Well, it’s a fortune that came from a cookie. It was presented to me by a little boy today at my appearance at the Midtown Global Market. It reads: “The entire sum of existence is the magic of being needed by just one other person.” I feel very needed at this time of year: as a beacon of warmth, joy, and smiles in an austere landscape of gloom and despair.
There is a lot to being Santa, and it’s a difficult thing for people who have never donned the Red Suit to understand. I know that I joke that it’s the last great job for balding, fat, white guys with beards, but you need to have compassion, love, perspective, and some guts to do the job. (No, not those guts, but it helps.) People have sometimes balked when I talk about the fees involved, and that’s for another time and place. But when I get the smiles and compliments on being “the real Santa” it makes it all worthwhile.
How do you evaluate yourself as a Santa? For me it’s the people who come back year after year with their children. Some come back without their children, they just like to visit and take a picture with me. Some come back to talk about their troubles. Some come for the first time because I make eye contact across the food court. Others think I’m a stuffed prop, sitting quietly in that chair. When I greet them they jump out of their skin. All of those things tell me that I’m on the right track.
Here’s a Christmas card that I was given this week. Next year there will be another picture to add. I am so proud of the fact that these people have followed me over the years and made a point to have a picture taken at least once a year. I’ve seen these little girls grow up. I truly hope that they keep coming back until they have children of their own. I hope I’m there to see that, I’ve already had my second generation come by after all these years of being Santa.
Today I spent time with people that crossed every ethnic and social divide. Bankers, homeless people, people with advanced degrees and people with terribly profound learning problems. I talked to children of all ages, including a few with silver hair. Each and every one of them was a part of my day for a few minutes. That made me rich. Rich beyond words. And I prayed over each one in my head. Every teenager, five year old, and senior citizen got some time on my personal channel with God.
I hope that love and respect came across to each of them. I certainly felt blessed to be a part of innumerable “Santa Selfies” with people who didn’t have another to snap the photo. I loved the look on some faces when I just put an arm around their frail body and talked quietly for a few minutes. I especially enjoyed the treat the young man delivered while I was on my chair. He was not quite up to my elbow, but he’d already learned that to give is as important as to receive.
Thank you, God, for blessing me with this Red Suit. It means the world to me. I hope that others see that I need them just as they need me. We’re all in this together.