I was a little girl, and I was walking inside the (now closed down) K-Mart in our town. The K-Mart with the miniature carousel with the three horses my dad would always let me ride while my mom checked out.
It was Christmas time, or just before, and right in the main entrance to the store was the giant (faux) evergreen tree with tiny white cards attached with bright red ribbons on just about every branch. My mom walked over to the tree and circled around it, reading several cards. Finally she pulled a card off the tree, said, "This one looks good," and then set off for the toy department.
She explained that the cards on the tree represented gifts that poor children wanted. She handed me the card to look at. At the top was the name of a little girl, faceless to me, with a single toy request written below her name. And I remember being astounded - "Just one toy?" - and wondering how on earth that could make a child happy. I learned my first lesson about being in need, that when you have nothing, the smallest thing seems like the greatest.
We found the requested toy and went to the checkout counter. My mom bought the toy and took care of making sure it would get put with the other toys purchased and set aside for needy children.
We did this every year. Each Christmas I remember walking into that K-Mart and selecting a child's wish from the tree. As I grew older my parents let me pick the card, and some years we chose more than one child. My mom would get tears in her eyes as she talked about children who didn't get anything for Christmas because they were poor. She felt compelled to do her part to bring one ray, albeit small, of joy to those children's lives. And what my parents probably didn't realize is that at the same time, they were planting a seed in my heart as well.
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Today I took my daughter to the Dollar Tree, armed with a list from Samaritan's Purse. Our mission: find some things to go in the Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. As we drove down Canal Street, I explained as many details of the program that I could that I thought she could understand at five years old. We walked up and down the aisles, and she pulled item after item off and placed it in the basket. She picked colors for jump ropes, styles of coloring books, and types of candy.
In the back of my head, I heard a little voice that scolded me. "Your hubby hasn't gotten paid yet. Should you really be dropping money on OCC shoeboxes when you currently have no extra money in the budget?"
But then a memory surged into my mind, a memory that drowned out the voice. I remembered walking into K-Mart, snug and warm in my thick coat, seeing that tree and feeling my heart twist as my mom told me about children who didn't have toys to enjoy, or winter coats to keep them warm.
As an adult, I can look back and see that at that time in my life, my parents weren't wealthy by any means. But we went to that K-Mart every year without fail, and they used part of what they had been given to bless a child in need.
With tears pricking the corners of my eyes, I took our merchandise to the check-out line.
Sometimes you just have to give, even when you don't have anything left.
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As we drove home with our five bags full of treats for children around the world, I told SC we needed to pray for the girls who would receive our boxes (I let her pick if we would send our boxes to boys or girls and she chose little girls). Then she told me she didn't want to wait, that she wanted to pray for them right then. And sitting in the backseat, she closed her eyes and bowed her head and prayed a heartfelt prayer for the little girls around the world who would receive the boxes she was going to pack.
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This isn't necessarily an endorsement for Samaritan's Purse or OCC. We chose this organization because it's something my young daughter can relate to at this stage in her life. This is just me writing, remembering, and working out what it truly means to say, to live, that faith without works is dead. Lately I have been praying that God would lead me to live sacrificially. If we are known by our fruit, what fruit am I demonstrating? God is challenging me each day to not just be a speaker or a hearer of the word, but a doer.
Today I believe my daughter received some of the inheritance of giving, and inheritance that didn't start with me but was graciously passed down to me. And I'm grateful to have parents who demonstrated to me, from an early age, that we need to not just think of others that are in need, but do what we can to help them.
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In unrelated news, have you entered the giveaway at Talk21 yet? We've got three different Christmas card packages up for grabs!