Toys for Tots, Samaratin’s Purse, Operation Christmas Child, and Lottie Moon

Every year we donate to Toys for Tots, and this year was no exception with keeping the tradition.  Even more importantly, this is the first year I think Connor really understood what it meant to donate.  Throughout the year we pick up toys we think children will like, especially when some of our favorite places have a good sale, and we tuck them away in our Christmas closet.  Today was the big day that we took our goodies out that have been stashed throughout the year, and based on Connor’s behavior lately, I was wondering how this was going to go…I’d either be a pleased a mama or disappointed that greed was taking over our 4-year-old.  I’m happy to report it was the former and not the latter.

As we opened the closet before church and filled a very large shopping bag, I was waiting for the whining to begin.  However, all I heard was, “oh, I remember that one!”  and “that’s cool!”  I was so proud of Connor as he marched up to a local store’s donation box and began filling it with toys and not once did I hear “Mama, can I keep this?” or anything like that.  The store manager came over while Connor set about his work, praised him, and told him he has made some boys and girls very happy.  I held my breath as I awaited Connor’s response, would it be self-centered?  NO!  He simply said “you’re welcome” and something to the effect of kids being happy.  Success!

As we got back into the car and told Connor we were proud of him, I thought it was all said and done, but he had even more in store for us.  “Mama, aren’t there still people who need food?”  And I shared that yes, there are still people who need food and reminded him that is why we went shopping and made donations to the local food pantry.  Connor’s reply knocked my socks off.  “No Mama, aren’t we going to deliver some more food?”  For Thanksgiving, our church serves a full turkey dinner to those in need and delivers it directly to their homes.  Connor delivered dinner to a man in need this Thanksgiving and I think it had quite an impression on him.  “I’ll bet Mr. [XYZ] could use some more food, even if the church doesn’t deliver it.”  So we decided right there we will deliver some groceries to our new friend from Thanksgiving day.  Don’t get me wrong, Connor is still 4 and still interested in presents, etc., but I am so pleased that he is starting to understand and process what Christmas is all about.  Very encouraging after recent behavior and I do credit it to him participating in a local missions opportunity and seeing that not everyone lives with stocked pantries, nice homes, fancy cars, etc.  We are pleased that we’ve started a new Thanksgiving tradition of local service and I hope it shapes Connor’s perspective and compassion for years to come.

Throughout the year most of us are bombarded with requests to support, all good charities, and the decision lies in where do you donate?  Specific to the Christmas season, we have supported Toys for Tots as long as I can remember.  When we had a business, we kept a donation box in our lobby every Christmas season and that was both joyful and heart-wrenching.  Our bin was in a well-established community where most of our clients lived in beautiful homes, drove around in luxury , attended expensive private academies, vacationed around the globe, etc.  Despite our best efforts, the bin went mostly empty until around pick-up day, and some of my staff and I would do some last-minute shopping to load the bin, and how I loved that we would load it for those kids in need.  I did not have a child at the time, but I observed an important lesson in those days…what are we teaching our children?  If parents do not teach them to give, who will?  Even more touching, the limited number of families that did help us fill the bin were some of our clients that didn’t really have the extra funds to donate, but they did anyway, to make someone’s Christmas a little brighter and to give their own children the joy that only giving can bring.  Not only do we choose Toys for Tots for their mission, but I love that our Marines champion this cause.  Here is a group that already gives the ultimate sacrifice- their lives for our freedom, and while that is more than we could ever ask of them, here they are taking up the cause to ensure every child has a gift to open on Christmas morning.  All I can say is God bless the Marines!  And all of our armed forces of course.  While I have not seen their ads running in recent years, the TV commercials they used to run always brought me to tears, and still do.  Remember this one?  Or this one?  We are blessed beyond measure, so whatever we can do to bring Christmas to a child that may not have one otherwise, we will.  On the other hand, do you know where your charitable donations are going?  The company for which I work runs an annual United Way campaign- just enter into a Google search to see how their funds are used…how much really makes it to the end recipient?  Did you know some United Way branches support Planned Parenthood?  And while you are at it, enter a Google search for United Way and Acorn.  Eye-opening!  KNOW WHERE YOUR FUNDS GO!

We also support Operation Christmas Child, and while my hope was Connor would have been a little more focused on the giving versus the getting, my friend Amber gently reminded me that he is 4 and it is a process that we model, not a one and done.  Thank you!  We explored their website and it was an experience for Connor again to see that not everyone lives like him, and many in our world live with much less.  We specifically support this charity not only for what they do, but they give the greatest gift- spreading the news that Christ came and died for all of us.  So while the toys and goodies we send are nice, we are supporting spreading the word, the real meaning of Christmas.  Along those lines, what do you give the person who has just about everything?  Why not donate in their honor?  My manager recently supported a children’s charity and did so since she knows what a gift Connor is to me, and bringing hope to other children would bring me joy.  In turn, I shopped on the Samaritan’s Purse Gift Catalog.  Where else can you give a hive of honey bees, a goat, or bring a child the gift of reading and writing?  They will send a note to the honoree, letting them know what gift you purchased in their honor, and this gift keeps on giving and brings hope to those in need.  The next time you are shopping, does your recipient really need that bottle of wine or Starbucks gift card, or would the joy of helping those in need be a better gift for all?  We are also conscious of how the money is used, and this organization uses no more than 11% back in admin (5%) and fundraising (6%).

Our pastor told the story of Lottie Moon this morning; transformed from a Christian skeptic to a leader in the missions field.  We are always excited to give to the Lottie Moon Annual Christmas Offering which puts EVERY PENNY to the cause and funds 54% of the Southern Baptist Convention’s mission budget each year- wow!  My most formative experiences as a youth are based in missions…one summer spent in the Dominican Republic, in a remote village without electricity or fresh running water was beyond eye-opening, as was another summer in Jamaica.  My hope is that Connor will take advantage of these experiences as he grows, and can shift from our American/consumerism perspective and see the world through a more accurate lens…one where over 1.5 BILLION have yet to hear the news of Christ, one where 2 of 3 people on this earth live in Asia, one where most of the world’s population lives on less than $2 per day.  And I am thankful we are in a church that supports missions both locally and world-wide, bringing opportunity to those who are called to serve.  I am prayerfully considering where I am called to serve as well, not just during the holiday season, but on a sustainable basis.  Please keep me in your prayers as I explore where that may be.


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