As a teacher of a Christian faith-based preschool, I teach virtues as a way of encouraging young children’s moral development as well as modeling the very characteristics of our Lord Jesus Christ. During the month of November, the virtues of thankfulness and generosity are emphasized. For three and four year olds, I define thankfulness as, “being appreciative of all that you have and are” and generosity as, “happily giving away something that belongs to you.”
I have participated in the Operation Christmas Child (OCC) program at Severn Run for many years. God spoke to my heart when I realized that having my preschoolers and their families participate in OCC would provide a wonderful family-building experience as well as a real-life application of our November virtues.
Having already talked about and modeled the virtues of thankfulness and generosity within the classroom, I introduce the OCC program by reading Boxes for Katje written by Candace Fleming. It is a post World War II story about an American girl who sends packages filled with needed supplies to a girl living in Holland. After explaining the OCC program, we discuss the differences between needs and wants and then brainstorm about what items could be packed into a box. I later show them my completed OCC box. This whole process builds excitement about collecting and buying items to “happily give away!”
Newsletters to the families explain the program and while it is a prime example of modeling our virtues, it is completely voluntary. Children are able to show off their boxes to their peers, thereby further increasing participation and excitement.
Not only did I advertise the OCC program to the preschool families but in its second year, I also introduced it to the Methodist Church, which houses the preschool where I teach. Both the preschool and church families return the filled boxes to me. Now a mainstay at the preschool and church, OCC is continuing in its fifth year having provided 315 boxes!
What used to be two boxes filled with love and supplies from my family has grown to an average of 78 boxes per year donated by many families. While the ultimate goal is helping children in poverty-stricken areas, children here at home are learning spiritual and moral behaviors that hold the hope of glorifying God for a lifetime!