5-year-old Micolai was among the 170 children receiving a gift box from Operation Christmas Child this Tuesday morning. He was dressed in a tidy uniform and waited patiently with his classmates at Las Lomas Government School. The OCC Trinidad Tobago National and North Carolina advance teams work for months to find the right partners and the right opportunities to bring gifts and share the gospel with children here and all over the world.
With the unopened box in his lap and full of promise, Micolai waited with anticipation through the countdown – “3-2-1… Go!” The sweet boy squealed with excitement as he tore open the tape that read “Boy, age 5-9” eager to see what treasures he might find inside.
His teacher tells me he started school this fall timidly – seemingly fearful of adults. It’s five months into the school year now, and he is improving. He smiles broadly at me as he pulls out a shiny red matchbox car, and then a fist-sized bouncy ball. He stops for a long time when he pulls out his next gift. A toothbrush. I watch as a look comes over his face that is a mix of confusion and wonder.
Micolai looks around to see what the boy next to him received. He looks back at his toothbrush, and then again at his classmate who is looking over his pack of 5 lollipops.
Trinidad is an island of 1.3 million people. Las Lomas is considered high poverty and very low income. Basic needs often go unmet, and teachers tell me many of the parents do not take the care of their children very seriously.
When Nicolai smiles I notice first the sparkle in his big brown eyes. But next I see the gaps in his smile. Where he should have a row of shiny white baby teeth, instead he has rotten little black stubs. What Nicolai really needs is a better oral hygiene. What he sees and desires – his friends’ pack of lollipops – is exactly what he does not need.
In 2 Corinthians 4:16-18 we are reminded to focus on that which we cannot see. When we take our eyes off Jesus, and start looking and comparing and wandering to follow whatever is in front of us, we find ourselves drowning in a sea of discontent.
Thankfully, little Micolai didn’t stay focused on the lollipops for long. He was too busy trying to figure out how to open what was certainly the biggest tube of toothpaste he had ever held in his little hands. And thankfully for me, it was easy to find contentment in being with beautiful children receiving gifts from generous people like you.