Category: Service stories

The Power of a Few Quarters

To ring in service Thursday, I have a little story for you.

Once upon a time (two months ago), I lost my everloving mind and agreed to host my daughter’s school book fair.

It’s been … an adventure.

We’ve been at the school an hour early and stayed an hour late (plus one evening) all week. My kids are exhausted. I’m exhausted. And not everyone has been terribly friendly. (Sidenote, y’all. Be nice to cashiers and volunteers. They’re people, too.)

So this morning, I was feeling discouraged and just wiped out. I tried to put on my happy face, but it was hard.

Some of my first customers were a brother-sister duo. She had a $1.99 item, he had a $2.99 item. He proudly handed me a $5 bill. I explained to them that there was tax added on top and that they’d need a little more money. I offered to hold the items until tomorrow if they wanted to bring the change then. The sister, without a single complaint, said, “No, it’s okay”, and reached to put her item back on the shelf.

Something about her quiet self-sacrifice touched my heart. I immediately decided to reach for my own wallet, and the volunteer next to me was turning for hers as well.

But suddenly, a hand reached toward me with a dollar bill in it.

Another child’s father, standing behind these kids in line, quietly stepped in and paid the difference.

It’s a small thing, folks. A few quarters.

But that little girl … that kind father … they made my day. They reminded me what all of this time and effort are for. And from then on, the smile on my face was genuine.

Thank you, strangers, for reminding me of the power of a few quarters.

So let’s take one more week and continue our fall service challenge. Let’s go and make a difference.

Your quarters? They’re powerful, y’all.

Ghost with quarters

September 11th Challenge: Remember Our Firemen

One of the advantages of this website being around for a year is that now I can begin posting “annual” challenges! And today, I am so pleased that it’s time for this challenge again. It’s one of my favorites. It makes me smile every time I do it.

And it makes me cry every time, too.

September 11th challenge

 

A year ago, I shared this story with you.

“But Mom – why did they crash those planes if they knew they were going to die?” my six-year-old asked.

How could I possibly answer?

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to visit the George W. Bush Presidential Library and Museum with my family. I tried to turn it into an interesting and educational experience for my young children by explaining exhibits and allowing them to interact wherever they could. As we neared a large September 11th exhibit, I stopped them, knelt down, and began to prepare them for what they were about to see. Every September 11th, I talk to them a bit about what the day means to me, but it had been 11 months since we’d had that conversation, and at ages 3 and 6, I knew they’d completely forgotten.

“A lot of years ago, when I was still in high school, there was a very sad day in our country. Some very bad men got onto airplanes and made them crash into tall buildings. There were a lot of workers there, and a lot of people died.” Already the tears were beginning to come, but I tried to explain as matter-of-factly as I could.

“But Mom – why did they crash those planes if they knew they were going to die?” my six-year-old asked.

How could I possibly answer?

“Well, sweetie,” I began slowly, “Do you know how in our family, we don’t use the word ‘hate’?”

Two little heads nodded.

“It’s because hate is such a sad, sad word. It’s the very opposite of love. When we love someone, we do everything we can to take care of them and to make their lives better and happier. When we hate someone, we do whatever they can do to hurt them and to make their lives worse and sadder. And these men had so much hate in their hearts, they chose to kill other people, even though it meant they would die.

“But guys, that’s not what I want you to remember about that day. I want you to remember that there were some very, very brave people that day. I want you to remember them.” I took a deep breath and began telling them stories.

For the rest of the story, and to read the details of our Thank a Fireman challenge, please click here.

Mere days later, I was in New York City. We arrived the evening of September 11th. We saw the roses left everywhere. We saw the heartbroken people. We wandered through the memorial museum. We talked to survivors. We listened to final phone calls.

We looked a woman in the eyes as we heard the heartbreaking words from her husband: “He was my wife’s brother.” I hugged her, this woman I had just met, and we cried.

We remembered.

Remembering

We remembered people who we had never met. We remembered innocent victims. We remembered unthinkable bravery and courage and self-sacrifice. We learned their stories. And I wrote some of them down to share with you. Please, please, if you have a moment …

Remember with me.

So this week, we will visit our everyday heroes. We will bring treats and a card. We will smile, we will hug them, and we will thank them.

Because we know that these are the men and women who would rush UP a burning staircase to help me climb down.

Or even more importantly, to help my children climb down.

