Monday, December 24, 2012

Operation Christmas Child Is Good Will

Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. ... Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. — Francis Church, editorial, The New York Sun, 1897

All over the world today and tomorrow, millions of shoeboxes will makes their journey to places and spaces many people have never heard of before. But these destinations — remote and impoverished communities — are less important than the recipients.

Operation Christmas Child creates connections across continents.

They are children in need, some of whom have never experienced the magical moment of opening a box brimming with generosity. Inside each, sorted by gender and age, is a collection of gifts that range from toys just small enough to fit in a shoebox to staples like school supplies and hygiene items.

The people who pack them are individuals and families, churches and groups. Most of them are just everyday people who want to share the same generosity that they enjoy together every year during the holidays. And some of them take advantage of two unique aspects too.

Individuals and families many include a personal note to the unknown recipient, sharing who and why they decided to participate in the program. Many of them will also receive an email that reveals where their shoebox was sent. A few of them, depending on what information they were inclined to share, might even receive a note, letter, or thank you from the child who received it.

There have even been some occasions when these initial correspondences have opened a lifelong dialogue between two people. It's this dialogue that makes many people realize that much more is opened than a shoebox.

Even the smallest shoebox contains much more than gifts.

One of the several stories shared by Operation Christmas Child includes that of Brenda Valdez. After Brenda was born, her mother decided she no longer wanted a child so her desperate father packed her up in a box and drove out to a a small village outside Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic.

When he arrived, his aunt took one look at the tiny, malnourished 4-pound baby and made a difficult decision. Although her own family was barely getting by, she accepted the baby and nursed her back to health. Had she decided not to, there is little doubt Brenda would have died.

Today, Brenda is a healthy, vibrant 5-year-old girl despite growing up in an impoverished community without the most basic services (like running water). What she does have, however, is faith. And what she received this year, is the knowledge that someone other than her aunt could love her.

While most boxes are managed and delivered via volunteers, one young 12-year-old girl named Evilyn Pinnow had the chance of a lifetime. She was asked to travel around the United States with the symbolic 100 millionth shoebox that would eventually be delivered to Brenda.

Along with the gifts inside the colorfully hand-printed box, two other items stood out. The first was a photo album of all the people who contributed. The second was two silver chains with brightly colored hearts inscribed "best" and "friends." Brenda kept one, but gave the second to her new friend Evilyn.

The back story might be equally remarkable. The woman who put the chains in the shoebox, Livia Satterfield, was inspired to do so because she received a similar gift she was 12-year-old orphan. Today, she still remains in contact with the person who wears the other half.

A bit about the man who penned the editorial Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. 

While there is no tangible connection between the The New York Sun editorial and Operation Christmas Child, there is an intangible one. Francis Church lived to be 67 and never had any children, but he will forever be connected to Christmas because of his response to a girl who wanted to believe.

What he shares with Operation Christmas Child is an under-appreciated notion that everything we cannot see does not need to be dismantled. Sometimes it is best to leave it all intact because it's the magic in these moments that make life something more than the circumstances we are dealt.

You may tear apart a baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the stronger men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. It is all real! Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

Operation Christmas Child Is A Liquid [Hip] Good Will Pick. 

At least once a month, Liquid Hip highlights good will efforts undertaken by people with big hearts. We don't score them. That belongs to you.

We chose Operation Christmas Child because beyond the organization that runs it, there are hundreds of thousands of people who bring the impossibility of receiving gifts at Christmas to millions of children every year. The effort is heart warming in its ability to connect people and sometimes establish a connection that transcends childhood and leaves a lasting impact as they grow into adults.

Operation Christmas Child is organized and managed by Samaritan's Purse, an organization that delivers aid to the world's poor, sick and suffering. It is involved in many different programs designed to rebuild people's lives and communities. Although the organization is faith based, there is little evidence that such good deeds detract from the hearts of the people who want to make it work.

In this case, children around the world experience the wonderment of generosity — a brief but unforgettable opportunity to discover that people halfway around the world aren't so different after all. Happy holidays.
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