Friday, December 24, 2010

Day 12, Final Day in Africa- "Christmas Catalogs"

I absolutely LOVE Christmas catalogs! You know, those inch-thick books that department stores send in the mail each holiday season that are just chock full of anything and everything you could ever want to buy! Clothes, clocks, jewelry, furniture, toys…you name it! As a child, I used to look forward to getting our seasonal catalogs in the mail from all the big stores. I'd sit on the floor for hours thumbing through page after page just putting together my Santa wish list. I knew I wouldn’t get most of the items I bookmarked, even if I did send a letter to the North Pole, but it was just fun to dream about all those wonderful things appearing under the Christmas tree!

Until this year, I’d never seen a World Vision Christmas Gift Catalog. I guess I’d heard a little about giving goats or cows to people during the holiday season, but I didn’t really know if the whole concept was just a way for non-profits to get money or if those items really made a difference. I’ll admit…when I was invited to join this year’s True Spirit of Christmas tour, I still had my doubts about how the whole international gifting thing worked. How’d I get invited to be this year’s host?! Partly because I was new to World Vision and they wanted someone to see the items featured in our 2010 gift catalog from a fresh perspective. I guess it’s probably good they didn’t know I was a skeptic!

Believe me…I’ve asked a LOT of questions behind the scenes throughout this trip! Thank goodness our team leader, Steve Reynolds, was a 27-year veteran of World Vision who put up with my ignorant questions. He answered each thoroughly and patiently….one by one. Some questions he just chuckled at how basic they were. But over time, I slowly started to gain a better understanding of how critically important these simple gifts of cows, chickens and goats are to individuals, families and even entire communities.

This morning, I was thumbing through this year’s gift catalog again…but this time with the same enthusiasm as a child dreaming of toys. Page 3- a goat. Page 7- cows. Page 15- Bibles and soccer balls. Except now I don’t just see the gifts by themselves. Instead, I see faces. Helen smiling at me and thanking me for her dairy cow because now her family doesn’t go to bed hungry. 3-year-old Rose gingerly sipping from a cup of milk thanks to the cow World Vision gave her family. 11-year-old Deborah sitting on a bench proudly reading a Bible she can call her very own! And the unforgettable Elvis of Tanzania with his homemade soccer ball playing in his yard wishing for a real ball.

After having seen these items first hand and talking to real life people who got them, I continued flipping through item after item thinking “I get it!”

Christmas isn’t about what I receive this year. It’s what I get to give!

I still love Christmas catalogs. But I’ll be honest. I’m no longer a skeptic about World Vision’s. Instead, I’m now a little biased. My new favorite catalog is ours!

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