Years ago, I was in the outskirt bush of Botswana. I was engulfed by a group of kids poking and prodding in amazement at my braces and frizzy hair. To see someone for the first time of a different skin color was all too new, scary even.
While I was there for many different reasons, one of them was a partnership with the organization Samaritan’s Purse. Many people, churches and communities have supported Samaritan’s Purse through the program Operation Shoebox. Every year around Christmastime people go shopping for a child in another country and fill a shoebox to be delivered to him or her. The shoebox is age and gender specific. For many years my church community would take trips to the dollar store to fill shoeboxes with what we thought were fun and thoughtful toys, games and stuffed animals.
However, being in the middle of Botswana, surrounded by red clay dirt and overjoyed community members eager to receive their shoeboxes, I started to second-guess myself. A little girl ran up to me to show me her treasure. She asked what gum does, and received a reply of, “Oh, you just chew it until you don’t want to chew it anymore.” She looked at us, befuddled. This look was repeated many times with other toys and games. What really caught her attention were the new toothbrush, soap, underwear and socks. These, for her, were lasting. It was less about fun and more about contributing to her household.
Not only was it eye-opening to see young children rank necessity over fun, but it was amazing to see them all run into circles and share each and every item with their friends and family. If one of them got a small bag of candy, it was evenly distributed until there was none left.
Christmas time is a season when it is hard to get past the hustle and bustle of the end of the semester, the holidays, family, friends and scrounging for the last bit of money to buy everyone the perfect present. Nevertheless, it is a constant reminder for me to spend less on meaningless materials and find different ways that I can contribute to helping out our brothers and sisters across the globe. The holidays are about letting your loved ones know you care about them, but how about investing in others on their behalf? This allows both you and them to take part in something bigger and strive for the global love and giving that make for lasting and impactful memories.
This can be done in a variety of ways. The first is buying material items that contribute to a need. There are dozens of websites out there filled with hundreds of items that allow you to give on a deeper level. For example, you can buy an amazing ombre scarf that funds 50 cups of food. You can safely get an Afghani girl to school and back spending a minimum of one dollar. If you find something that you, or the person you are buying the gift for, are passionate about, you can find something that contributes to that cause. Your passion can come in the form of raising awareness for hunger and poverty, rescued animals, veterans, education, the environment and more.
The holiday season is not just about “dishing out” things for our friends and family to make sure we acknowledge them; it is about being deliberate. So, why not be intentional with those closest to you while also being intentional with your global family.
Lexi Chapman is an international studies and political science double major with a minor in peace studies. She loves to travel and experience new cultures while eating tons of delicious new food along the way.