Mike Parker: Interview with Santa reveals deeper meaning of Christmas
Right now, any of us might see the old elf of Clement Moore fame. Moore wrote the poem “A Visit from Saint Nicholas,” but his work is better known by the title “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.” St. Nick makes numerous appearances this time of year. You might catch him at a mall or see him in a parade. Some businesses host “Breakfast with Santa.”
Although he appears frequently, actually catching up him for a few questions can be tough. However, I specialize in tough assignments. I finally caught up with him after one of his recent appearances.
Santa was just getting ready to board his sleigh after a visit to a facility for the developmentally disabled. I grabbed Rudolph’s reins and asked Santa for a few minutes of his time. We went back of my house for a cup of coffee and a few cookies.
“Most people think the toughest part of this season for me is getting millions of gifts ready for delivery,” he said. “In reality, the toughest part is seeing how materialism and commercialism have taken over this holiday so completely. Too many have turned the time of year when we remember the birth of Jesus into a huge ‘gimme’ season.
“I can understand why a child inundated with modern materialism shares a Christmas list that goes on forever, but I have to wonder what kind of parenting encourages that focus on gadgets and geegaws.”
Santa took a couple of sips from his coffee and munched on a cookie as his eyes closed in contemplation.
“Let me give a couple of examples during the past couple of weeks of those who have it right.” He brushed from crumbs from his beard and continued.
“At one of my recent visits, a line of parents had their children ready for a photo op and a chance to share their Christmas requests with me. A dozen kids sat in my lap and reeled off a list of presents that could bankrupt the North Pole. Then one little girl snuggled close and whispered her greatest desire.
“‘My daddy is in the Army. He is in Afghanistan. Can you bring my daddy home for Christmas?’ How could I answer that child – or fulfil her request?”
“Again, the lines of ‘gimme’ kids flooded through, and then a little boy – Karl was his name – sat in my lap. He looked at me with hopeful eyes and said, ‘My granddaddy is sick. Can you help him get better?’ Then his eyes filled with tears, ‘If you can’t, can you make sure he lives to see Christmas.’”
“At the place I just left when you flagged me down, one of the residents sat in a chair right next to me. These folks are way too big to climb into Santa’s lap, so we sit side-by-side and smile for a photo. After the camera flashed two or three times, this man turned to me. ‘I want to go home,’ he said imploringly – over and over. Tears filled his eyes. ‘I want to go home.’”
“Stuff is often easy to get. But bringing a deployed daddy or mommy home, arranging healing or longer life for an ailing relative, or finding a way to fill that longing for home – those tasks require a higher power than I have.
“But the odd thing is that little girl, that little boy, and that broken-hearted resident have a greater grip on the true meaning of Christmas than nearly everyone else I meet this time of year. The distractions of the larger culture have not silenced their deep desire for the most basic of all gifts – love, family … and home.”
Santa looked at his watch.
“I really need to go,” he said. I returned him to his sleigh. He climbed in and then looked intently into my eyes.
“Those folks working at this residential facility – they are getting a little something extra this year. To them, working here is not just a job. It is a calling. They truly seek to give those under their care a special Christmas experience. They all seem to understand the greatest gift we can give each other during this season – the Gift of Love.”
Then he was gone, but his words stayed with me.
Mike Parker is a columnist for The Neuse News. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.