When we were still small, living inRussia, I went to a private, German-based school. The year was 1991, theSoviet Unionhad collapsed, and the hardships of living under no rule were becoming more and more apparent. What we had in terms of food, toys, school supplies seemed enough to us, but it was meager compared to what Western Europeand the rest of the western world enjoyed.

But during the Christmas season we all received a great surprise: our sister school in Germany sent care packages to each of the students in our class. Even now I remember it with giddiness.

It was a medium-sized box that we took home and there, all four of us gathered around it, we peered inside. The bright colors shone out and immediately we saw two small, stuffed animals – a bright, tropical bird and a teddy bear. They were SO vivid, SO soft, SO amazing. I had never seen anything like it. We continued digging, and came upon a large link of salami, several cheeses, candy, bubblegum, colored pencils, pens, notebooks, and Lisa Frank stickers.

I felt joy and thankfulness. To think, someone out there took the time to pack the box, to think of what we might like, what we might need. Maybe the toys were ones that the little girl or boy in Germany liked for themselves? Maybe the Dad or Mom of the family picked out the cheeses at the local dairy shop? There was excitement, giddiness, but no shame for having received this gift. We didn’t feel like we were less fortunate than them. We were just glad.

Many years passed. We moved toAmerica, we grew up, we got jobs, our family expanded. We were now full-fledged members of that affluent first-world.

Another Christmas season rolled along, and at church they announced that they’re starting the Samaritan’s Purse gift program. Curious, I came to check out the gift booth after service, and smiled at what I saw. Those same boxes.

Overwhelmed with memory and gratitude, I picked out several names of children who would now be getting presents from my little family that Christmas. My kids and I went to the store, and judging by the names and ages, tried to imagine what each little girl or boy might like. Now it was we who picked out the toys, colored crayons, markers, miniature cars, colorful shirts and silly socks, bubblegum, stickers.

By the time Christmas came, hundreds of boxes arrived at church, stuffed to the rim with goodies. They were packaged and sent on their way – one of ours went to a little boy in Peru, another to a little girl in Uganda. Reflecting on it now, I feel so lucky to have had the chance to be on both ends of this universal relationship of giving and receiving. I feel joy and thankfulness in seeing how God’s love for us and through us is multiplied and expanded over time.

How fortunate it is to have this little glimpse into His soul.

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