Christmas is known as a season of giving. One thing you might hear about in Advent are so-called shoebox programs, which encourage you to fill a shoebox with toys, toothbrushes, and other trinkets for a child in the developing world. That may sound like a heart-warming idea, and there are churches that participate in these programs.
But consider whether it’s the best way to warm the hearts of those who will receive the shoeboxes.
The children who receive these boxes often do not know what to do with the toys, and they certainly don’t know the latest popular cartoon character. Toys may require batteries or replacement parts that are not readily available, and they may cause friction between children who receive the toys and children who don’t. Often, toys that catch our eye are really the last thing that they need!
Here are two alternatives to try in your community of faith:
- Work with a community ministry in your area to create boxes that are tailored to meet needs of people in your area. Perhaps there is a local Christmas hamper program that you can participate in.
- The United Church also offers the Gifts with Vision catalogue. These gifts are specific projects of our Mission & Service partners that you can get excited to support, individually or as a group. For example, you can send a kid to the Wampum youth camp or to a music program for Syrian newcomers in Montreal, to name just a couple.
As we celebrate the season of giving, may you and your community of faith truly offer hope, peace, love, and joy to people in need!
Ruth Noble is the United Church’s Mission & Service Engagement Coordinator.