Big Life Lessons in a Little Shoebox: Watching Operation Christmas Child in Action

So we’re just now getting geared up for “Operation Christmas Child” — even though we went shopping for our gifts back in early November (that’s the holidays for ya).

If you haven’t yet heard of this phenomenon by Samaritan’s Purse, Operation Christmas Child is an outreach program that packages and ships shoeboxes filled with toys, supplies and other gifts to children in need throughout the world.

20141202_094917

We donate a couple of shoeboxes every year, and though there are usually drop-off locations throughout the city in late November, we typically take ours to the processing center in Suwanee, GA to watch the packing operation in action. It’s quite the production in this ginormous, festive warehouse with all of OCC’s happy little elves hard at work on the assembly line.

2014-volunteer-13121US-F-210

My kids like not only shopping for “their kids” gifts, but also finding out what all the other kids are getting in their boxes, and where they are headed.

20141119_145841

The facility also offers tours with kid-friendly activities that illustrate how and why the organization chooses its recipients, and what it’s like for these kids living on the other side of the world. One year, they even had an amazing little girl speaker, once an orphan and shoebox recipient, who was adopted by the couple from Georgia who donated her shoebox!

What started out for us as a simple act of giving through our kids’ school, has now turned into a fun family tradition — one that reminds us about giving and connecting with children (people) from all walks of life.

You can still pack and get your shoeboxes to a processing center through December 20th. Call to find out about scheduling a family tour.

“Dear Children, Do Not Tiptoe!”

In our Fresh Harvest basket this week (the local produce we receive from the FH Georgia farm), the very cool Fresh Harvesters Philip and Zac included a quote that really spoke to me. Thought I’d share:

“All around you, people will be tiptoeing through life, just to arrive at death safely. But dear children, do not tiptoe! Run, hop, skip or dance — just don’t tiptoe!”

— Shane Claiborne

 

And as Philip and Zac added in their Fresh Inspiration:

“Have bold and deep conversations with those you love. You never know what’s going to change the way someone walks (or runs) through the rest of their life.”

… I’d like to add, “jumps!”

20140723_162926

Thanks, Guys!

Could Your Kid Be Any Happier? Thankfully, Yes!

Ever since our kids started talking, we’ve had this bedtime gratitude ritual (among many others) that goes something like this:

What’s your “rose” for the day? I made a fort with Mimi.
And what’s your “thorn?” You made me take it down.

We still use this rose/thorn routine as a form of prayer or contemplation on the day — sometimes at night, in addition to or in lieu of other prayers, sometimes at the dinner table. But at some point we stepped it up (removing the “thorn” from the equation) with a family gratitude journal.

At least once a week, we each take turns writing (or telling Mom to write) down one thing:

My happiest moment of the day was …

20140610_163547

Starting this at a young age seemed like a good idea. I’ve been doing it on and off myself for the past eight years or so, and still I’m always surprised at how hard it is to keep up. Not just finding something to be thankful for when things are at their toughest. But remembering to be thankful in the good times. For the small, simple things. I wanted it to become second nature for my kids.

For many reasons. Research shows that practicing gratitude leads to greater happiness and optimism, deeper relationships, reduced stress, increased energy, greater spirituality, more self-esteem and overall better health. Jeffrey Froh, an assistant professor of psychology at Hofstra University, who focuses on the topic says that kids who practice gratitude “report better relationships with friends and family, higher GPAs, less materialism, less envy and less depression, along with a desire to connect to their community and to want to give back.”

20140609_105534

Take Oprah. She’s been talking gratitude for years (Aha!), and journaling since she was 15. And look where she is?

oprah-yellow_main_storyOprah quote

Maybe I haven’t reached Oprah status, but what I’ve found is that in certain moments, this simple little practice of writing things down can change my outlook, even turn the day around. And doing it as a family … even more so. I’ve noticed the energy in the house actually shift a bit after we’ve all taken a step back, and focused on something happy.

20140610_163504

It doesn’t have to be some grand moment with philosophical pondering. The simpler, the better. Roman’s happiest moment last week was “dessert.”

If nothing else, it’s a way to check in once a week (every day if you’re ambitious) and connect with one another. And to remember that if you can look beyond all the thorns of the day … eventually you’ll uncover the rose.

20140609_162056
A happiest moment for me – planting this gorgeous new rose bush with my mom

 

Here’s the journal our family uses:

20140610_163630 http://www.amazon.com/Gratitude-A-Journal-Catherine-Price/dp/081186720X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1402348255&sr=8-1&keywords=gratitude+journal.

It’s a great little book with reflections, suggestions and inspiring quotes. But you don’t need this, or a fancy one – any notebook will do.

Let me know if you’re already doing this (maybe in another form), plan to take it up one day, or have other thoughts or ideas.

I’ll be most grateful.