Reprinted from Appleton Post-Crescent
Before our first trip to Rwanda, Africa I was asking Sophie, my then 10 year old daughter, what she thought I should bring in my extra two suitcases to give to the orphans. My husband Douglas and I were headed over to begin a long term ministry there for the orphans and widows of the 1994 genocide. It didn’t take long for Sophie to answer. “Bring Beanie Babies!” “Why Beanie Babies?” I asked. “Because, Mom, everyone needs something to love and take care of,” was her reply.
So many times through Sophie’s short ten years I would discover one of the little animals wrapped up tight in a dish towel or a pillow case tucked quietly away behind furniture or in a closet. Those sweet little beanie creatures helped Sophie through her own hard times and she believed they’d do the same for the devastated children of Rwanda.
So we put out the call. My mom owns the Carpenter Gift Shop on Main Street in Little Chute, and sold thousands of those little stuffed animals . She called a few of her most faithful Beanie Baby ladies. Those Beanie Baby ladies would show up at the store just before the UPS man would, with a new shipment every month. They were hoping that one day their collection would become very valuable.
I wonder, after handing those animals to the small children in Kigali, if I will ever be able to express the real value those Beanies actually ended up having.
As I placed each little creature into the dirty, eager hands of the orphans we met, their eyes lit up as if it were Christmas morning. So many of the children were holding them up to their faces, looking them over, making them do little movements; it was absolutely wonderful to behold. As I stood there snapping their pictures, I couldn’t help but think how perfect Sophie’s Christmas wish actually was. How it was birthed out of love and concern and a desire to give.
As the impact of the moment hit me, even harder than the African sun, I realized that this was Christmas. No snow, no tinsel, no carols or family and friends, still, so very clearly, Christmas.
Merry Christmas Sophie and the Beanie Baby ladies, for it is far more blessed to give than to receive.