This time of the year is a time where most people catch the spirit of giving. With thanksgiving around the corner I am reminded of the less fortunate, the ones who would kill to have our mediocre life we think we are living today. The holidays are a hard time to many especially to those whose holidays bears no distinction from the rest of the year. The ones that are hit the most are the innocent children in disadvantaged conditions. Those children around the world who will inevitably read about the joy that Christmas should bring them, the gifts that the famous Santa drops at the doorstep of their fictional friends but never to think of this dream becoming a reality of their own. A part of my childhood was spent in similar conditions, as a child I enjoyed reading and I discovered the worlds afar through any book that I could get my hands on. Through those books I did learn about the Santa stories, I read about the famous “papa Noel” the big hearted white bearded man who was the focus of many of the Christmas stories. I read about how he would come down the chimney and reward the good did of children that year, I read about the cookies and milk left at the table for the big guy, I read about the presents to be expected in the morning, but I always knew deep inside that those stories were designed for the other children, the ones who were lucky enough to be born in lives of abundance.
Millions of children today are reading the same books and living the same reality that I did. They are watching us prepare for the holidays, hearing about our anticipated gifts to come, listening to us recite the list of what we want for Christmas and they will unfortunately still be there the day after thanksgiving when we complain about how much turkey we had the previous day.
When I first got to the US one of the traditions that I enjoyed during Christmas time was what my church at the time was a day called the shoes box packing Saturday, all yearlong we were given opportunities to bring the gifts that will be packed one Saturday closer to Christmas as part of a ministry called operation Christmas child. It is when we gathered together as a congregation and put together what we deemed to be the perfect gift for a child in need. We carefully packed everything from toys to pens and pencils to books, toothbrushes and clothes. This was a much cherished time for me because I knew that at one time in my life I had once been the kid at the receiving end of that box. I knew the joy that was wrapped in each one of those simple boxes and I would relive the same joy every time while packing it.
For many families that gift is all the school supplies that they would get all year long. The one pack of pencils that is in that box is to be shared among the five or six siblings. The one book they got will be the one they will all learn to read the English language from. The small toothpaste and the little body lotion will be spread over the next few months and the one t shirt will be a Sunday best for them; to many that was the best Christmas that Santa could give them, they don’t have the luxury to ask for what they want, they are striving to get what they need.
I know many people are reluctant to give, in fear of their gift not landing at the right destination, but that should not limit us from doing what is dear to our hearts. My experience of receiving a box all the way in the heart of Africa is possibly not what you feel called to do this season, but this is just one of the many opportunities to give that are available to you. Refugee children, immigrant children, hungry american children are all around us. UNICEF reports that there are over 28 million child refugees who fled conflict, and an additional 20 million child migrants who left their homes in search of better lives (1). Also according to No Kid Hungry, 1 in 6 kids in America doesn’t get the food they need every day (2). It is a no brainer that they will probably not get any present or special thanksgiving meal these holidays. I believe there is more than enough opportunities for anyone willing to catch the spirit of giving this year. Starting from a neighbor you well know can use a little company, to the immigrant around the corner who has no family around to share this holidays, all the way to a child in the farthest part of the world. Everywhere you look there is a child who is waiting to receive his/her dream gift from Santa, except that Santa this year is going to work through YOU.