This I Believe

Paul - Evanston, Illinois
Entered on August 14, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: children
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I’m pushing 60. I commanded Marines in Vietnam, worked as a Merchant Seaman and have generally packed a lot into one life. And I believe in Santa Claus.

If this makes you smile, fine, but it’s not a joke. It’s the result of a crisis with my daughter a few years back. She was failing in second grade, had no friends, awoke with nightmares, secretly pulled out clumps of her hair and was utterly miserable. When we finally had her tested for learning disabilities we discovered that her I.Q. was too high to be measured. Sending her back to second grade would have been cruel; the school had probably never seen such a kid. We could see only one practical option. With fear and trepidation, and great love, my wife gave up her career to become a home schooler.

By sixth grade, she had performed a miracle; our daughter became a happy, confident, gregarious and deeply compassionate kid. But at age 12, she still believed in Santa. So a few weeks before Christmas, we had a talk. I asked how her friends felt about her beliefs. She told me they kid her sometimes but that she felt sorta sorry for them, their lives must be a little bleaker because of trying to be grown up by adopting such skepticism. I asked her how she thought Santa Claus was possible. She said that in advanced physics, string theory allows for 11 possible universes. If Santa operated between ours and another, he would be independent of our space/time continuum. He could then deliver an unlimited number of gifts in a single night, probably only to populations within the European, Judeo Christian tradition and he could have a major production facility at the North Pole despite the absence of a land mass beneath the ice. She theorized that Nicholas, the bishop of Smyrna must have been such a good person that God decided to make him inter-dimensional and immortal so as to institutionalize his generous tradition. Now you understand my problem. I was awake into the early hours of Christmas day trying to formulate a response.

On Christmas morning her traditional gift of cookies and milk were gone and there was a rumpled red wool cap with white fur trim and a note next to it.

“Dearest Nicole,

A lot has happened in the last year. You’ve been recently told that Santa Claus is not real. I hope you have had time to realize that it’s not true.

Yes, I’m not a physical person. That much is true. But I am the embodiment of love and generosity; two things which I think you’ll agree are very real. Like many scientific theories, I can’t be proven. But the truth of my existence can be demonstrated. You see it in every act of benevolence by people of good will at Christmas. These are my agents; they carry out my work, especially the parents who use my story to show their children the magic of generosity, the joy of giving joy.

Some adults will tell you they don’t believe in Santa Claus; even make fun of people who do. Maybe like a child, they can’t see and accept a higher, more sophisticated reality. Maybe they never realized that we must all upgrade our beliefs as our capacity to understand increases and we must fight to keep those we cherish most.

Is it fooling a child to let them believe in me, in flying reindeer, in magic? Perhaps it is, but with a sound purpose. Would a person from ancient times see magic in a light bulb, a cell phone, a laptop computer? Could these things have come into being if some child had not found a way to carry their belief in magic into adulthood, and use it to make that magic manifest? Isn’t the spirit you feel at this time of year magic itself?

Now that you know the true nature of my existence, I congratulate you on becoming a young adult and I invite you to become one of my agents. Will you teach your children about me and what I symbolize? Will you pass on this note when your child is ready?

This will be my last letter. It’s been a joy watching you become one of those extraordinary people who understand the importance of believing in magic. Please accept this hat, my symbol, and continue my labor of love. From one Nick to another, congratulations, welcome aboard the sleigh and Merry Christmas!”

When she looked up, there was a smile beneath her tears. I knew her recovery was complete and I had Santa Claus to thank for it and I’ve never doubted his existence since.