This was written in December 2005, some four months after Hurricane Katrina.
I couldn’t sleep last night, so many things on my mind and I couldn’t shut it off.
I had a moment of panic when I realized it was Christmas Eve and I hadn’t bestowed a single thought on a certain jolly old elf. I remembered that years after I learned the truth about Santa, I STILL used to go the window late at night on Christmas Eve, staring up at the moon and hoping to see the silhouette of a sleigh, or listening for the sound of bells….
But not last night. After five decades of life on this planet, something had shifted, some internal clock, perhaps, that said “Time to put away childish things.”, and the fat man with the red suit had gotten lost in holiday traffic and rampant commercialism and “Whose season is it, anyway?”.
I’m a cynic. (Five decades of dealing with human beings will do that to you.) I’m no longer surprised when I hear of another serial murderer, another war waged in the name of the Prince of Peace, another corporation pouring poison into the sky for the sake of a bigger bottom line, another species hounded to extinction in the name of the great god Profit.
There are times, still, when people surprise me. But in the spirit of the season, let’s let Mr. Dickens say it for me, from the pages of A Christmas Carol: “when men and women seem by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely, and to think of people below them as if they really were fellow-passengers to the grave, and not another race of creatures bound on other journeys.”
Remember Hurricane Katrina? Remember the tremendous outpouring of assistance from so many people, people who in many cases were in straitened financial circumstances themselves? Forget the waste, forget the mismanagement. Focus only on the fact that people – ordinary, everyday, people – “seem[ed] by one consent to open their shut-up hearts freely” and gave – not from their abundance, but from their hearts.
Call him who you will – Kris Kringle, St. Nicholas, the Holly King, Father Christmas, or the beloved, familiar Santa Claus – so long as love and generosity and the spirit of giving exist in the human heart, so long will Santa Claus live and endure, even in the hearts of the most cynical.
Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
* The author wishes to acknowledge the direct inspiration of Francis Pharcellus Church, writer of the famous editorial “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus”.