I’ve been accused of overthinking. I think it’s an accurate accusation, but to weigh whether I am or whether I’m not, would be a colossal waste of time – and probably a prime example of overthinking.
So let’s just say I am, OK? As an illustration, I’ll use the Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child mission. I have been enamored with the idea of the Christmas Child shoebox gifts since I first heard about the mission 10 years ago. But as you may or may not know, over-thinkers tend to not move too quickly. So, sorry to say, this is the first time I have actually committed.
A week ago, I picked up two Christmas-decorated empty shoeboxes available in our church hallway for anyone wishing to fill boxes with gifts for children all around the world. On the surface, it’s a simple assignment. Fill the box with age-appropriate toys, school or craft supplies, maybe an article of clothing and candy that won’t melt or go stale. The giver has a choice of age-ranges and gender.
As a mom, who is the daughter of a mom, who can or could fill Christmas stockings like nobody’s business, the assignment should be easy-breezy. That’s why I chose two boxes – one for a boy, one for a girl. I actually thought, I’d fill those two and get a couple more by the Nov. 11th deadline.
But that’s when the overthinking set in. Small Lego sets for a boy. I’d go an extra few bucks and get the little Lego characters that I knew were available. But dang it. Three Walmarts and a Target later, I can only find the right-size sets for Ninja warriors. No. That’s not going to work. Christmas is about “Peace on earth. Goodwill toward men.” No Ninja warriors thank you.
Alas, at a San Angelo specialty store, I found classic Lego sets, with picture instructions, right size, right age bracket, but a bit over the budget. I didn’t care. I picked them up, gave up on finding the friendly, cute characters, and purchased small wooden pocket size cars, also a bit expensive – oh – and a tube filled with miniature dinosaurs – which I wouldn’t have purchased except for the fact, I’d blown the budget that much, why not just go all the way.
Little boys love dinosaurs, and I’ve never met one who didn’t also love Legos. At the dollar store next door I bought a zippered bag to hold the loose Legos, once the boxes were opened; and another bag I filled with colored pencils, a sharpener, some stickers and a small spiral notebook.
My little girl’s box? Easier. Except, well, there’s that shoebox size.
My friend, a veteran shoebox filler, had warned me, “The shoebox won’t hold as much as you want it to.”
She was right.
And then, the doll. Is it for a dark-skinned or a fair-skinned girl? My eyes are blue. I had blue-eyed dolls. My granddaughters’ eyes are brown. They want dolls with brown hair and eyes like them. Back at the specialty store, I found soft, lanky cloth dolls that fit just right in the box so I got two, one of each complexion tone. They can be friends, with each other and a little girl far away – I hope.
Then – and I consider this a stroke of genius, and lots of play experience with little girls – I bought a small plastic tea set, that, taken out of the original packaging fit into the shoebox quite perfectly.
I pondered all kinds of things through the process of filling the boxes to capacity. Socks? What if they have no shoes? Mittens? What if they live in the desert? I couldn’t guess, and I didn’t want to imagine the disappointment of a child receiving a gift he or she didn’t want or couldn’t use.
Finally, I remembered the advice of a former editor. “Go with what you know.”
I finished my boxes with personal favorites for fillings. Jellybeans, candid orange slices, fruit-flavored Lifesavers. I added my personal note, with a picture of me, and by the time I was ready to close the lid, every nook, cranny and corner of both boxes were filled.
I closed the lids and put the provided thick rubber bands around them to keep them shut. It had been a process. But I was pleased. My heart was filled – overflowing, actually – with the kind of happiness I wish all the world could find not just at Christmas, but throughout the year.
What a blessing that would be.
Editor’s note: Candace Cooksey Fulton, formerly of Brownwood, is a freelance writer now living in San Angelo. She writes weekly columns for the Brownwood Bulletin and the San Angelo Standard-Times, each unique to the particular paper. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.