Some of you know that I’m actually a super hero for a few weeks each year. For those that weren’t aware of it, I’m actually Santa Claus. Before you call the wagon and the guys with the nets, I’d like to explain what that means to me on this June morning just before 0100. I’ve been thinking about it for hours and want to share some of that Christmas spirit on this night so far removed from the day itself.
Today, at work, I had my picture frame running next to my computer screens. Out of the corner of my eye I watched the images I’d selected years ago parade in front of me. One image caught my eye, just as it had a few weeks back when I was working on a project. It’s an out-of-character photograph of me in the Red Suit (always capitalized in my universe.) In this picture I’m out of uniform. Children, and adults, expect Santa to be presented in a certain way in public. One item is that Santa must have on gloves. Color doesn’t matter, but white is preferred. Another thing is that Santa is generally expected to wear something red, but that is flexible if he’s visiting hospitals, or there as Father Christmas. But the thing most often asked about is where are Santa’s glasses. Nobody wants to hear that Santa had Lasik and doesn’t need the glasses anymore. Trust me, it’s not acceptable.
In the picture I’m thinking about I don’t have my glasses on my face. It shocked me when I glimpsed the photo, but I didn’t get a good look. A few hours later I saw it again, and then I realized what was taking place in the photo and it pulled me up short. My busy day, busy life, important things, and general air of competence came crashing down when I looked closely at the two people in the photograph. All of my priorities shifted and I stopped to pray for a little girl who had burnished a spot on my heart several years ago. I haven’t seen her in a few years, and I don’t know her fate. But what she did for me that day needs to be remembered, and held close to my heart. It is why I am Santa – super hero to the children of the Christian world.
The little girl in the picture was attending a special event I help sponsor every year called “Cookies with Santa.” It’s for my friends at Hope Kids, a wonderful group of people who provide social outings for my little friends who are very ill. I had my glasses off so that she could touch my face. She needed to touch my face, because she is blind – cancer in her eyes. Most of the children who visit can see me to some extent, but she had lost her vision and lived in a world I can’t even fathom.
In the picture I’m leaning forward so that she can get a glimpse of me. I will always remember her touch: gentle, probing, kind, and concerned. She wanted to know me but not hurt me. Didn’t want to pull the beard, but needed to know where the contours of my face were, and what they brought to her senses. It was a loving touch. And probably the nicest moment of that entire year of being with my smaller friends.
I stopped to pray when I looked at that picture for I’m not certain that she’s numbered among us anymore. She didn’t attend the event last year, and I’m pretty sure she wasn’t there the year before that, either. But in my heart, and in my soul, she has a place that glows red and green with the love of the season. If a guy’s got to be caught out of uniform, I can’t think of a better reason than to give a child the glimpse of joy that she had in that moment. She gave me a gift that I will carry with me the rest of my days.
Tonight she’s on my mind. As are the other children who have come and gone in my career with the elves and reindeer. All of them special. All of them worthy of mention to God tonight as I say my prayers. I hope that you’ll take a moment to pray for those children as well.
Be blessed. And keep Christmas in your heart throughout the year.