Every year as Santa – and this is #20 – is different. Gone is the younger man who needed a gallon of beard whitener to hide the black and red of his beard and hair. The top surface is patchy at best, shaved when possible, and the beard is almost completely white.
The suits have changed over the years, from a beautiful quilted suit that you could roast a turkey (me) in under photographic lights, to this years new look as a dapper Edwardian gentleman Santa.
Different cars to drive, different dogs on the couch next to me, different jobs. I was not even interested in writing 20 years ago, and would have been horrified to think I’d write thrillers about things I’d vowed never to talk about.
Over the many years, the families have changed as well. I am still in touch with some of them, and the first family I had as a regular customer is now spread all over the land, the children in college and married off. The parents will soon be grandparents, and the grandparents great grandparents.
But a few things never change, and it is good to remind myself of them as I embark on the season.
Every person you meet as Santa is special.
Each life you touch should be improved for your having been there just for that moment.
The pictures you take will be with the family forever – and you should smile just as brightly in each one.
The photographers are counting on you to do your job well so that theirs is possible.
Everyone needs a smile.
Kindness is free. As Santa you deal with hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of broken souls each year. Some as small as a loaf of bread, others your own age or older. Make sure that the love you feel from God is passed on to each of them.
Stock a few Teddy bears in your bag. It helps to have a bear when the tears are flowing, and by spending those few dollars for the toy you are improving a life.
Don’t be greedy. There are plenty of jobs out there that you don’t need to do this year. Be gracious in rejecting them – not always something the prospective client understands – and keep it at some sane level.
Take your wife out for dinner and lunch. She will be lonely on days you’re on the road for 12 hours.
Make sure your dog is loved as well. It’s hard to fathom sometimes, but when you breeze out early, and come home late, the dog misses you as well.
Pray for everyone you meet. I often fail at this, but try very hard.
Don’t expect any reward for doing your job well except the agreed amount. Those smiles and warmed hearts are a great bonus.
Look for opportunities to boost other performers: they’ve helped you as time has gone by.
Talk to God in the quiet moments, not your smartphone.
Be humble. You are not the best Santa ever born. His name was Nicholas and he was a saint. You’re an old man who loves Christmas – but emulate him.
Do some random nice things for people. Find someone who needs a lift spiritually, financially, or in some tangible way and make sure they don’t know it was you.
Love this opportunity to serve.
I know that sounds like a list you put out there to make yourself look better, but it genuinely is my thought collection on this Friday afternoon. I will add pictures on Sunday and set this to print on Monday. But today, with the first “public” event of the year less than 14 hours away, I am very aware of the responsibility, and privilege, I have as Santa. It is not a heavy burden, but one I take seriously.
Note: I’ve often said that Santa could dress up like Johnny Cash and still be Santa if his heart was in the right place and the eyes sparkled.
I asked a lot of the children on Saturday, and the new look got two thumbs up. They especially liked the hat. The photographer, on the other hand, said I looked like a Kurd who was lost and wandering around the mall.
I like the look, and will sport it many places over the coming years. Especially the hat!