First of all, I need to be honest: I don’t really believe in you. I’m sorry, but a jolly fat guy with the jiggly belly in a red suit with all those white curls and fluffy beard? Nope. And flying reindeer? Really? Besides, nobody could eat that many cookies and drink all that milk in one night. I must say, though – it would be fun to try! (Chocolate chip, please!)
But all that said, Santa, I do believe in your spirit. The spirit of kindness, of giving, of love and joy. I think of the Ghost of Christmas Present in Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” with his torch, from which he sprinkled the milk of human kindness on one and all:
The sight of these poor revellers appeared to interest the Spirit very much, for he stood with Scrooge beside him in a baker’s doorway, and taking off the covers as their bearers passed, sprinkled incense on their dinners from his torch. And it was a very uncommon kind of torch, for once or twice when there were angry words between some dinner-carriers who had jostled each other, he shed a few drops of water on them from it, and their good humour was restored directly. For they said, it was a shame to quarrel upon Christmas Day. And so it was. God love it, so it was.
In time the bells ceased, and the bakers were shut up; and yet there was a genial shadowing forth of all these dinners and the progress of their cooking, in the thawed blotch of wet above each baker’s oven; where the pavement smoked as if its stones were cooking too.
“Is there a peculiar flavour in what you sprinkle from your torch?” asked Scrooge.
“There is. My own.”
“Would it apply to any kind of dinner on this day?” asked Scrooge.
“To any kindly given. To a poor one most.”
“Why to a poor one most?” asked Scrooge.
“Because it needs it most.”
You know, the spirit that moves us at this time of year to dig a little deeper into our pockets and give to those less fortunate, to wave that person desperately trying to get out of a parking lot to go ahead of you or perhaps, as in the case of the anonymous benefactor(s) in the news these days, to pay off the layaway accounts of some folks at K-Mart. That is what I believe in.
The thing is, Santa, I’d like to see your spirit carry through the rest of the year. The poor are still desperately poor in March. Children are still hungry in August. Senior citizens still need to be able to heat their homes in February. These days, when times are tough for all of us, millions of our fellow Americans are in need – and still desperate – the other 11 months of the year. Their rent still needs to be paid, along with the electric bill, and there are still groceries to be bought and shoes that have been outgrown.
And yet, in the cold month of January, somehow the beautiful spirit that moved us to give generously during December seems to have evaporated – and we’re back to business as usual: grumbling about the dirty homeless guy sitting on the sidewalk in front of our favorite Starbucks begging for spare change and bitching about the lazy, shiftless unemployed folks enjoying their “vacation” at our expense. We once again nod our heads in agreement when wealthy fellows like Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney tell us that those lazy unemployed folks just need to take a bath and get out there and find a job, and that cutting off their paltry unemployment checks would function beneficially as extra motivation.
So, for my Christmas wish this year, Santa, I would like for us all to retain your spirit for the entire year – all 365 days of it. To be kinder to one another. To not assume that because one of our fellows is unemployed it’s because he or she is lazy and shiftless and out to cheat us of our tax dollars. To not begrudge a hungry child a meal, whether that child is a citizen or the child of an illegal immigrant. To make sure the poor have heat in their homes and enough food to nourish their bodies and enough hope to nourish their souls.
And let us remember that, for most of us, we are only one crisis or disaster away from the same state ourselves. None of us can take our jobs for granted anymore, Santa, so I’d like for us to walk a mile in the shoes of our fellows before we judge and condemn them for their “bad choices.”
We have seen that a very large percentage of the wealthiest among us have no desire whatsoever to pay their fair share, so, Santa, it’s up to us. Help us to remember that, but for the grace of God, we might be that dirty homeless guy sitting on the sidewalk in front of Starbucks begging for spare change – and instead of stepping around him and muttering “get a job,” we drop a buck or two into his cup. Let us remember that our fellow Americans who are struggling these days want and need the same essential things we do: food to eat, clothes to wear, a clean bed to sleep in, and above all, dignity and a chance to pay their own way.
That’s all, Santa. I have everything I need, really. More than I need, actually. So, please, give my gift to someone who needs it.
Merry Christmas, dear Santa, and thanks for all you do.