About six weeks ago I approached my building’s manager about doing Operation Christmas Child (OCC) as an activity for the residents here – I live in a privately funded Independent Living Senior Community. I had a few reasons for my suggestion:
1. I had the joy of running my previous church’s annual Christmas Workshop for a few years – where area children in addition to members’ kids came to make Christmas Ornaments with the help of a number of adult volunteer members of that church, and I have missed participating in that kind of joyful activity.
One of the best pieces of advice I received upon becoming disabled came from a Physical Therapist who told me to identify what I love doing, and find a way to keep doing it. OCC provided a way to be involved with educating kids about the real reason for Christmas while delighting them by showing unconditional love.
2. A lot of us in my building receive a LOT of help, and while we all appreciate it, there’s something empowering about giving back, even in a small way, and I proposed that the residents could benefit from participating in the project, and
3. The project could help build community.
Well, Rebecca (the manager) loved the idea, and said the management firm would cover the $9/box shipping fee! And the campaign was launched.
Watching the residents’ commitment to the project was thrilling and beautiful. I was humbled to have people come up to me and tell what they’d found for the kids and ask questions about how we could do it again next year. And the ones who can’t get out to shop donated money so I could purchase things online (Oriental Trading, LTD Commodities) at greatly reduced prices. The excitement was palpable!
Today was the culmination of our efforts. We had a Packing Party to fill the shoe boxes with things from the list provided on the OCC website. The manager thought we might get 8 boxes, my goal was 12. I had purchased snacks for the packers because I wanted to set a fun tone and frankly to draw more people!
I woke today knowing I wasn’t at my best, energy-wise, but that didn’t matter. I shaved the things I could off my to-do list (showering, make-up) and got to it. I planned to hit the Community Room about an hour ahead of time to set things up, thankful that I didn’t have to WALK to do any of it! Well, within five minutes a gentleman came to help, explaining that he figured I’d need help; and a few minutes later a woman who said she didn’t know anything about it was helping, too! They both stayed the whole time! As the official time got here, far more people came than had even signed up, many with supplies they had purchased just for today!
We ended up filling 20 boxes for boys and girls ages 10-14! Rebecca was astonished and thrilled, and she took pictures to share with the company – I will pass them along to you, Susan, when I can.
I am so awe-struck by what God accomplished here today, and I am so thankful that He used me to make a difference both here and to the children who will receive our packages. 12 of the packages hold a little nativity scene with a card explaining the significance, and the residents paid special attention to their personal notes explaining how Jesus loved the recipient and how the packer would be praying for the child.
I went into this afternoon once again claiming that when I am weak, He is strong. I prayed that I would have a strong voice (usually the first thing to go when I’m fatigued) and that He was provide me with His grace with the residents who are too busy talking to hear what needs to be done and then ask, with irritation, what should be done! (Tolerance is another thing in short supply when I’m like I am today), and of course He provided my needs and more. It was a very intense two and a half hours, but I made it through!
I anticipate being in bed for the next two or maybe three days, so I will miss Bible Study, where I am so spiritually fed tomorrow. But I’m proud of the way God used me today!