A blanket for a stranger

(“Strangers are friends you have yet to meet.”)

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This is the final collection weekend for Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes. OCC is a faith-based global effort that sends off gifts packed in shoe boxes to children whose lives have been touched by disasters, war or poverty.  I’ve known about this activity for years; I even know two wonderful young adults who were significantly affected by the shoe boxes they received as children in a Russian orphanage many years ago.

But I sheepishly admit I never packed a box myself until two weeks ago.

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A few weeks ago, my church made available empty shoe boxes from OCC, and my small group (a baker’s-dozen of great women) decided to have a packing party of our own. We each volunteered to shop for 13 somethings–toothbrushes, toothpaste, pencils, pads of paper, candy, toys, wash cloths, bars of soap, socks, cards and more–and bring them together to pack boxes. (I picked up some of Ikea’s colorful children’s tableware.) We were each to also add one “Wow!” gift to our own box. My “Wow” gift was a soft, sweet-eyed, stuffed-animal puppy.

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A few days before our packing night, both of our grown daughters (and 10-month-old granddaughter–gah!) happened to be visiting for the weekend. Saturday evening we popped in the DVD of a film recommended to me by a co-worker: The Drop Box. The seed for the film was planted when a young Los Angeles filmmaker (with Sundance aspirations) was eating breakfast one morning over the LA Times. On the front page, he read a story about a pastor in Korea who rescued unwanted babies by building a small warming box in the wall of his church, a “drop box” for newborns. The film is interesting, surprising, and to me, very moving. I came away with a renewed sense of the deep value of every single life.

As often happens in my brain, the experience of the film mingled with some other information up there in my head. In this case, I was thinking about a woman named Gift I’ve gotten to know a little this past year. Gift is from Zambia, and every year she raises money to send to her village for blankets for the women and children, who often do not have one of their own.

Sunday morning I woke up with one thought on my mind: I wanted to pack a wool blanket in my little shoe box, to let its young recipient know that she is one-of-a-kind in this wide, wide world, and someone somewhere was thinking about her.

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So that Sunday morning I pulled out my stacks of already-cut strips of wool sweaters, to see what child-friendly combination I could assemble. But it wasn’t working. I needed to start from scratch. With those bright Ikea dishes nearby, I chose a rainbow of saturated colors and got to work. I had just been working on a custom-ordered child’s blanket with diagonal stripes and decided to repeat the pattern. I love its youthfulness and sense of movement.

As I was limited to the interior of a shoe box, I knew this blanket couldn’t be thick, so I chose cashmere, merino wool, and lambswool. The result? It’s exceedingly lightweight and yet cozy and warm.

I hope it can feel like a cuddle to a little girl.

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I made our deadline and packed up my box. (In the photo, it looks like the blanket is taking up the whole box, but all the practical items are rolled up in the blanket.) Unfortunately, there was not enough room for that precious puppy. (Not for lack of trying, though! I even bought a bigger plastic box, but realized this would not feel fair to a group of kids on the receiving end.)

Of course, I likely will never meet the “5- to 9-year-old girl” this box is destined for. But I did learn from the woman at the collection counter that among the countries this batch of boxes is headed toward is Zambia :). Godspeed, little boxes!

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“A Christmas Rainbow” (Size: 40″ x 50″)
Named by readers in this post here.
The blanket has already gone to a good home.

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11 thoughts on “A blanket for a stranger

  1. I’ve got tears over here! You have such a beautiful heart, Momma. YOU have been gifted with and shaped by that very Christmas Child’s Heavenly Sherbert Rainbow Promise. I hope the little girl knows about it, too.

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  2. Joan, this is awesome. I really enjoyed this latest story and am inspired to send my own Christmas box. And such a lovely blanket – it just makes you want to smile when you see it.

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    • “A Bright Beginning.” I love that, Lori! Between here, Facebook, Instagram, there are over a dozen ideas. I really appreciate it and it’s fun. I’ll post the “winning” name later this week :)

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  3. Such a beautiful blanket- I can only imagine how the child will fee that opens their box with the soft and precious blanket inside.

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    • Thanks, Sandi. I love your “Christmas Child” name! It has lots of layers of meaning, and they are all deep! (People posted several ideas on Facebook & Instagram too. I’ll choose a name within the next few days and post it.) Thank you so much for you contribution <3

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