I figured out that ol’ Saint Nick wasn’t real the year Summit Mall accidentally scheduled two Santas. My 6-year-old self, dressed sharply in corduroys, was crushed. Who had been reading all my letters? Who ate all those cookies? And who had been drinking the milk that I left out? I knew it wasn’t anyone in my family, because, with all of us being lactose intolerant, there would’ve been audible evidence.
I was quiet the whole ride home. Not even a Happy Meal could save me from the funk I was in. My little world was in shambles. But with Christmas around the corner and no Santa, I had to pull myself together. Well, someone had to do his job. I had to be Santa. I couldn’t let the children of the world be disappointed.
So I put on my Santa hat, had a cookie (but no milk!), and began stuffing my duffel bag with things from around the house to deliver to children around the world. My mother stopped me before I could make much progress, demanding that I bring back the VCR, the remote and the lampshade.
These days I’m finding it much easier to deal with the reality of a Santa-less world. But the other day I realized something that I think I somehow knew all along as a child….
I was stopped at a red light downtown. A scraggly, shivering man with a sign was standing on the corner next to my car. His sign said simply, “Help me.” I gave him some cash. I was generous. “Merry Christmas,” he said with a warm smile as I pulled off.
So what did I realize? That Santa may not, in fact, be real, but the deeply felt joy that he inspires certainly is. We can experience that joy, not just on Christmas, but every day through small acts of kindness. By thinking of others, we can all be Santa.