Gillian in drawing roomAround the turn of the millennium my family and I joined in with Operation Christmas Child, originated by a couple in Wrexham and eventually taken over by the charity Samaritan’s Purse. The whole concept is to decorate and fill a shoebox with suitable items for a child between the ages of 2-4, 5 – 10, or 11 – 14. Ideally the contents are a mixture of school items, toiletries and toys, destined for youngsters in war-torn zones or natural disaster areas… little ones who might have lost everything or have very little.

I encouraged my own son to put together boxes for boys of his own age and he had a lot of fun thinking about what a lad might like and how much he could shoehorn into the confines of a shoebox. Having only the one son, I, on the other hand, thoroughly enjoyed choosing all sorts of little girly sparkly pretty things which, normally, I never got to even look at let alone buy. In the shoe boxes we sent out we were encouraged to also include a Christmas card with a personal message. I used to also stick in a photo of us all with my contact details.

As my son grew up and life got busier it was an activity which gradually fell into abeyance within our household and I have to confess that I had completely forgotten all about the shoebox appeal… until yesterday when I received a message from a young lady in Serbia. As a child she had received several shoeboxes over the years and faithfully kept the cards and messages which accompanied them. She tells me that the other day she was looking for something and came across the cards and decided that she would like to send her thanks.

To say that I was surprised to receive her message was a major understatement… but I am also utterly delighted, touched and humbled. How often do we reach out to others through anonymous charitable acts, never expecting to hear more about the recipients, let alone receive thanks. My greatest joy is that the little girl who was has grown into a beautiful, accomplished and highly educated young woman with a good job, living in a world which is infinitely better than the one she grew up in. Knowing that I was able, for even a split second, to help support and bring encouragement and happiness to that little one to help her on her way is far more thanks than I could ever rightfully expect. To be able to now put a face and name to one of these children is simply the icing on the cake.

This has truly been my very best Christmas gift!

And you can depend upon it that next autumn I shall once more be filling a shoebox. So far, in the last thirty years since the charity was started, 178 million boxes have been delivered to little ones in need.

Might I interest you in also participating in this enjoyable and very worthwhile activity?

Operation Christmas Child