Saluting our flag

On September 11th, we remember the heroes.

And we remember our firemen.

Ladder 3

 

Will you remember with me?

Serving In Our Own Communities

Today, I saw a heartbreaking story online. Have you heard of Humans of New York? It’s a website that is made up of pictures and snippets of stories. A photographer goes around the streets of NYC and asks people questions. And in the few sentences he gives us, we see people’s hopes and dreams, best and worst memories, insecurities, fears, triumphs … it’s fascinating. It’s a fantastic reminder to always be kind to strangers, because we never, ever know what lies beneath the surface.

Right now, Brandon (the photographer) is touring Pakistan, and on my Facebook feed this morning, I saw a sobering picture of a crying woman holding a small child, and this chilling quote: “I left an abusive relationship and I have nowhere to go. I have Hepatitis C, so no one is willing to take me in. I don’t know how long I will live. I tried to give her up for adoption so that she’d have a good home. The wife of a minister told me about a place where I could drop her off. But when I got there, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it.”

Within minutes, there were thousands of people speaking up. “How can I help?” “Is there a GoFundMe page set up for this woman?” “I wish I could do something!!” On and on and on the comments went. And I was right there. I anxiously watched HONY’s Facebook page, hoping that they would post a link that gave me an opportunity to help this woman.

As I waited, I had a thought.

How many people in my own area are faced with problems just like this?

Now one point I’d like to make clear: I have no problem AT ALL with helping people in distant countries. I am passionate about several international aid programs. My family sponsors two young boys in Colombia, and I sponsor a sweet young mother in Kenya. I love these young people I’ve never met. I pray for them. I believe that we should help wherever our heart pulls us, and my heart pulls me to Compassion International and The Mercy House.

But still, the question remained in my mind: how many people in my own area need my help today?

As I’m waiting to see how I might be able to help this woman on the other side of the world, how many people within a few miles of me need help right now?

There’s a women’s shelter in my area. I’ve been there. I’ve taught those wonderful ladies. They need support.

There’s a hospital for low-income families in my area. I’ve been there. I’ve seen the homeless camped nearby. They need support.

New mom care package

There’s a shelter for homeless teens in my area. I’ve been there. I’ve brought donations and toured the facilities and talked to the director. They need support.

There are problems right in my neighborhood. There are people who need me.

There are problems right in your neighborhood. There are people who need you.

So for this week’s service challenge, I want you to choose an area in your community that needs your help. If you’ve been around this site for a while and participated in our service challenges, you know what to do. 🙂 But if you’ve never done anything like this before, don’t be nervous – it’s really simple. Here are a few ideas to get you started.

* If you don’t know where to start, ask around, open the phone book, or just do an internet search for “homeless shelter” or “women’s shelter” or “food pantry” or “animal shelter” and your zipcode. I just did that (I searched “shelter” and my zipcode), and discovered a family shelter that’s only 10 minutes away from my house. (I recently moved – just to the city next door – and I’m discovering new things all the time. I love participating in these service challenges with you – they help me learn so much!)

* When you’ve found a program in your area, call them or see if they have a website. And find out what their greatest needs are! You can do that in a variety of ways … “I have $10 to donate. What do you need today?” “What items do you run out of quickly?” “Are there any items that my friends and I might be able to share with you?” “Do you need volunteers?”

* And then … get to work. 🙂 Bargain shop (for a few budget-stretching tips, check out this post). Show up and volunteer. Gather your friends and have a blessing bag party. Even if you only have 5 minutes right now, that’s enough time to find a local shelter, learn their greatest needs, and share on social media. You can check out this post if you need a little more inspiration.Blessing bag

As I was writing this service challenge, I stopped to re-read our shelter challenge from nearly a year ago. I wanted to share these thoughts with you again.

Once you know what the needs are in your community … well, you won’t need me to tell you what to do after that.

You might realize you have an extra $5 you can donate.

You might pass by a clearance rack at Target and notice an item that’s on your shelter’s “urgent needs” list.

You might realize that you have a few hours you can use to volunteer.

You might grab an extra box of granola bars the next time you’re at the store. Or maybe an extra pack of socks, or a bottle of laundry detergent.

