Believe in Santa…

I have been thinking recently about the person responsible for leaving treats in stockings and gifts by the tree on Christmas morning. Who munches on cookies washed down with warm milk by the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree? I believe it may be Santa Claus.

Do I think a jolly old man slithers down my chimney on Dec 24? Hmm…I’m not really sure. Although I do leave the cookies just in case. I think Santa Claus is alive in the spirit that ties us all together. At Christmas time, music is gentle and kind, people are generous and thoughtful, and the world around me twinkles with merriment and joy. Neighbors call out holiday greetings, children giggle and toss snow, families come together. It is in the dark hours of late December that we seek goodness between each other and share the bounty of our lives.

Last Christmas was a hard one for our family – our first to be separated into two homes. But it was alive with the spirit of Santa Claus. A friend surprised us with a card at the Christmas Tree Farm saying that our tree was her gift to us. A neighbor came by to help decorate it and brought us shiny new ornaments that sparkled in the colored lights while another came by with her massage table to give us Christmas massages. Throughout the month, we found gifts from a secret Santa peppering our home in unexpected places. Four days before Christmas, I got a call that my dad and step-mom were going to surprise us with a holiday visit from Indiana, and for the first time in over 25 years, I had all of my parents under the same roof for Christmas Eve and woke with them and my children on Christmas morning.

But even more was happening outside my home. In the weeks before Christmas, a good friend survived a dangerous surgery. Another friend’s husband found an amazing job that would allow her to stay home with their young daughters full-time. A woman I know who was afraid her cancer wouldn’t allow her to live through Thanksgiving found liberation from her pain enough to host Christmas Eve with extended family. My neighbor’s daughter healed from a surgery that she had to undergo three days before Christmas. With enough thought, everyone could remember something wonderful that happened around the time of year when Santa Claus makes his appearance. I found a few more pennies on the ground, I had good interactions at difficult meetings, I heard favorite songs and noticed the clock turn 11:11 more frequently (an enchanted wishing time). I magically found a sense of calm in the middle of an emotionally stormy time. It’s like that every year during the Christmas season.

Is it miraculous? Is it religious? I don’t think so. I think Santa Claus is simply the energy between us – the tie that binds us. At Christmas time in our culture, we peel off some of our cynicism and allow ourselves to be vulnerable and open to the kindness of others. Maybe there is a jolly old man in a wooly red suit sitting in the frozen tundra of the North Pole helping us to find this freedom to give and show the respect and love that we should show each other year-round. Maybe there isn’t. But instead of a bumper sticker asking what would Wellstone, Jesus or John Lennon do, what about a bumper sticker asking what would Santa do? WWSD?

Surely he wouldn’t pack away his good will with Christmas ornaments into a box in the garage on New Year’s Day. I can’t imagine him lying, honking and shouting unkind words to someone who doesn’t notice the light has changed or underhandedly trying to manipulate documents or situations to benefit himself. No, Santa would find the good in any situation. He would smile and open the door for the person next to him – of any age. He would donate what he could and would share his time and effort if he couldn’t give money or things. He would think before he spoke and wouldn’t lash out in hostility to innocent people because he was having a bad day. He would offer ten positives for every creatively constructed negative bit of information, and he would look for opportunities to share sparkly magic. He would compliment a pretty hat, he would notice bright earrings, he would be interested to meet a new friend. He would listen to friends’ concerns, remember their important days, light candles or pray to send energy to people having important events in their lives. And in so doing, he would bolster and grow his own stockpile of love and happiness because it would come back to him tenfold. How else could he share his magic with so many people around the world?

How can I not believe in Santa Claus? I live with the hope that I can somehow emulate what I think he stands for. I strive to share his magic with the people around me by being open, honest, loving, kind, fair and thoughtful. I donate my time. I try to treat people with respect –even when they aren’t returning the favor. I try to see where help is needed and offer a hand whether it’s picking up a dropped earring or raising funds for field trips. I’m human, and I don’t always succeed in these endeavors, but when in doubt, I try to live up to Santa’s example and tap into his spirit – at any time of the year.

And so, I’ll always leave out carrots for reindeer and look out at bedtime on Christmas Eve to see if Rudolph is dashing through the park outside or flying overhead in the starry, cold sky. And on Christmas morning, I’ll always look to see if the cookies are eaten – just in case. I don’t need gifts. I have plenty. I have two beautiful daughters that I love and of whom I am utterly proud, my mom has moved to Eau Claire, my brother and dad are healthy and having good lives. I have friends that surround me in my darkest days with hugs, love and support that I would never have imagined. My cup overflows. No, I don’t need things. I just wish we could all remember to keep out the spirit of Santa Claus when we pack away our ornaments and decorations. I wish we could continue treating each other with the love and respect he inspires in December. I see that devotion come out every year, I hear stories of unexpected kindness, and I find unexplained magic in my daily life. Is it a jolly man, a spirit, an energy? I don’t know, but I feel it and I see it shine when Santa Claus is near. And because of that, I believe.