Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Samaritan's Purse

I recently have taken part in a charity gift drive sponsored by Franklin Graham (son of Billy Graham) which collects boxes of toys for children in third-world countries.

Here is how it works:

You take a box roughly the size of a shoe box and you fill it with items that a child may want or need. You select a tag that is age and gender graded so that you can target your gift items for their specific needs. They have a list of essential things they'd like you to give (basically toiletries and sanitary items) but you're able to fill them up with a lot of cool toys as well.

I was excited to take part in this because I received similar gifts to this when I was a child. I did not grow up in a third-world nation by any means but I did grow up in a poor household in a rural community. My mom would pick up mesh stockings from the fire department that were collected for poor families and these would be our gifts on Christmas morning. I was truly excited to have something that was meant for me. I remember having probably about three lean Christmas times but eventually our family got on our feet to some degree and we no longer relied on charity but were blessed with extra to give to others.

From this background I jumped at the chance to give to others. I was told that the dollar store would provide a great assortment of the right sized toys to cram into a shoebox and this turned out to be great advice. There was something about these toys though that turned out to be a bit ironic:

All of these toys were probably manufactured in the same third-world countries they were returning to as gifts.

This really did sort of bum me out. Talk about scraps from the table. I'm sending them items that were made in their neighborhoods after they were first made available in my marketplace. It's not like I have much of an alternative at this point. I couldn't personally make them any toys that they'd like and I'm sure they'll prefer the ones I passed along...but it still feels funny.


Esther said...

That would feel weird.

Your story is very touching. It makes the whole idea of giving to those gift ideas for poor children charities a lot more personal. I never really thought about what it would be like to be one of the kids who gets Christmas presents because someone was kind enough to make me a shoebox with presents in it.

Anonymous said...

Do you have a list of the countries where those toys were made?

Tracy said...

These are the ones I remember:

White Center

Sorry, the last one is sort of an inside joke for those who live in the Puget Sound area.

Robert the Grump said...

Your sad tale brings back memories of my own youth. I am the son of a dirt poor serviceman and a Japanese war bride whose family was bombed out of existence during WWII. I got one toy for Christmas and one for my birthday, which I got to pick out at the 1960s equivalent of a Dollar Store. I never needed a toy box as a kid, a shoe box held it all rather easily.

Ironically, these cheap, crappy toys without fail came from Japan, the very country my mother fled from. Of course, these same toys are now highly collectable and worth loads of money. Unfortunately, I broke them all decades ago. I'm not sure there is a moral to this story, unless it's that today's garbage is tomorrow's treasure, and you may have made these poor third-world kids into eBay barons down the road.

Take solace in the fact that lucrative jobs await these children in the local Nike sweat shop, or perhaps sewing clothes for Kathy Lee. They'll probably clear more income that my old man did from serving in the US Army.

But seriously, keep giving until it hurts. I do. I remember being poor and I didn't like it then or now.

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