Carolyn’s Shoebox Legacy

And now…we take a break from the regular blog posts and send out a “message in a bottle” sort of blog.  About 132 children will receive a shoebox from Samaritan’s Purse this year with a letter that has this link to it. We don’t know where they will be from–it could be anywhere in the world. Maybe some of them will have access to the internet.  Maybe some of them will read this blog post. Maybe some of them will know someone who can translate this. Maybe some of them will then better know of the love and caring that went into their  Operation Christmas Child shoebox, and of the fun of packing…and of the prayers that were invisibly tucked in and around each item. And the rest of you that happen upon this blog? The rest of you can just sorta ‘Listen in’.

Poster depicting ethnically diverse hands holding each other with quote: "We belong to each other" by Mother Teresa as part of Operation Christmas Child project for Samaritan's Purse

I’ve written before about how one of the important roles I willingly chose when I married J seven months ago, was to honor the memory of his first wife, Carolyn. (Yes–her name is the same as mine)  She was kind and loving, and left a trail of smiles wherever she went.  She cared about people…and the folks she happened upon felt it.

One of her favourite things to do in the year was to make shoeboxes for Operation Christmas Child.  A ridiculously large amount of their Christmas budget went towards toothbrushes and toys, hair bands and pencil crayons, balls and washcloths.  These went into shoeboxes and were shipped off to Samaritan’s Purse to be distributed to children who may have never before in their lives received a gift.

Carolyn loved packing shoeboxes.  That was one of the things she was known for. When she died, her friends were invited to bring a packed shoebox  to her memorial service in lieu of donations.  Her workplace collected money and put together shoeboxes at Christmas after her death to remember her. Shoe boxes and Car just go together.

So…we invited Car’s family and friends, her Junior Tribe Member’s friends and their parents, and other friends and family important in our lives to a “Shoebox Packing” party held in memory of Car this week.

Folks arrived with bags and bags of toothbrushes, soap, washcloths, T-shirts, stuffed animals, soccer balls, hair bands, markers, pencil crayons, little toys, pencils, erasers and countless other items. People arrived excited to make shoe boxes.

The junior high boys were in charge of making the boxes.  Some of the dads helped. One family cut out the boy/girl labels to tape to the boxes.  A lot of the moms helped sort and organize the items into piles–it was an organized chaos. We put on Christmas music. Some brought snacks to munch on while we were making boxes.

Before we started filling the boxes, we gathered around and J., Carolyn’s husband (and now mine), talked about Car’s love for shoeboxes…and even more, her love for the children who would receive them. He read a paragraph from a book about what was said at her memorial service:

She served those close to her but also found ways to serve others in need who were far away.  One of her true joys was excitedly shopping for and carefully packing shoeboxes, ensuring as many times as possible could be included for children in developing countries. Operation Christmas Child packing parties were a highlight each year.  Her enthusiasm was best expressed in her own words when she said to J: “I’ve never been drunk, but maybe this is what it feels like. I just can’t stop shopping for more boxes.” 

After a time of prayer of blessing for the boxes…and even more so for the children who would be the recipients, we got to packing.  Then chaos took over! People reaching this way and that, organizing and reorganizing the boxes to see if more could be fit into each box. The kids loved “shopping” for their unknown child, carefully choosing what would go into the box…imagining what a child of that certain age would prefer. Some of the children wanted to put only toys in the boxes…and the adults would gently encourage the inclusion of a toothbrush, comb and soap. It got loud and a little crazy–and a lotta fun.

In each box was a letter that talked about Carolyn, her love for her family, and her love for children far away that she had never met, but in some small way, wanted to impact. The letter had a postcard with photos of Car and her family…and a link to this post.

We had a blast:


So…to you, the recipient of a shoebox with a letter in it that directed you to this page:

Please know that you have been prayed for. Please know that we have spent time dreaming about you, wondering who you are. Praying that you are healthy and that you know safety.  We know that there are challenges in your life, and that there are factors which make life difficult…but we also hope that there are relationships that create joy, and that you have some laughter in your life. We hope that this shoe box in some small way lets you know that you matter to a small band of people far, far away.  We had you in mind when one of us put the box together.  There was a very special momma named Carolyn who inspired those of us around her to care and love others far away that we don’t know, but being in the same world, are very very much connected to.  We are a part of a global family. We belong to each other…and shoeboxes are one of the ways we know to make a direct connection to love you, a distant relative in this global family of ours. May this box be a small blessing in your life…and may it’s contents let you know you matter to someone far, far away who wishes you well.

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