You might decide to take some donations to a shelter for homeless teens, and while you’re there, you might realize for the first time that right in your city, there are teenage girls who are selling their body for food. You might realize that you had absolutely no idea that there were people in your very city who are so absolutely desperate. You might get angry – FURIOUS – that this is the reality for so many. And when your fury subsides a bit, you might realize that you might not be able to fix all of the problems in your community, but you are able to donate a bit of food. And with that bit of food, someone will be able to eat tonight without resorting to desperate measures.

A broken, defeated woman might be able to take a shower tomorrow morning and start to feel a little bit more feminine because you donated a bottle of nice shampoo to the shelter she has fled to.

A man might be able to button up his new-to-him dress shirt (that, as of yesterday, was hanging in your closet) and go off to a job interview, confident that he looks professional and competent.

Tomorrow someone might read your Facebook post … “Hey, local friends – did you realize that we have a women’s shelter that’s at risk of closing because they need more donations? Come on – let’s help!” Or “Did you know that our local animal shelter is going to have to put down three dogs this weekend unless they find homes? Anyone need a new pet?” And your friend might realize, thanks to you, that there is a need that he or she can meet.

Will you join me?

You can give. You can advocate. You can learn and share. And you can make a HUGE difference in the lives of the most vulnerable in your community.

I don’t know what you’re going to do with this week’s challenge.

But I can’t wait to hear.

To Our Newest Community Members – Welcome!

If you’re dropping by from Scary Mommy … Welcome! I’m so thrilled to have you here. I hope you stick around for a while!

Welcome!

Here’s a little bit about me. My name is Kimber. I’m a wife and a mom to two awesome kids. When I’m not busy having adventures with my family, I love to read, write, laugh with my friends, eat delicious desserts, pack shoeboxes, and do nice things for strangers.

Because here’s what it all comes down to: I really believe that no matter who you are … no matter what your situation is in life … there is always, always someone that you can help. I also believe that people generally want to be kind and thoughtful and generous, but sometimes we need little reminders. So almost a year ago, I started this website. Every Thursday, I share a service/kindness challenge. Every Monday, I share a story reminding us that kindness matters. On my Facebook page, I pass along stories that inspire me. And on Pinterest, I share ideas of ways that we can make this world a better place.

The Quarter Challenge

If you’d like to join our little community, there is a place for you! Sometimes we do little things (like tidying up our neighborhoods, or – my kids’ favorite – scattering a few quarters around town). Sometimes we tackle really big issues together (like homelessness or slavery). But no matter what the weekly challenge is, I try to give you simple, practical, do-able ideas of ways that you can make a difference today. It really doesn’t matter how much time or money you have. You can make a difference.

So if you, just like me, believe in kindness …

If you love hearing and sharing stories about awesome people doing amazing things …

If you would like ideas of ways that you can make the world a little bit better and brighter, one act of kindness at a time …

Jump right in.

You belong here.

Serving as friends

P.S. If you’d like to look around for a few minutes, can I recommend a few of my favorite posts for you?
* This is my very first post. It all started on the streets of Argentina …
* My friends and I planned  a baby shower for charity – and we had SO much fun!
* This story reminds me why I serve … and why I to teach my children to serve.
* Sometimes, when it takes me a little bit of courage to do something kind for someone … I remember this. I remember that I. Am. Enough.
* And finally, my husband had the amazing opportunity to visit the boys we sponsor in Colombia. Here is his beautiful story.

Meeting the boys

Thanks again for dropping by! If you have any questions, ideas, or thoughts, please leave a comment – I’d LOVE to hear from you!

The Clean Your Community Challenge

Well y’all … this week is going to be a busy one for me. What about you? Are you ready for a simple weekly service challenge?

Great!

This challenge costs nothing, and it can be done in 5 minutes. Are you in?

This week, all you have to do is to make your community a little bit cleaner.

Clean Your Community

When I take my children to the park, it’s always discouraging to me to see litter … particularly things like alcohol bottles (and, ahem, worse) on the ground where children play. So when I think of it, I bring a plastic bag with me to the park and pick up a few pieces of trash. As I do so, it creates a simple and nearly effortless teaching opportunity for my kids: we show gratitude for our community by leaving our parks a little bit cleaner than we found them.

