This is the story of how insomnia, the Holy Spirit, and a CatholicMom.com article converged to bless 148 impoverished children with Christmas gifts.
One night in mid-October I couldn’t sleep, so I did what you aren’t supposed to do–reached for my phone. I checked texts and email and then remembered that I had an article on CatholicMom.com that was scheduled to post that day. I hopped on to check it out, but it was another article that caught my eye: an article about something called Boxes of Joy.
Boxes of Joy, I learned, is a program administered by Cross Catholic Outreach in which people fill shoebox-sized containers with toys, candy, personal hygiene items, and school supplies to send as Christmas gifts to impoverished children living in Latin America.
Having just been to a Called and Gifted workshop (through the St. Catherine of Siena Institute), I had, in one ear, the voice of the speaker telling me that we need to test out any potential charisms as part of the discernment process. In my other ear, I heard moms from our parish telling me that they wanted parish service projects they could do as a family. If I had had another ear, it would have heard my spiritual director telling me that when we put ourselves in situations outside of our comfort zone, our prayers get more desperate, and we get to see God in action.
This Boxes of Joy project seemed to fit it all. I looked into how to sign up and saw that the program is designed for groups to sign up. Think an entire parish or school, for example. More to the point, I saw that the deadline to sign up was, in fact, about 20 minutes prior. I have no authority in our parish, but I do lead our moms’ group, so I thought that perhaps I could sign our group up. However, with it being 12:20 a.m. and no way to contact our priest, the other moms in the group, or even talk to my husband, who was asleep on the couch, I felt like I had to go for it or let it go. I did briefly consider saying, “Oh well. Too late this year,” but then I thought of the children who wouldn’t have a Christmas gift.
So, trembling, I thought that I would commit our moms’ group to 20 boxes. That seemed like a pretty big number. We only have 8 moms in our group, and each box requires a $9 donation to cover shipping as well as the Rosary and the book about the life of Jesus that Cross Catholic Outreach adds to each box. I had no way of knowing what would happen if I signed up for 20 boxes and could only fill 10. Would I be on the hook for $90? (The answer, by the way, is no.)
Just as I was about to finish the sign up form, I heard God tell me, “100.”
100, God?! We are just a group of 8 moms, and I didn’t even know if anyone else would think this was a good idea. “100.” Husband asleep on the couch. Past midnight. No way to contact anyone else. What was I to do?
I signed up for 100.
When my husband came home from work the next day, I told him what I had done. Even-keeled to the end, all he said was, “Good job, hon.”
When I didn’t hear from Cross Catholic Outreach within 24 hours as promised, I assumed that the deadline to sign up was, indeed, a firm deadline and that signing up 20 minutes too late was, in fact, too late. I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that I had done my best and forgot about it — until I got a notice from UPS six days later telling me that my shipment from Boxes of Joy was to be delivered in two days.
I sent out a desperate email to everyone I knew in the parish (my spiritual director was correct when he said our prayers get more desperate!) and collected commitments from willing participants. Within 36 hours, I had 88 boxes pledged. Within 48 hours, we were over 100.
To make a long story short, despite myriad obstacles (our priest being in Portugal and unable to be contacted, for example, and the boxes being damaged in transit and returned to Florida), our parish filled 148 boxes within one week of receiving them. We saw the Holy Spirit working all over the place: in stirring up the hearts of people to help; in a couple from the parish volunteering to drive the boxes 3 hours to the drop-off point; in one participant being inspired to get our parish school children involved; and in the joy people conveyed to me again and again after participating in the project.
This is how I want to live my Christian life: as an adventure, listening to the Holy Spirit, and following along. This story is not just for me: it’s for you, too. Where is God asking you to step out in faith? What adventure awaits you? Where are you inspired to serve His kingdom? Go, pray, and see God work!
Copyright 2019 Amanda Woodiel