The Shoe Box Lady
November 1, 2003 - Doris Goodair is often called the "Shoe Box Lady" of Canada. She comes by her nickname honestly—this 73-year-old dynamo has personally packed 4,200 Operation Christmas Child shoe boxes over the past eight years! A visit to Goodair's cozy home in Mission, British Columbia (just outside of Vancouver), is like a visit to a toy store. Except this toy store also happens to have hundreds of shoe boxes stacked in every corner, and the owner greets you with a hug and a pot of coffee.
by Ivan Giesbrecht
Goodair starts off her story with a warning: "When I start talking about the Lord, it's hard for me to stop." She's right.
"I saw Franklin Graham on TV in 1995 talking about a project called Operation Christmas Child," she explains. "I only had two weeks before the deadline, but I quickly did two boxes anyway."
"I wanted to do two a month, but the Lord had other plans for me," she recalls. "Actually, I think He was up there laughing at me." So instead of doing 24 shoe boxes that next year, she did 400. And 600 the year after that. And 1,000 the year after that.
"I just keep going, like that rabbit on TV that keeps going and going," Goodair says, laughing. "I've been so busy packing shoe boxes, I forgot I was getting old!"
She has enlisted some good help along the way. Most notably, her husband, Bud, 10 years her junior. Bud Goodair's love and devotion to his wife are evident. And his own contribution to Operation Christmas Child is not a small one. It was, after all, his den that she appropriated as her shoe box workshop after she ran out of her own space.
"Bud thought it might be temporary," Goodair says, giggling. "But he forgot what I'm like."
It was also Bud's boat the Goodairs sold one year to help pay for the overseas shipping of the shoe boxes. Goodair explains, "It was just a small boat, but it did have a motor. And besides, our reward is in heaven, and you can't out-give the Lord."
As Goodair's enthusiasm for Operation Christmas Child has grown over the years, so has the support she's received from friends and neighbors. She has received many shoe boxes from a local department store. Another merchant contributes candy, toys, and school supplies. A friend of the Goodairs has crocheted more than 100 small blankets. Even a nearby prison helps, keeping Goodair well-supplied with tiny wooden cars made by an inmate.
One of Bud's jobs is to help decorate the shoe boxes. He cuts out pictures from calendars and old Christmas cards which are carefully taped to the boxes.
Goodair is also accustomed to having friends—and even strangers—drop by with boxes of donated goodies. These folks often ask for a tour of her workshop, and once, she recalls, she had 83 elementary school kids trooping through her house.
But mere toys don't motivate Doris Goodair, and it's no secret what actually does—a personal faith in Jesus Christ.
She describes her growing up years as strict and legalistic, and she says that she rebelled against her parents and against religion the first chance she got.
"I was 31 years old when I finally found out that Jesus actually loves me," Goodair recalls. "And now I can't do enough to love Him back."
Take for example, being a soul-winner. Doris humbly reports that she has personally led 300 people to Christ.
She is also a prolific songwriter and musician with several dozen titles to her credit. She gladly pulls out her guitar and, while sitting at the kitchen table, favors any guest with a tune. Her songs reflect her faith in God.
Goodair, with Bud on back-up vocals, has sung in dozens of churches. Her most requested song tells the story of a young man they met on Christmas Eve several years ago. They saw him on the sidewalk and noticed his shoes were so old that his feet were sticking out. They knew they couldn't pass by without helping. They marched him over to a shoe store just as it was closing and bought him a new pair of boots.
Afterward, Goodair went straight home and wrote a song titled "What Is the Spirit of Christmas?" The lyrics reflect the kind of simple Christmas joy that can come in a shoe box. Goodair now says God gave her this song as a primer for what was yet to come, because it was a year later that she first heard about Operation Christmas Child.
Bud and Doris Goodair have no children of their own, but they have opened their hearts and home to several wayward young people over the years. One 14-year-old boy, Timothy, was the son of heroin-addicted parents who were both sent to prison. The Goodairs took him in as a foster child, and Timothy is now grown up and serving the Lord Jesus.
Goodair keeps a scrapbook filled with letters and pictures from children around the world who have received one of her shoe boxes. Like any mother, she proudly displays the colorful letters, photos and hand-drawn pictures that children have sent to her.
The scrapbook also serves as a prayer guide as she keeps her ever-growing family in her daily prayers. She explains that after she's packed and shipped her shoe boxes, she stays connected to these children through prayer.
"I can't wait to get to heaven," Goodair says with a twinkle in her eye. "I know I'm going to meet a little boy or girl who will say, 'It's because of that box that I'm here today.'"
What's ahead for Doris Goodair? More of the same. More people to love, more songs to write, more prayers to pray. And, of course, more shoe boxes to pack.