I was doing some final Christmas shopping last week when I came upon a father and son doing some holiday shopping of their own. The little boy was somewhere between four and five years old. They were wandering down the toy isles, and I was following behind them. I briefly overheard their conversation because I’m a chronic eavesdropper (it’s really hard to turn it off, even when I want to).
I heard the father tell his son, “Pick out a toy that you would really like.”
I was annoyed at first because I thought the dad was going to use this as an easy way to get his shopping done. He could wrap it up and put it under the tree later. Problem solved. I imagined him doing the same thing with his wife.
Then, the dad said something that I’ll never forget: “If you like it, chances are, another little boy your age will like it too.”
I finally realized what they’d been doing. The dad wasn’t getting his Christmas shopping done in the easiest way possible. He was teaching his son about giving gifts to the needy, about doing unto others as you would have them do unto you. They were out shopping for toy donations for a charity.
This time of year, there are many different toy drives for kids. I used to wonder how important these drives really were. I mean, with all the pain and suffering in the world, aren’t there better ways to serve than giving toys?
Then, I remembered what it was like to be a child. As adults, we sometimes forget how important toys were, in the days before we could read, drive, or even ride bikes. Toys inspire children’s imaginations and assist them with growing up. Not only that, but I remember how special I felt when someone gave me a toy as a gift. Even as a child, I knew that these gifts expressed love and acceptance.
This year, if you’d like to give toys to children in need, there are many opportunities available to you. If you’d like to model Godly giving, like the father I overheard in the store, the following organizations have toy donation programs.
Samaritan’s Purse ministers to children worldwide through its Operation Christmas Child drive. You can pack a shoebox with toys and supplies for children, and your box is shipped to many potential countries, all in the name of Jesus (click here to learn more).
The US Marines also run the annual Toys for Tots drive, which allows you to donate individual toys in drop locations around your state, including any Toys R Us store. The toys must be new and unused (click here to learn more).
Angel Tree is a ministry of Chuck Colsen’s Prison Fellowship organization. Each angel represents the needs of a child whose parent(s) are in prison. Many local churches sponsor trees, so yours might be involved. You can visit the website to donate online (click here to donate) or locate an angel tree in your area (click here for contact information).
Finally, for those of you in the Seattle area, the Salvation Army has adopted many underprivileged local families for the holiday season, and their Toy ‘n’ Joy program allows you to provide toys for the kids in these families (click here to visit the site). I spoke with Brandie Sargent at the White Center office to get all the details about supporting the program.
You can drop off toys in several locations, at South Center Mall, the White Center Salvation Army office, or at Qwest Field. They’ll be collecting the toys at the Qwest Exhibition center from Tuesday-Friday from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., and if you say you’re with the Salvation Army, parking is free. The great part is that on Friday, the families show up to “shop” for the gifts for their children.
The program supports kids from 0-17. Sargent suggests gift cards for teenagers, and she says that typically, the 0-2 and 10-12 age groups are the areas with the most need.
If you’re like me and don’t have kids of your own to spoil this year, why not bless a child with a gift that you might have wanted when you were their age.