Wrapping up the year of Operation Christmas Child

I can be a cheerful giver – especially when it involves the retail and fabric therapy necessary for gathering items through the year to fill shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child. Retail therapy leaves me quite cheerful. I love scoring great prices on toys, small items of clothing, school supplies or hygiene items. Such fun to find new items for next to nothing and I know exactly where it will go: into a red and green box.

Through the past spring, summer and fall, my stash of fantastic finds grew too large for my in-house storage. I packaged it all together and took it to church to place in the OCC donation bin.

Except I did not take the items I had gathered for sewing kits. At the house, I made a bag to hold a yard or so of fabric, sewing notions, needles, thread, shears, pin cushion and pins. I kept those at home and worked on assembling the bags through the summer. Just handling the yards of fabric as I chose a yard or two here and there provides enough fabric therapy to soothe my soul and cheer me up as much as retail therapy.

I like to keep my hands busy doing something useful, and sewing satisfies that need.

The day I finally finished the last bit of retail and fabric therapy for the sewing kits, I sat on the floor and used as many kits as I could to fill the plastic shoe boxes I had gathered through the year. I gloated over the riches. Assembling gifts with the vision that they will go to someone who needs them satisfies me immensely.

I needed to add more to the boxes – I needed to add the items I had already taken to church. And, again, I needed the space. So off to church I carried the kits along with a number of cardboard shoe boxes folks had given me for OCC.

Those real shoe boxes with separate lids and bottoms need to be wrapped before filling them with gifts for a child up to the age of 14. I could have wrapped them, but such activity does not come high on my list of favorite activities. Earlier this year, I cleared my shelves of wrapping paper. I determined I would not ever wrap another present. I left that task for the packing party and any happy wrappers who came.

A determined hardness descended on me as the day approached for the packing party. Others could enjoy the packing and any wrapping that needed to be done. I had had my fun. I had given cheerfully. I would let others who liked to wrap presents experience that joy.

And that’s the way it would have been – except I found a handful of other items to add to the boxes.

Walking out the door to run errands I called the church, “When is the packing? I have a couple items to add.”

“It’s now, but no one else is here,” answered one of the two people setting up for the event. One thing after another had kept people away: community activities, company at the house, a family member in crisis.

For many reasons, the packing party lacked packers.

I sighed. I really could go and help. I had no specific plans for the day. I went. A handful of others wandered in after me. I helped sort the bins of donations into piles, folded red and green OCC boxes and made sure I finished filling the plastic shoe boxes I had started earlier.

The remainder of the sewing kits filled all the ordinary shoe boxes folks had donated.

After a couple of hours we realized: We needed more hygiene items. We needed more packers. We needed to go home.

“These shoe boxes need to be wrapped,” we all agreed.

Not so cheerfully, I volunteered the rest of my unscheduled day, “I’ll take them home and wrap them. It will give me an excuse to watch TV for the rest of the day.”

And that’s how it went. I left, replaced the wrapping paper I had given away earlier this year, cleared the dining room table and laid out wrapping paper, shears and tape.

Once I started wrapping, with nostalgic television programs running in the background, the afternoon and evening flowed. I used up several rolls of tape and a lot of wrapping paper, covering one lid and one box at a time. As I folded paper over boxes, the holiday spirit crept up on me. A cheerful stack of red and green boxes and the glow of satisfaction finalized my day’s task.

The next day I even made sure I finished packing each of the boxes with sewing kits. I wanted to ensure that each child received a cheerful box filled with the items which had inspired me to be a cheerful giver through the year.

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