“My friend invited us to go with their family to work with Operation Christmas Child.” My daughter thumbed through her text. “The day after Thanksgiving. May we go?”
Come Black Friday, we drove the hour trip into the Dallas area, met the family, and walked into a huge warehouse filled with plain brown shipping boxes, showcasing “Samaritan’s Purse.”
The warmth flooded the room, the smiles, the greetings from strangers. We ushered into a holding room and watched a film over our volunteer work. I placed my “chaperone” sticker and my name tag on my shirt. The kids received the “student” stickers.We followed a lady through the huge warehouse full of tables and workers.
Shouts rang out.
“When a shipping box is completely packed with shoe-boxes, everyone shouts, competing to see who can shout the loudest,” the lady explained.
She led us to our very own worktable—#13—and opened one huge brown shipping box. We peeked over the edge to see it packed to the brim with green-and-red shoeboxes.
Everyone received their assigned job for the day. I took on the job of sorting through shoeboxes—in other words, each packed box had to be unpacked—ensuring each individual shoebox was full and that there was nothing harmful in it—no liquids, no weapons. My youngest daughter stood at my side sorting through boxes with me, with her older sister next to her, who helped tape the boxes we passed along.
I glanced up between boxes to see smiles on faces. I reached for a new box, and my daughter beat me to it. We laughed.
My feet stood right where they needed to be.
My fingers felt over my “chaperone” tag on my jacket. Me? Chaperone? No. Me? Student? Yes.
I yearned to exchange tags with my daughter, letting her wear the “chaperone” and letting me take on the “student.”
Without my girls, without the invitation, my feet would not be planted on the Operation Christmas Child’s warehouse floor. My heart had not been invested in the past. Oh, I’d assembled boxes, but never with my whole heart. I would never have driven that hour in Dallas traffic, the day after Thanksgiving, on my own. Never.
My heart needed nudging, prompting. My hand needed holding, guiding, leading, encouraging.
We placed hands on the boxes before us and prayed over them.
Something strange happened. The brown turned to green-and-red. My heart began to feel invested, invested in the children whom I couldn’t even see, whom I’d never even meet.
I stumbled across a shoebox that wasn’t packed properly. And I found myself getting defensive over each one I checked and packed. I felt slight aggravation at the unknown persons who’d assembled them poorly.
But who was I to grumble in my heart? I thought of all the shoeboxes I had thrown away that year. I reprimanded myself secretly. I hadn’t packed a shoebox in a few years, since the girls have gotten older, since they hadn’t prompted me to help make one. Since they hadn’t held my hand and led me there.
Since my eyes weren’t fully seeing.
I reached into the bins full of toys before me, selected a few things, like a stuffed animal or a children’s Bible, and filled the shoebox. It only lacked one thing—candy. I wished for a bucket of candy so that I could add sweetness to the boxes that were lacking.
My heart is invested.
I ran across a shoebox that clearly had been packed with an over-abundance of love—dolls, stuffed animals, candy. Someone did it right, and some child will be blessed by their hands. My heart clapped for those unknown persons.
I passed the finished shoebox along, and my daughter taped it shut. Friends packed the beautiful Christmas color into the plain ol’ shipping box, bringing it to life there in the warehouse, there in my heart. Shouts rang out, starting a contagion of shouts down the line. We’d filled another shipping box, ready to go overseas.
“Do you want to go to lunch?” the lady asked.
I turned to the girls. “Are y’all hungry? Do you want to take a lunch break?”
“No, let’s keep working,” they agreed.
I smiled. “Yes, let’s keep working. Our time’s too short. We can eat after.” We can eat anytime.
We took a peek inside, and now our hearts are fully invested.
and now we see in color,
our hearts fully invested.
Thank you, Peek Family
Are you volunteering anywhere special this year? What is God teaching you?