So this week, find a local area that could use a bit of tidying up. We usually choose a park, but you could also hit up a schoolyard, a hiking trail … even an area by the side of the road that tends to collect litter. Show up with a garbage bag and gloves. Pick up a bit of trash. Throw it away. And you’re done! One of our fastest weekly service projects to date. (You’re welcome!) 🙂

If you’d like to read an inspiring story, check out Shelia from Pennies of Time. She and her boys have had a lot of success cleaning a creek in their local community – you can read their original post here, a few additional tips here, and a sweet update here. I love seeing what other people are doing to serve with their families! This cute picture warms my heart. What was, three years ago, a smelly, trash-filled creek is now healthy enough that they’re discovering wildlife. What a difference one family can make!

Where are you going to clean this week? A park? A hiking trail? A playground?

How to Throw a Baby Shower for Charity

About a year ago, I was doing a Random Acts of Kindness day with my family. I mentioned to my friend, a former NICU nurse, that part of my day involved delivering flowers to the hospital. I asked her for ideas for future service projects, and her answer surprised me. “New baby clothes. A lot of mamas come in to give birth … and then they fail the drug tests. They don’t get to take their baby home. A foster parent is called, but often they don’t have much warning, and these babies don’t even have an outfit to wear home from the hospital.”

So here’s the thing: no baby is going to care if they have a new outfit to wear home from the hospital, or a soft cuddly blanket, or a lovey toy.

But I care.

So I got my creative wheels spinning. And since I don’t have that many creative wheels to spin, I began talking to my friend Tiffany, who is delightfully creative. We have thrown several baby shower in the past, and they’ve always been darling (thanks, Tiffany) and fun (thanks, friends). So we did what we do best: we threw a baby shower.

For a hospital.

How to throw a baby shower for charity

We invited our friends from church to come over. We played games, we ate delicious food, we did a few fun activities. It was the perfect girls’ night. It was just like a baby shower. The only difference: there was no pregnant woman to bring gifts for. Instead, we brought gifts for a local hospital.

Party food

I reached out to the hospital in our area that serves the most underprivileged communities and I asked them what their greatest needs were. They were thrilled to answer my questions, and they e-mailed me a list of the things the new moms at their hospital could use the most. We included that list with the invitation for the baby shower.

If you’d like to host a baby shower for charity, here are a few tips for you:

* Raffle prizes. If you’d like to give people incentive to RSVP, you can offer a raffle prize for that. And you can also give raffle tickets to those who bring a donation! I love bringing prizes, but I wanted to stick to a budget, so I got creative. I hit up Bath and Body Work’s semiannual sale. I received “$10 off of any $10 or more” coupons from both Kohls and JCPenney, so I visited both stores and got prizes for almost nothing. And I used my Shopkick points to get a Target gift card to buy several more prizes. If you want to get creative, you can stick to themes: those who bring baby body wash are entered to win a basket of body products, etc.

Prizes

* Think of the new moms, not just the babies. Motherhood is precious. Motherhood is sacred. Motherhood is … terrifying. 🙂 Particularly for moms who don’t have a strong support system, bringing a baby home from the hospital can be absolutely overwhelming. We made little gifts to give the new mamas. They all varied, based on the donations given, but we included toiletry items (basically blessing bags) and a few little pampering products (like fun lip gloss and lotion). You could even make cards if you wanted to. We chose instead to make gift tags and left them blank for the nurses to fill out.

New mom care package

* Get crafty. Besides making gift tags, we also (at the suggestion of a friend whose baby spent time in the NICU) made simple pictures that can be taped to the top of isolettes. Those poor babies have very little to look at, and having simple images to focus on is great for their development. You could also make cards for the moms (or the hard-working nurses), make blankets (for babies or for moms), put together little scrapbooks … be creative!

Blue fingernails

 

(Recognize my blue fingernails?) 🙂

If this sounds like something you’d like to do, there are lots of places that would love to receive your donations! Here are a few ideas:

* A hospital

* A women’s shelter

* Any homeless shelter or center that helps disadvantaged people in your community (even a local food pantry would probably be grateful to make sure these donations get to someone in need)

* Operation Shower (an organization that plans baby showers for military families who are experiencing, or have recently experienced, deployment)

* A pregnancy center

Serving as friends

Make sure to contact your organization before you plan the shower. They will likely be happy to provide you with a list of items that they need/want. They might also have things they can’t accept. When we began planning this baby shower, I found several large stuffed animals on the 90% off clearance rack. I was ecstatic! But after purchasing them, I found out that my hospital doesn’t accept donations of stuffed animals for allergy reasons. Learn from my mistake, friends. 🙂

Baby shower drinks

So there it is in a nutshell! I had SO much fun with this shower, and I’m so grateful for amazing friends who pitched in and made it a delightful evening. Do you have any ideas to add to my list? Have you done something similar? Are you going to give this a try? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

The Color of Compassion – Aunt Dorothy’s Challenge

Normally our weekly service challenge happens every Thursday. But today, along with 1000 other bloggers, I am raising my voice and speaking for compassion. And this time, our service challenge begins with a story. This story is about a woman who exemplifies the word “compassion” more than anyone I’ve ever met.

