Saturday, December 18, 2004

The Importance of Being Santa

Many would agree that Christmas is, to a major extent, about a spirit of love and the associated giving. This is irrespective of religious beliefs. Belief in Santa and what he stands for doesn't require a belief in Christ. With all the joy of this season it is strange that all the sadness in our lives seem to come and roost. The sadness of a soldier in a strange country during the holidays. The sadness of a divorced father estranged from his children. The sadness of loves and dreams lost.

This year, I was asked to play Santa Claus for an Americorps function. When you think of it, this is an awesome responsibility. You wouldn't want to dash a child's belief or subvert those of the parents. I still remember the time my youngest daughter sat on the Easter Bunny's lap and whispered in my ear, "there's a girl inside that bunny." Then there's the panicked look on a parents face when a child asks for something they can't afford or feel is unsafe. I was hesitant but still agreed, insisting that this would be a "Christmas" party and there were no restrictions on my saying "Merry Christmas." I'm not a big fan of the ACLU.

The day of the party came and I got the people running the affair to agree I didn't need to cover up my own full white beard and curly hair. Still a little uneasy about the whole thing I entered the hall when introduced. A young boy bolted across the room and jumped up into my arms -- what a hug. I proceeded to my chair and put him down. From then on, every kid came to me with their arms outstretched to be held. Many didn't speak but they all enjoyed being held by Santa. My uneasiness quickly disappeared. One young man told me I didn't look like Santa. I looked like a Grampa. Of course he was right and I told him Santa is everyone's Grampa. The last little girl came up to me and quietly put her arms around me and just snuggled in, never saying a word. She was a cute little girl with corn rows and beads in her hair. At that time I was to hand out presents, which I did with her still clinging. All in all, it must have been fifteen minutes before she let go and went over to her mother. We may have set a Santa hug record. I will never hesitate to play Santa again if lucky enough to be asked.

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