We were like four secret agents under a starless winter sky. Our mission: “Operation Love Bomb.”
“Operation Love Bomb”
A True Christmas Story About Kindness
Two of us waited in the SUV, its engine humming quietly in the dark alley. Our vehicle was concealed between rows of trees that lined the backyards of our neighborhood, where the pale glow of widely-spaced streetlights couldn’t reach us. I was the getaway driver. My daughter Julie was the lookout.
I sat hunched in the driver’s seat, warming my fingers against the warm heater vent beside the steering wheel. “Can you see them?” I asked.
Julie stood on her knees in the seat next to me, peering out the passenger-side window. She was four. Her small, mitted hands pressed against the glass on either side of her head as she scoured the neighbor’s backyard for signs of her two older brothers.
“Mommy, I can’t see.”
My stomach flip-flopped. Did they get caught?
I leaned my head sideways to look around Julie’s fluffy toque and out her window. Past the thin row of trees at the back of our neighbor’s yard, I could see the side of their house. It was dimly lit by a front porch light around the corner. No sign of the boys.
Then, all at once, I jumped in my seat while Julie squealed: “They coming, Mommy! They coming!”
The boys, ages nine and seven, came careening around the front corner of the neighbor’s house. They raced past the side of the house, then bee-lined straight through the backyard, leaving two trails of messy boot prints behind them as they fled.
Tyson was older and faster, so he quickly got ahead of his brother. Thales tried to keep up. He stumbled and fell in the deep snow, but didn’t stay down for long. Pushing himself back up, Thales sprinted the rest of the way, arms flailing.
Oof! Tyson collided with the side of the SUV, then yanked the back door open and scrambled inside. “Go! Go! Go!” he ordered.
Thales climbed in after and slammed the door shut. “That was awesome!” Thales screeched, pulling off snowy gloves.
Julie popped her head over the top of the front seat. Her eyes were wild with excitement. “Boys! You super fast!”
Laughing, I shifted our vehicle into drive. Checking first to see if the street was all clear, I crept out onto the road and started turning the wheel to the right so that we could head back to our house.
“No, mom, left. Left! Go around the block!” Tyson said. His voice was loud, charged with adrenaline.
“Stop yelling,” I chuckled, turning the wheel left, instead.
“Mom, I ran so fast!” Thales said from behind me. “That was so scary. We rang the doorbell, and then we jumped off the deck and crouched under the living room window so they wouldn’t see us. It was epic!”
“You think they found it?” I said. Snow squeaked beneath our tires as we drove. “We should go around the block and check.”
“That’s what I said!” Tyson guffawed.
A couple minutes later, our SUV crawled past the neighbor’s house. We could see flashes of color from their TV through the living room curtains. The porch light was still on, and – Oh, no! – the over-sized gift bag was still sitting on the front step.
“Aw, man,” Tyson whined. “They didn’t get it.”
“I thought you rang the bell,” I said.
“We did!” the boys answered in unison.
I frowned. “Maybe their doorbell doesn’t work.”
I turned the corner at the end of the street. For the second time that night, I approached the dark alley and backed into position between the rows of trees, then turned off the vehicle lights to keep us hidden in the shadows.
Looking around the back of my seat, I faced the boys and gave them new instructions: “Don’t bother with the doorbell. You’ll have to knock this time. And hard, so they hear it over the TV.”
With a mixture of fear and excitement, the boys stepped back out into the cold and stealthily crept into the neighbor’s yard. Once again, Julie and I waited in the SUV.
Less than a minute later, the boys came flying around the corner of the neighbor’s house, slipping through the snow toward us, even faster than last time. Julie giggled at the sight. Then, a blast of cold air whooshed into the SUV as the boys scrambled back into their seats.
As we drove off, Tyson was the first to offer a report: “Mom, I knocked hard three times.”
“We’re like Christmas ninjas!” Thales added.
“My heart’s beating so fast,” Tyson panted. “Mom, let’s go see if they got it.”
This time, when we drove past the neighbor’s house, the gift bag was gone.
“Success!” we all cheered.
Tyson whooped in the back seat. “We should’ve started doing this years ago!”
“Yeah,” Thales said, “when can we bomb another house, Mom?”
When we arrived home, our eyes sparkled and our cheeks were flushed. As we hung our winter gear inside the entrance, we laughed, recounting our Christmas escapade to one another in bursts:
“Remember when Thales bailed in the snow?”
“Mom, I was so scared!”
“Boys, you like ninjas in da snow!”
“We have to do this again next year.”
Our joy was full. We imagined the neighbors’ surprised faces when they opened their Christmas love bomb: plush socks, chocolate goodies, flannel lounge pants, home-baked cookies, and new bedsheets. We prayed they would feel God’s love through our gift.
How Did Our Christmas Tradition, “Operation Love Bomb,” Begin?
Years ago, the kids and I watched a Christmas movie on Netflix called The Christmas Project. (As far as I know, it’s still available for viewing.)
The Christmas Project is about four brothers who are forced by their parents to drop off anonymous gifts on the doorstep of a family who lives in their neighbourhood. The twist? The family receiving their gifts is notorious for bullying and has even been torturing the four brothers at school. Even so, the four brothers obey their parents and deliver several surprise gifts, spread out through the Christmas season. Of course, the brothers soon find out that their kindness has left a lasting impact on their abrasive neighbours.
We were all so inspired by the storyline of The Christmas Project, that our family began our own version, which is how “Operation Love Bomb” began.
Sometimes, we drop off our gift on the doorstep of a new neighbor, welcoming them to our street. Other times, when we’ve heard that a certain family has been going through a tough year, we choose them as our “target.”
“Mom,” Tyson said to me just this year, “I think we’ll have to start branching out with the love bombs. The neighbours are going to catch on.” I have a feeling he’s right.
“Operation Love Bomb” has become one of our favorite holiday traditions. It’s opened our hearts wide to the joy of giving. It’s changed our vision of living in a community. And it’s even provided us with a few late-night Christmas thrills!
You never know how far your kindness can reach; so, however you choose to do it, share God’s love this Christmas!Tweet
To all who have taken the time to read this precious memory of mine: Thank you, and Merry Christmas!
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