It’s a story that makes me laugh, cry, and want to be a better person.

I hope, in a small way, it does the same for you.

The Color of Compassion

Once upon a time, there were two 10-year-old girls. They were names Anna and Dorothy. Anna was, at the time, an only child, and Dorothy was the only daughter in her family. They became fast friends … and soon, less like friends and more like sister.

Their families began spending time together – although they were very different from each other, a mutual respect, admiration, and love developed between them. And the girls giggled and plotted and schemed and dreamed … wouldn’t it be great if they got to be actual sisters someday?

Enter David.

Dorothy’s older brother was 5 years older than the giggly girls. Anna was smitten. David was … not. He was kind to his little sister’s best friend, but she was … well … his little sister’s best friend. But the girls dreamed on, and their wonderful friendship developed.

Fast forward several years. David enlisted in the Army and left home. When he returned, he found that his little sister’s best friend had changed. She was a young woman. She had matured. She was beautiful.

At David and Anna’s wedding, there came a slightly awkward moment. Everyone was seated in the chapel. The groom stood at the front of the room. The guests were waiting. The bride and bridesmaid were … not coming down the aisle.

Where were they?

They were hugging each other, squealing, bouncing up and down in the hall in their puffy dresses and yelling, “We DID it! We DID it! We GOT HIM!”

If I didn’t know how much Anna loved Dave, I might be a little sorry for him.

But I know how much Anna loved Dave – and still loves him. I know how much Dave loved Anna – and still loves her. Because Dave and Anna are my grandparents. And Dorothy was, in every sense of the word, my great aunt.

Best photo bomb
From left to right: Me, Uncle Chuck, Aunt Dorothy, Grandma, and Grandpa.

Now I want to tell you a bit more about Dorothy that will explain the love I had for her. From her childhood, she possessed a unique gift – she was always, always looking for someone to love and to serve. She loved to perform, and her animated personality made her one of the most popular girls at school. But when it came time to go on field trips and everyone would pile on the school bus, she didn’t head to the back to have fun with the other popular kids. She would look around and find an empty seat beside a shy, quiet student who was sitting alone. She would sit there and laugh and joke and create memories. She would transform that bus experience for the lonely child.

I imagine, to the lonely students she joined, she was their angel.

That pretty well sums up Aunt Dorothy.

Her entire life, she dealt with serious health challenges and pain. She always, always hurt. There was always something wrong. But from the smile that was always radiating on her face, you’d never know. I often wondered how she did it. After dealing with a fair amount of pain of my own these past few years, several times I called her – hesitant to bother her – and always found a listening ear, sympathy, and that even more precious gift of empathy. She mourned with me when I had to make the decision to have a hysterectomy. She cried with me when I wept into the phone, telling her how I just didn’t feel like I could live with the pain one more day. And never – not once – did she make any kind of comment to remind me that her pain was worse, her life was harder, her trials were heavier. She loved me and wanted me to be happy, and she did everything in her power to support me.

And that is how she lived for EVERYone.

But how did she do it?

My dad helped put into words what I couldn’t express adequately. Aunt Dorothy KNEW that she was (and is) a child of God. She KNEW that you are too. And so when she met you, it was like a joyous reunion with a long-lost sibling. She couldn’t wait to hold your hand and look into your eyes and hear about your life. She wanted to know you. She wasn’t just kind – she genuinely loved everyone she met. And with that love filling up her heart, she couldn’t help but pour it out to every person that she met.

This past week, Aunt Dorothy returned Home to her Father in Heaven. For those of us still here, there was shock and heartbreak. Her children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews, great-nieces and nephews, childhood friends, adult friends, people who barely knew her … we booked flights and jumped in cars. We flocked to California to mourn and to celebrate her life.

