I believe in Santa Claus. I have become Santa Claus for many of the families in my community. I am not simply talking about the white beard I have, a beard which many have commented on as the best beard they have ever seen. Nor is it the pudge I have at fifty eight years old. It is because from the first day I put on the suit and saw the first children I ever saw as Santa Claus, children have gone away claiming to have seen “the real Santa”.
I do not take this task lightly. I appreciate that many people are Santa and are jolly and enjoy the children they meet. But I have discovered a dark secret of Santas everywhere. Santa must be ready to speak honestly and sincerely with every child no matter how old or from what background. I will share a couple of examples: I saw a little girl once who would not sit on my lap. I said that she did not have to but I would still like to know her Christmas wishes. She said, ” I had a puppy once but my momma’s boyfried didn’t like it barking so he hit it with a rock.” This simple story told Santa volumes about this child’s home life and how the dreams of childhood for her were being crumbled and burned. The real Santa needed to reassure this child that her world was not as stark as she might believe without promising a replacement puppy for that would have merely nvited another disaster.
Another little boy came to me so worried that he was on the brink of tears, and said, “You’ll know where I am won’t you because I won’t be at my gramma’s house, I’ll be at my new gramma’s house in Ohio, but you’ll find me won’t you?” Santa had to reassure this child that he would be found without any trouble at all, and that he needn’t worry anymore. There are other stories, some happy and light, others like those just told.
I have no control over these circumstances, but as Santa, I had taken them onto my shoulders. What has helped me and what has been my ever present saving grace is that Santa is a real person, me. And that he is one of a long line of real people all of whom began with a bishop who saw fit to share with the poor his desire to see good be done. When I put on my red suit I put on that same desire and that same responsibility to the children I meet to be a real person, someone with whom they can speak honestly and receive honesty in return. I am Santa Claus, the real Santa.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.