By Jackie Mae
Meet my friend Chris. She is many things to many people but she is my friend. At 86 years of age this unapologetic little Italian lady has a heart of gold—a lioness when it comes to protecting those she loves.
Although she has nine children of her own, she nonetheless ‘adopts’ the rest of us as she deems you worthy. Married for over 60 years she has a wealth of wisdom. Living alone for close to five years now she is, however, never lonely; this energetic go getter has children devoted to her.
Her lawn is manicured and maintained by her family. Shopping trips, church, family gatherings are all arranged with the help of her family. Doctor visits are not a problem—she has family. As a matter of fact, the children take turns spending the night with her.
Her lively spirit touches those she meets. So it was no surprise when she told me about her ‘mission.’ It is called Samaritan’s Purse, Operation Christmas Child. It helps many children throughout the world that have next to nothing.
“Next to nothing,” it may be a faraway thought for many people but for those who live it day in and day out it is a draining experience. Within my own extended family, there were some members that lived on the edge of poverty when I was growing up—I remember it well. The hardest part—the hardest part—is when Christmas would come around. To a small child of the Christian faith, Christmas time means gatherings, food, singing, church, and yes, presents from Santa Claus. How do you explain to a small child that Santa Claus cannot fix everything? Some children’s parents cannot even afford a tree.
So when I heard her story I was brought to tears. I now call her “The Shoebox Lady.” I’m sure she doesn’t mind.
It all started when a neighbor told Chris about a program at a neighboring church called, “Chesapeake Samaritan’s Purse,” the collection site nearest her hometown. She watched a short video explaining what the program was about. In my opinion, it should have been called “Shoeboxes Made Special,” but I digress. Chris was won over when the narrator said, “This little girl is waiting for a shoebox.” The little girl looked so sad. There could be no doubt that Chris would do everything possible to ensure no child would ever go without a shoebox. The Chesapeake Samaritan Purse program sends shoeboxes out to thousands of children, who otherwise, possibly would not receive any small gifts of any kind.
Chris starts early, months in advance of the delivery date which is November 1st. She takes in shoeboxes from family and friends. She then gift wraps each box lid and base separately. She arranges them by age group: 2 to 4, 5 to 9, and 10 to 14 years of age; then by girl and boy.
She buys supplies, with the help of her daughters, and then fills each shoebox with not only toiletries, small stuffed animals, hair bows, books, toys of every kind; she also puts a lot of love into each and every one. Her entire dining room is transformed into pile after pile of supplies and shoeboxes. A labor of love she calls it.
She expressed to me, that as long as she was able, she would ensure no little girl or boy would wonder why they weren’t loved enough to receive a gift. I think Chris has a pure heart like the children she protects.
To learn more about this program, please contact, Operation Christmas Child, a project of Samaritan’s Purse, Franklin Graham, President. https://www.samaritianspurse.org or 1-800-353-5949