As I saw her sweet, frail little body, lying so still and peaceful, I spoke with her daughters and they told me how much they loved her beautiful hands. I asked if she liked having her fingernails painted (which they weren’t at the time), and the girls told me no, she was allergic to fingernail polish.

That little fact, for some reason, moved me deeply. This kind woman who had spent her life doing so much for others – including giving birth to four children, when she had been told it was almost impossible to even have one – had spent nearly every moment on this Earth struggling with the limitations of her body. She couldn’t paint her nails. She couldn’t wear much jewelry. She couldn’t be around fresh flowers. She couldn’t walk without pain, or sit without pain, or dance without pain. Her whole life, her body held her back.

But she kept loving and serving anyway.

Friends, this is compassion. To forget yourself, and to go about loving and serving everyone you meet like a long-lost brother or sister.

This is compassion.

This was – and is – my Aunt Dorothy.

So this week, as I raise my voice with 1000 others to speak for compassion, I wanted to share her story with you. And this week, as you go about meeting new people and serving in your homes and doing your jobs and reaching out in your community, I want you to keep one thought in mind: Forget yourself, and go about loving and serving everyone you meet like a long-lost brother or sister.

I don’t know exactly what this week’s service challenge will look like for you. It’s not quite as straightforward as “spread quarters around town” or “thank a fireman“. But this is what it will look like for me.

Serving new moms

I rarely paint my fingernails. But this week, in honor of my precious aunt who couldn’t, I painted my fingernails – light blue, her favorite color. Light blue is now, for me, the color of compassion. And as this color catches my eye all week, I will smile.

I will remember to forget myself and to choose kindness.

I will remember compassion.

I will remember Aunt Dorothy.

I Want To Buy a Post-It …

Here’s your feel-good video of the day!

A Change in Perspective … at the Clearance Rack

So this morning? Not a great morning.

It started out a little bumpy. And by 10:30, I was sitting in my physical therapist’s office trying to hold everything together. Finally I gave up. I just looked at her and bluntly said, “I’m going to cry now, okay?”

And I did.

Quite a bit.

(I think I freaked her out a little.)

I had a friend watching my children today for me so I could go to the appointment alone. And when I was done, I just couldn’t face life yet. So after checking in with her to make sure my kids were behaving themselves, I escaped to my happy place. The Target clearance racks.

(You think I’m kidding, don’t you?)

(Nope.)

30 cents of joy

As usual, Operation Christmas Child was on my brain. I knew that many Christmas items were going to be marked down. I grabbed a cart and beelines to the Dollar Spot. I didn’t see any signs up, but I found a few items that looked Christmas-ey. I took them to the price scanner and realized that they were 70% off. 30 cents each?? Let the good times roll!

As I have told you, shopping for Operation Christmas Child is one of my very favorite things to do. And for a beautiful hour, I forgot about my problems. I (mostly) forgot about my physical pain and my frustrations and my sadness. I focused on the children who would be opening these shoeboxes next year. I thought about their little faces and their excited voices. I imagined children who have never had a gift to open. I wondered which books these little ones might enjoy, which socks would be the right size, which stickers would be their favorites.

013

Initially I was just going to grab a few things. But as I looked at these wonderful items, only 30 cents each, I realized something – I had lots of points saved up from Shopkick. (If you haven’t checked it out yet, you can read the post I wrote for my cousin’s website.) I pulled out my phone, and within seconds I had redeemed my points for a $25 Target gift card. Then … it was go time!

One lesson I have learned from packing shoeboxes in the past – it’s a lot more efficient to shop for shoebox items if you have a plan. Although the little Hello Kitty socks were adorable, and I initially grabbed handfuls, I realized that I only needed 8 pairs for my little girl boxes. I checked the sizes, bought what I needed, and left the rest for someone to find. Although I was tempted to buy more (only 30 cents!!) I knew I had grabbed what I needed, and I was excited to leave many on the shelf for someone else to discover.

So I happily shopped, carefully selecting what I knew I would use in this year’s shoeboxes. And people, as I walked up to the checkout counter and began to unload my treasures, I started thinking of my problems again.

Guess what?

They didn’t seem so bad.

014

They really, truly didn’t.

When we serve, we are blessed. I believe that with my whole heart. When we focus on the needs of others, we are distracted from our own. And the perspective we gain from serving those who are less fortunate than we are – it can be just what we need to give us the courage to face life again.

