|Santa’s StoriesWe have chosen a few of our beloved stories to tell you about how Santa touches the hearts of many and how they touch his heart too. Read on…..
YES, VIRGINIA, SANTA IS REAL AND IS FREE!
Often thoughts of Santa Claus bring memories of snow covered roofs, icy roads, and clouds of mist growing with each breath you take as you traverse slippery sidewalks in boots and gloves. But for many children of all ages Santa comes in rainforests and in deserts, too.
Imagine being Santa in 85-degree temperatures with no relief from the heat of wearing wig, hat and costume for hours. Santa is a popular guest at party after party, nursing homes and church services. On many December days I get up, brush my teeth and don the Santa costume for the entire day. It is not possible to eat in the costume. I don’t mind spending the day a little hungry, but I live in the desert and I drink a lot!
One night nearing Christmas, I had run out of bottled water in my car, so I stopped at a drive-thru restaurant for a cup of ice and a beverage. While I waited to be served, I carefully placed a turkish towel into my collar and arranged it over my velvet jacket, white fur and velvet pants. Several years before I had learned that a drop of liquid mashes the velvet forever. I looked up and paid the young clerk at the window with dollars and a candy cane. Her friends came to shyly ask for a candy, too. The more I smiled, the bolder they became…”Why are you wearing a bib?” asked one.
I was about to answer her when something moving in front of the car caught my eye. I saw a shivering girl with a rickety stroller looking at me with fear.
I waved goodbye to the giggling window clerks and pulled slowly forward until I could see the young girl’s face. She looked down, too. Thinking she was wondering why I wore the bib, I was about to answer the question, when I realized she was looking at a very dirty baby about 4 months old. Kicking her thin blanket as she gurgled, the baby didn’t notice her poverty or her mother’s fear.
I reached into the other seat beside me and got several candy canes and handed them to the young mother. She reached out her hand to take them, but then she saw that I was also offering a big white teddy bear with a yellow bow. Slowly she pulled back her hand and shaking her head slowly, she asked, “How much is it?”
“Like Christ’s love for us all, it is free” I said. “Someone who has gone before has paid for it to remind you that you are loved…no matter what. Please keep the bear and tell your little girl that Santa made a special gift to her so that she would always remember Jesus came at Christmas to show her God’s love.”
Someone to Love Me
The massive assembly room was filled with presents and party food. There were recorded Christmas carols playing…too loudly it seemed because there was almost no other sound. “What a strange crowd,” I thought. Usually when Santa makes an entrance there are pleasant sounds of welcome, applause, squeals of delight. But not here.
Instead I looked out at 50 pairs of eyes which followed me as I circumvented their chairs to go to the front of the room. I usually hand out many candy canes to the outstretched hands as I go by crowds to the front…here there were no outstretched hands.
I arrived at the front of the room with all of my candy canes. I found the chair for Santa and turned to smile at the people gathered. Even though most of them were children, they had not crowded around me touching and listing their wishes.
The adult volunteers were doing their best to make a festive occasion. “Oh, look. Santa is here.” “Hi, Santa…I’ve been good. Do you have a gift for me?” they said with excited voices as they looked hopefully at the young ones near them. The only response we could see was their unwavering eyes trained on me wherever I moved.
These children were all in the county detention system. Their parents were in jail. Most had been abused during their short years in some, if not many, ways. I had thought I was prepared, but what I saw in their eyes was pain beyond most adult experiences. I wondered, but was not sure I wanted to know their stories.
Quickly the volunteers organized the kids into lines to greet Santa. There were bags of gifts supplied by organizations. I had my stuffed animals and candy canes. Curiosity got most of the children on their feet in the line. They couldn’t tell exactly what gifts were in the bags.
Hoping for certain items, they inched forward and sat on my lap…even the big boys after a little coaxing and joking. They left my lap with a little relief in their eyes and sometimes a smile. Gradually the room atmosphere lifted and they began to eat the food and joke a little with someone or with me.
The last ones in line were eager to come. Something good was happening there besides the bag of gifts. I was able to transfer some sense of worth to each one letting them know I loved them. It was a bigger job than bringing a sack of toys. It had to be enough to last them for a long time…until they could get into normal life somewhere.
Finally I thought everyone had come to see me, but there were several bags left by my chair. I looked around and then I saw her. She was chubby, not very pretty, awkward by her uneven growing, and looked about 13 years old. She stood as far from me as she could get in that huge room. She stood tightly against a wall, yet hunched like an old woman. Her sweater was stretched, her pants were a little short, but it was her demeanor that made her look abandoned.
