By Nancy Twigg
Filling a shoebox with goodies and sending to a child who would otherwise
have nothing for Christmas. It’s a simple concept but one that works well
for Samaritan’s Purse. Every year, through the Operation Christmas Child
program, people from all over America, Canada, and parts of Europe have the
opportunity to help children all over the world by simply filling shoeboxes
with small gifts and treats.
Christmas 2004 was my family’s first time to participate in Operation
Christmas Child. At the age of almost-four, we felt it was time for our
daughter Lydia to begin learning about Christmas giving rather than just
Christmas receiving. With some degree of apprehension, I explained what we
were going to do and then took her to the local dollar store to select items
for our shoebox. I was a little worried she would get a case of the "gimmes"
and want to buy everything for herself. On the contrary, she had great fun
picking out things for "the little child who is poor." We enjoyed the
experience so much that we have participated every year since then.
As we collected items for our shoebox last year, a novel thought occurred
to me. The concept of giving shoeboxes for Christmas has other practical
applications. Here are a few I thought of:
* Scaling back Christmas gift giving – Whether you need to scale
back for financial reasons, or simply want to scale back because you think
it’s gotten out of hand, limiting gift giving to one shoebox per person is a
great way to go. Obviously if all gifts must fit in one shoebox, that limits
not only how many items but what kinds of items can be given. You can still
give more expensive items if you want (gift cards, jewelry, cash, etc.), but
knowing that each person will only receive one shoebox controls
* Clutter-free gift giving – As Lydia and I put together our shoebox,
I noticed that we included many consumable items—items that would either get
eaten up or used up. Most grandparents and older people have more than
enough of everything they need. They have little room for trinkets and
gadgets, but appreciate practical items that won’t create clutter in their
homes. A shoebox filled with consumable items—food items, toiletries,
stationery, health and beauty products—would be a thoughtful gift idea for
practically any senior adult on your list for practically any gift-giving
* Long distance gift giving – Don’t you hate the expense of mailing
large boxes of gifts to long-distance friends and relatives? Limiting the
size of packages to a shoebox would definitely help control shipping costs.
This rule would also make shipping easier, as almost everyone has plenty of
empty shoeboxes and brown paper bags around the house for wrapping up the
boxes. What if you have several shoeboxes to send to one family? No problem.
Just put your shoeboxes in one larger box for mailing.
* Good for other needy people, too – Children in foreign countries
aren’t the only ones who could benefit from receiving a shoebox of goodies.
We have many people right here in America who need a loving touch. Why
couldn’t a church or charitable organization start a Christmas shoebox
program for inner city families, the homeless, people in nursing homes, or
shut-ins? And why limit it to Christmas? These people need ministry all year
long. Shoeboxes filled with practical items and special treats could be just
the way to do good deeds for people who are often overlooked.
* An educational experience for kids – One last idea. This year I
plan to give my daughter a Christmas shoebox, too. I believe it will be
educational for her to experience a little of how it must feel for the
children who receive shoeboxes from Samaritan’s Purse. Of course, the effect
is not exactly the same. Unlike most of the Operation Christmas Child
children, she knows she will receive other presents. However, I hope the
excitement she feels as she opens her box will make an indelible impression
and help her to be more empathetic toward those who have so little.
So you see, giving shoeboxes for Christmas is a smart idea. It works for
Operation Christmas Child and it can work in a variety of situations for
your family, too. By the way, if you’d like more information on how your
family can participate in Operation Christmas Child, visit
A similar program exists which sends shoeboxes of goodies to military
personnel deployed overseas. Learn more about Operation Shoebox at
Twigg is the author of the newly revised and expanded book,
Celebrate Simply: Your Guide to Simpler, More Meaningful Holidays and
Special Occasions (Kregel Publications, October 2006). Learn more about