I often refer to my family as being "rich." And I know that I lead a charmed life.
In Cuba, before we left, our family was wealthy by any standard.
We had a big sprawling house (yes, it could be called a "mansion") in the city of Havana. We kids went to private school (El Instituto Edison). We spent Christmases on our family farm in Bejucal and summers on the beach at Varadero. We had a nanny, a cook and a chauffeur.
We left all of that when I was still very young and came here to America with a few suitcases apiece. Just enough to help us get through a few months of what we originally thought would be a short exile. That was in the spring of 1961.
Reality sobered us up quickly. Not only were we not returning to Cuba, we were no longer wealthy. In fact, we would have to depend on charity to help us along. (<--- I hope that doesn't sound bitter. We were infinitely grateful that we were alive and that our family was together. And we were grateful for those gracious and generous souls who helped us.)
I remember one of our first Christmases in the U.S. where someone gave us girls Christmas stockings. They were red mesh and pre-packaged with coloring books and paddle-balls and easy-erase boards and candy canes.
We were amazed. Delighted! It was all so new. So different. And even though we had previously come from such a place of abundance, we were grateful. So, so grateful. Someone had remembered us in our pain.
Fast forward to today. I will never, ever forget the struggles we went through in the early days of being Cuban refugees in this amazing country. I will never forget the generosity of the charity we received. And I'm a great believer in social responsibility and giving back.
How it works:
1) You take a regular size shoe box:
2) Fill it with useful items, small toys, hard candy to be given to either a boy or girl in the age ranges: 2-4, 5-9, or 10-14. Print out a label and mark accordingly. (We have in the past had the kids fill boxes for kids their own ages.) We also pray for the child that will be receiving the box.
3) Include a $7 donation to cover shipping and project costs, place a rubber band around the box and drop it off at a collection center near you.
How easy is that? If you're interested, it's not too late to do this. Drop off locations will be receiving boxes and donations until December 10th.
One of the highlights of participating in this project is that we volunteer, along with some wonderful friends in the inspection of and preparation for shipping of these boxes.
Here's Lucy with our blog friend, Jana of The Summer House.
At the warehouse we're assigned jobs and stations. This year we got to sort candy:
Tape up boxes, scan and pack them in cartons for shipping:
I love that we get to work alongside good friends. These are our surfing buddies, the Millers. (Hi Josh!)
Thanks to the efforts of the volunteers, 30,000 boxes shipped from our local warehouse just in one day!
I confess that while I worked (and took pictures!) I was mindful of that Christmas so long ago when some generous person took the extra time to pick up a few red mesh stockings for some Cuban refugee children.
As I inspected the contents of each box, I thought of the people who packed the boxes and especially the delight with which they would inevitably be received.
I know, because I was that child.