I called to her encouraging her to come to see me. “You may be the last, but I have something wonderful for you,” I said. She made no move. She just stared. Volunteers had been alerted, however, and two went to escort her to Santa. She walked between them, obediently, reluctantly.
When she got up to me, I offered my knee for her to sit as the others had. She declined. So we talked with her slouched there in front of me. “What would you like Santa to bring you?” I asked.
“I am guessing you would enjoy CD’s or new clothes. What is it that you would
like?” and I stretched out my hand to her.
“Oh Santa” she sobbed as she sat on my knee and hugged me as tight as she could, “I just want someone to love me”!
My heart broke. I was almost crying myself. This was a fragile moment in a fragile child’s life. I had to convey love to her. Somehow that love must transcend normal, human love that had so obviously failed her. I held her close hugging her back.
The room retained its newly gained party atmosphere as she and I quietly shared her anguish. “Santa loves you”, I said as I had said so many times that night and for 20 years. I took her arm from around my shoulder and placed a candy cane in it. “Now hold your cane like this so that the curve is at the top pointing down.”
As dramatically as I could, I moved my candy cane to meet hers. Touched together in that position, the two canes form a perfect HEART.
“Like this half of the candy cane, God’s love is always there for you. It is ready for you to reach out to take it in” I said. “With His love, you can never be alone any more, no matter where you go, no matter how bad it gets. You are special and you ARE LOVED FOREVER”.
Her face brightened. Her damp eyes even smiled as her face began to shine and shine. She hugged me again and said, “Thank you so much. I love you. It is so good to say that to someone who understands.”
She took her gift bag and her tiny stuffed animal and walked into the group of other kids.
It was my time to leave, but I couldn’t resist telling a volunteer that she was a special little girl and hoping he would give her a little extra attention. I walked out of her life then with another, “Ho, Ho, Merry Christmas”, but she is never out of my heart. I pray she finds someone on earth to love her someday.
Familiar, But Special
The young girl lying pale in the hospital bed looked as sad as anyone I believe I had ever seen. Her father had told me she had had a surgery to remove a cancer, but she seemed so depressed that he wondered if she could possibly get well. He was tired from the stress of having her ill and caring for her young children, but his spirit was weighed down more by the thought that she would not try to recover.
It was December and I was wearing the red Santa Claus suit. Usually people hear the bells on my boots as I walk down hallways and are waiting for me to appear, but this girl didn’t seem to realize I was there. I took a deep breath, breathed a prayer, and walked around her bed to face her with smiling eyes and a gentle, “Merry Christmas”. She roused a bit and smiled at me, calling me by name.
“Thank you for coming”, she said. I guess my Dad asked you to come.”
“No, actually I decided to come myself. You see there was something making such a fuss in my red bag out in the car, that I could hardly think about driving. I stopped and looked inside and look at what I found”.
I brought a small stuffed koala bear out from behind my back and gave it to her.
“Oh”, she beamed. “Is this for me?”
“Just for you, from Santa”, I said.
The miracle worked. The free gift. What made it so surprising this time is that this girl had held literally thousands of identical koala bears before.
I had met her when I first started visiting nursing homes as Santa Claus. I had learned that stuffed animals make such a difference to anyone who is sick, lonely, old, hurt, or afraid. And a stuffed animal from Santa Claus! It can make an entire year or lifetime happy. Finding enough affordable stuffed animals for each one I saw became a problem.
After several false starts, I had been referred to this young girl’s dad. He sometimes sold his uniquely designed animals that were less than perfect for his use. He sold them to me in quantities I could afford to pay from my own funds for several years. Each December I would go to his business and select as many as I could afford and then he and his family would toss in more for “needy children”.
So she had known me for several years. She had even seen me as Santa. I always tried to drop in on them in my costume to deliver a candy cane, have a picture taken with them on my knee, and thank them for making this special ministry with the animals possible.
“The animal must not be the miracle”, I realized. It was the tangible item that conveyed the love with which it was given. I represented God’s love, visiting her and loving her and giving her a gift….one of her own bears.
She was beaming when I left and her father told me that day was a turning point in her recovery and in her life. Her children got back their mom. Her family was restored their daughter. She was back at work soon and stayed well. She was still smiling years later.
For 12 years her father made sure I had all the animals I could give away…at greatly reduced prices…even by the trailer load sometimes. He would call up and say that he had found quite a few “rejected bears” that were sometimes raccoons or elephants. He always thought of me because of the miracles they wrought. He once said, “I couldn’t really believe the stories you would tell me about how you gave those bears to give hope and joy to people, until I walked into my daughter’s hospital room and saw her smile as she hugged one of those tiny koala bears from my storage bin.”
Contributions are TAX DEDUCTIBLE!