself becomes a useable gift! (Let your kids decorate it with stickers if they want it to look colorful.)
Step Two: Take a look at the Samaritan’s Purse website. How many blond, blue-eyed children do you see in the photos? VERY FEW. If sending dolls, books, stickers, etc….try to select those that depict browner skin and darker hair.
Step Three: Buy good quality stuff. And take it all out of the cardboard and plastic packaging and place in thick freezer-quality zipper storage bags. I’ve seen kids in El Salvador toss aside the stuff in the bag and keep the bag as the prized item! Be generous in your use of the bags. Most other countries do not have garbage trucks that drive up and down the streets to collect the trash. This is the reason for buying good quality items AND eliminating the packaging (plus… you can fit MORE in a box if you toss out the packaging!).
Step Four: If you include a photo and/or a letter, please be sensitive to the fact that the recipient is going to look at EVERY detail. Enclose a photo that only shows heads and shoulders with a background that is outdoor foliage or a blank wall. Do not pose on the front steps of your house or in front of your Christmas tree. And letters should talk about the people in your life, the ages of your children, what part of the U.S. you live in, and what the climate/geography is like.
Step Five: Pray with your children over the box and the person who is going to receive it. And thank God for being blessed with the resources to touch another person on the other side of the world!
I welcome your comments/suggestions! Let me know if there’s a topic you’d like to see here! Stephanie@LearnWithStephanie.com