So friends, if you’re having a tough day today, I understand. I really, really do. But here’s the thing: if you do something nice for someone else, you will feel better.

I sure do.

A Change of Perspective

Time to Shop!

Family packing time

I hope you had a joyful Christmas! I had a wonderful time with my family and with great friends. And Santa even found my house, which is always a plus. 🙂

Do you remember The Shoebox Challenge? (If you’re new to Let’s Do Some Good Today, you can check it out here.) This year, with the help of some wonderful friends, I was able to pack 33 shoeboxes. It was such a joy to do! If you participated this year – thank you! If not, there’s always next year. And now is the time to start!

Candy in the water bottles

First of all, I’d like to share my exciting news. If you pay your $7 shipping donation online, you are able to print off tags to add to the top of your boxes. When your boxes are received, you get an e-mail telling you where they ended up. Two days before Christmas, I opened my inbox and found four e-mails from Samaritan’s Purse. This year, my shoeboxes (and possibly the shoeboxes shipped by the winners of our challenges) ended up in Mexico, Ukraine, Ghana, and Indonesia. So fun!

If you’d like to pack a shoebox next November, I’d encourage you to start thinking about it right now. Packing can always be done at the last minute, but if you start planning now, you can stretch your budget!

Candy

If you’re new to packing shoeboxes, you can read my original posts here and here. You can also check out my Pinterest page – I have this board that’s full of shoebox ideas!

If you’re new to this and you’d like to pack one box this idea, now is the time to make a list of the things you’d like to include. Each month, just buy one item and set it aside. If you’re on a tight budget, this is a great way to pack a shoebox! And if you put aside a few quarters each month, you’ll easily collect your $7 shipping donation. Remember to buy things “in season”. (For instance, buy crayons in August when school supplies are on sale.)

And speaking of that — it’s time to start shopping! Why? Because Christmas items are on clearance now! I do a lot of my shoebox shopping in the first week of January. Soon, Target will have their Christmas items marked down to 70% off (if they’re not already), and Michaels will be down to 80%. These are the stores that I have had great luck at in the past, but keep your eyes out everywhere you go! And as the weather warms up, start looking for winter items on clearance. Small things like hats and mittens are fantastic additions to your shoebox.

Family packing time

A few final notes. I highly recommend the website Clip With Purpose. This website is dedicated to shoebox packing on a budget. I love the tips that they share – everything from craft ideas to sales to clearance finds. I have liked them on Facebook, so the great deals pop up in my newsfeed. And speaking of Facebook – if you haven’t liked Operation Christmas Child, I’d recommend it. All year, they share stories and videos from children who receive the shoeboxes. It’s great motivation to keep packing!

This week, in fact, they shared this little story: ” “My name is Anna, and I am 9-years-old. In my life, miracles just do not happen. I live with my mom and I don’t have a dad. My mom has to work a lot though it’s hard to find a job in the place where we live. To sell fish on the market place is the only option. Very often my mom is not at home. Once during the school break, men and women came to me to bring me a gift. I was very surprised. My first thought was that it’s not for me, but they confirmed that it was mine. Then those people told me that God has love for me and He will not leave me and my mom alone if we would come to Him in prayer. So thank you everybody – I don’t know who you are and how you know me that you’ve brought me a gift. I am very glad and I tell everyone – just believe – the miracles come true! I am sure about it.” – Note from shoebox recipient in Ukraine.”

What are the odds that this little girl received one of the shoeboxes I packed? Very, very slim. But it still touched my heart. Maybe she DID receive one of my boxes. Maybe she opened it and cuddled the doll that I was delighted to find on clearance at Target. Maybe she was touched to find the soup and toothpaste that I carefully couponed for at CVS. Maybe the toothbrush that my dentist donated was an answer to her prayers. Maybe she combed her hair and pulled it back with her new headband and she felt beautiful. Maybe she looked at the box, lovingly wrapped by my friends, and she realized that somewhere, strangers cared enough about her to pack this little box of gifts.

Shoebox pile

Maybe whoever opened my shoeboxes realized that miracles can happen.

And so, friends – for those maybes – I pack again.

Will you join me?

Time to shop!

If you have any questions about Operation Christmas Child, please let me know – I’ll try to answer it, or I’ll see if I can find an answer for you! Thank you SO much for joining me on this adventure.