Especially when that smile comes from ages away. By ages, we refer to miles — thousands of miles whose sheer distance is compounded when considering the span of oceans, the divide of massive continents and the surround of geographic borders.
Yes, those smiles are there.
Their voices often unheard.
Their hunger for love unimagined.
Their fear is sadly unprecedented.
But they are not forgotten and this is due in no short measure to humane initiatives like Operation Christmas Child.
In our Cleveland hometown, the initiative’s 2010 launch came weeks ago compliments of Life Care Centers of America, a community-spirited corporation that has led this project for years. The late-September kickoff came at an appropriate time allowing for ample community awareness, sponsor endorsement and individual recruitment.
The wheels have been in motion for weeks.
Much distance has been traveled.
But miles loom ahead.
It is in this spirit that we remind our readers of this worthwhile endeavor whose outreach transcends expansive waterways, foreign deserts and dark continents.
Not many local residents are unfamiliar with this inspiring international outreach, but if the name is unfamiliar to you here’s a brief history.
Operation Christmas Child is a brainstorm of Samaritan’s Purse, an organization led by evangelist Franklin Graham. Life Care serves as a national sponsor of Operation Christmas Child, a role the company has proudly held since 1995.
The Operation Christmas Child project asks community residents to fill a standard-sized shoe box with school supplies, toys and hygiene items. As the donor, you may select the age group and gender for whom you are buying. Once boxed, you may drop off your donation — with a $7 contribution to help offset shipping costs — to the Life Care corporate offices on Keith Street.
Last year, the Cleveland community filled 38,150 shoe boxes for impoverished children around the world. The outreach has biblical roots based on Mark 10 in which Jesus told his disciples not to send the children away from him. Holding to this accountability, each youngster receiving an Operation Christmas Child shoe box is first given a book about Jesus in their own language.
The outreach is more than a shoe box filled with gifts. Operation Christmas Child also offers a discipleship for these children. Those who complete the program receive a certificate and a copy of the New Testament during a graduation ceremony.
Those wishing to fill a shoe box are asked to include items like school supplies, small toys, hygiene items (toothbrush, toothpaste, mild bar soap in a plastic bag, comb or washcloth), and other items like hard candy, lollipops, mints, gum (please place all candy in a resealable plastic zippered bag), T-shirts, socks, ball caps, sunglasses, hair clips, toy jewelry, watches or flashlight (with extra batteries).
You have the option of enclosing a personal note and photo of yourself and your family; the recipient child may write back if you enclose your name and address.
You may fill your shoe box for a boy or girl in these age groups: 2-4, 5-9 or 10-14.
You may learn more about Operation Christmas Child, with detailed instructions, by calling 1-800-353-5949, or visiting the website at www.samaritanspurse.org.
You may also ask your employer, civic organization or church if they are an Operation Christmas Child sponsor or participant. If yes, they may have information available for you.
Operation Christmas Child is an endearing mission borne from the heart.
We urge you to open yours.