The Shoebox Legacy

By: Nataly O’Hara Koch

Shoeboxes are such simple things. Made of plain cardboard most people just toss them once their contents have emptied. A few boxes get recycled into a school project here and there. But not all shoeboxes are created equal. For the lucky ones, these modest six-sided cubes change lives.

My name is Nataly O’Hara. I am a shoebox girl from Latin America.

One Sunday in November, when I arrived at Mosaic church, I saw a tower of empty boxes at the main entrance. A kind lady explained to me that they would send those boxes with gifts to kids around the world. I immediately thought, “This is the shoe box I received in my country as a little girl.”

I burst into tears of complete joy and total sorrow as I remembered that fateful day as a little girl on the other side of the world anxiously awaiting a shoe box. The need in my life was so great and the solution was so small. When the box finally arrived, I received it with a thankful heart.

In truth, its contents were nothing special to most – candies I had never had, toys, a Bible, a photograph of an American girl with the most beautiful face I had ever seen, and a simple note, “God bless you.” These were scarcities where I grew up.

I memorized that beautiful face and felt my heart full of gratitude.

With the small gesture of shipping a plain shoebox, my world view shifted. I instantly felt loved. I mattered to someone. Suddenly I knew there were good children in the world. This girl didn’t even speak Spanish, but she didn’t let that stop her from sending a gift. It did not matter where I was from or who I was. That little girl had compassion expressed in the smallest gesture of sending a shoe box.

Here I was, twenty years later, crying in front of a shoe box tower. God was allowing me to be on the other side. God was telling me, “I have blessed you, my daughter.”

It was my turn. God had ordained it. I became silent and felt immense gratefulness. I felt just like I did when I received that box so many years ago. I felt so little again. I could feel again the innocence and happiness for the simple things in life like a shoe box!

But the calling was bigger than me. God had allowed me to shape my children with that priceless piece of testimony! It was my family’s turn and my responsibility to teach my children compassion and generosity. This was the continuation of that little American girl’s legacy who had blessed me so long ago.

My children, Charles and Isabella, are 6 years old but not too young to make an incredible impact. From the little they understand about life, they are clear about the meaning of sharing. They happily chose gifts to send their boxes to other kids around the world for Christmas. I wanted to make this something big to mark it in their memories and form their spirits.

While we prepared the boxes, we looked at the world map wondering where these boxes would arrive. We knew God was delighted to see this moment. My children and I were touched because I had once been the kid waiting for a shoe box on the other side of the world. This experience brought faith and gratitude to my family, and this is one of the greatest lessons in our lives.

But really, this lesson all started with a little girl, a simple shoebox, and a lot of love. That American girl’s legacy will live on in my life, the lives of my children, and for generations to come.