It was a humbling experience that I will never forget. The unit theme was ‘Making a Difference’ and it was nearing Christmas. I invited my 25 fourth and fifth grade E.S.L. students join me in a project that would change many of our hearts forever.
My students were all considered Newcomer students (all within their first year in the United States, speaking little to no English). Students from Mexico, Iraq, Russia, Turkey, Vietnam, and Jordan; many of which were refugees who fled, from war-torn countries, to the United States with as few as 1-2 suitcases per family. They were students living in small 2 bedrooms apartments, shared by multiple families using even the living room as a family bedroom. All were receiving free breakfast, lunch, and even weekend meals from our public school. Many whom had watched their friends and/or family die during war.
As I began to share with them about Operation Christmas Child and how we as a class were going to set of goal of filling two shoeboxes for children in need, making their Christmas’ very special this year. I shared this wishfully, as I knew many of these students were living in very rough conditions themselves. Despite their lack of ideal conditions and lack of finances to purchase new items, I wanted to challenge them to serve others. I admit I was very nervous as I didn’t want our ‘project’ to fail… I wanted them to experience the joy of serving.
The challenge was simple and straight forward: “Class, I want to challenge you to find new items around your homes or purchase an inexpensive item that you can give to a child in need this Christmas season. We are going to combine all of our items into two boxes, decorate the boxes, write notes, and send them out on Friday.”
We made a giant list of things we thought they would like to recieve: small toys, bubbles, hair bows, toothpaste, soap, candies, socks, markers, coloring books, stickers, toy cars, gum, small books, washcloth, and more. We also decided that each student would write a note, we would divide them between the 2 boxes, and take a class picture to send with each.
“Teacher!” (as many referred to me with affection.) “I get this!”
“Great! I’m glad your excited!” I responded with a smile.
“No, teacher! Iraq, when I in camp, I get this!” his face glowed as he shared.
“Me too teacher!!” a sweet young voice shot up from across the room.
Within a few minutes, in broken English, we discovered that 6 of our 25 students had actually been on the receiving end of the Operation Christmas Child Shoeboxes! Something I had never dreamed of encountering!
The six students began to share where they were, who gave them the boxes, what they remember in the box, what their favorite part of the box was, some even remembered what their siblings received in their boxes!
In mid-sharing, the bell rang and they all continued to share as they grabbed their backpacks and headed out the door.
“Friday, I yelled, Don’t forget to bring your supply on Friday!”
The next day, my students were waiting outside my door as I arrived at school. They were waiting for me. They had plastic bags filled to the brim. The bags were filled with NEW toys and supplies for our shoeboxes.
Many of the students went home, shared with their families what we were doing, and their parents took their child to the store to buy supplies. The families who brought the most… were those who had been on the receiving end of those boxes! They were grateful and wanted to give back; and so did their parents! Even the parents were impacted by the generosity of complete strangers to their children when they were in extreme need.
As the week concluded, I knew our two boxes were not going to be enough… instead my impoverished class of 25 students filled (get this) 38 shoeboxes!
That my friends is gratitude! The story still today brings tears to my eyes and has deeply impacted my family today as my husband and I were actually able to travel and deliver these shoeboxes to children down in Mexico that Christmas. We took pictures, watched their faces as they received (for most) their only Christmas present of the year. We left Mexico changed that year.
Delivering Christmas Shoeboxes in Mexico
In our own family, my husband and I’s goal is to raise servants, servants of Christ, but also servants to others. As a family, we have committed to sending shoeboxes and encouraging others to do so as well each year. Last year I shared this story at the private school where my husband and I work, this year is my first year to share on Cheerios and Lattes.
Won’t you and your family join us this year? Making a difference for a child in need this Christmas is an opportunity for you to model service, sacrifice, gratitude, and ultimately love!
Visit the Operation Christmas Child website to find all the ways you can participate this year!
- Host a Packing Party at Your Home (for family, neighbors, and or friends)
- Get Your School or Class Involved
- Get Your Church Involved