So it's National Collection Week for Operation Christmas Child. Our church's official "turn in your box" day was Sunday, so I gave it a few days to let the last of the stragglers come in, then I picked them up today (all 109 of them!) after our MOPS steering team meeting. I dropped Joanna off at home with the babysitter before taking AJ with me to the collection site. Prior to leaving the house, I pulled out one of the boxes that our family had packed and we prayed over it, just like last year. Except this year I knew better than to talk about the individual things that were in it and how much fun the boy or girl who got that box would have with them. And that was when the tears came. Again.
Since last year, I'd collected all sorts of little things - kids meal toys, small gifts given in multiples to my kids (we kept one), a few little things left over from some random stuff given to our MOPS group (stamps, magnets, etc.), the hard candy from the kids' Halloween bag, etc. And I'd bought a couple of things - dish sets from Ikea (plate, cup, bowl, and utensils in six colors, so there were six sets which made our goal this year to fill six boxes so that one set could go into each), and a few puzzles and the Target Dollar Spot. We had an overflowing reusable grocery bag full of stuff to put into boxes. And there had been JUST enough boxes left over when the church seemed to stop taking them for us to have our six (four of which I didn't even wrap - and considering that I wrapped 61 this year, that's saying something)!
On the day I set aside for us to fill our boxes, AJ did GREAT. He was the one who did most of the packing (with a _little_ direction from Mama, but really not a whole lot). Joanna we had to keep an eye on as emptying things is her current favorite activity, but even she didn't do too badly (it helped that they each got a Target Dollar Spot puzzle too - that I gave them as a distraction when we _started_ the packing instead of at the end like last year). While there were a few exclamations of "I have this toy" (typically the truth - we purged a LOT of duplicates from the toy bin), there was no question of where the things needed to go, just which box to put them in.
The problem came when we needed to bring the boxes out to the car. Because, even though he understood that the TOYS were for the children who didn't get Christmas presents, somehow AJ had determined that the BOXES needed to go under OUR Christmas tree. RIGHT NOW. Never mind that we don't have a tree yet. Never mind that we'd just spent an hour filling the boxes with stuff for other kids. No...shoe boxes went under Christmas trees. Specifically OURS.
Once the boxes were out of sight at church with all the rest, the discussion ended (yay for "out of sight, out of mind!"). Until we filled our car with the 109 boxes that our church and MOPS group had collected (including our six). Then AJ started talking again about how the boxes were going to go under our tree. When I corrected him, explaining that God had blessed us so that his daddy and grandparents and I could more than take care of him this Christmas/birthday but the boys and girls who didn't have enough maybe even for food would get these shoe boxes, well, that started the waterworks.
Le sigh....maybe at "almost 5" he'll be old enough to understand true, selfless generosity. At least this year it wasn't about the toys. And the way to make him happiest this Christmas will be to put whatever toys he's given into a shoe box-sized package (nice that he's still mostly easy-to-please - although we've DEFINITELY heard more "I wants" this year than ever before).
But I'm still proud of my little man. Giving away something that you want for yourself is never easy, especially when you really just don't understand why. But he was brave and did a great job helping to carry boxes into the collection site. And he got to go inside McDonalds with mama afterward to have lunch. So I think that all is right again in his world.