They know that Santa’s on his way
He’s loaded lots of toys and goodies on his sleigh
And every mother’s child is going to spy
To see if reindeer really know how to fly
-(Mel Torme/Robert Wells)
While searching YouTube recently for a video of some friends and their children visiting Santa I stumbled across a smorgasbord of postings regarding the cookie loving red suited reindeer wrangler. Ultimately, I did not find my friend’s posting, but much of what I did find left me feeling more than a little depressed. Too many folks seem concerned about Santa’s appearance. More to the point, too many were obsessed about his complexion. One news personality proclaimed Santa was white and anyone who felt differently should “get over it”. A local newscast attempted to “uncover” the secret behind a “special Santa” in a New York City department store. This journalistic masquerade exploited a family visit in its pursuit of sensationalism for the sake of sensationalism. Santa was filmed being led from one room to another in a narrative meant to expose some terrible secret about the jolly old elf as an indictment of his legend. This story made me wonder where these stalwart guardians of the fourth estate were during the November 2016 election. Surely they could have saved us a lot of anxiety. But I digress. Just how was the public served by this journalistic “exclusive”? Were we treated to an enlightening parable on the less noble traits of human nature, or a public service about offering an experience to children more akin to their own self-image? No, on both points. Instead we were given an overly harsh condemnation of an imperfect but well-meaning solution to a conundrum indicative of the rampant bigotries still festering inside far too many among us. This “story” was less meaningful and more insidious than the objective it benignly ascribed to itself, presenting instead as an uninspired pursuit of an extra fraction of a rating point and perhaps a notch on the belt of notoriety for the correspondent in his quest to one day attain a national profile. Apparently the sweet smell of success can be pretty rancid.
Santa is Santa. He takes many forms so that you may see him through your own eyes. His origin may arise from Christianity but his constituency knows no limits. He offers his love to Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, and everyone in between including agnostics and yes, even atheists. He lives only mythically in the North Pole. He does not live in an apartment in Jersey City or Hoboken, a suburban home in Westchester County, or on a ranch somewhere in Montana. He doesn’t even live in New York City where he holds a seasonal residency at a famous department store while also finding time to perform at the Big Apple’s most famous theater. No No No…Santa lives in our hearts, at least in all those still incubating the wisdom of childhood. His visage is something we can wrap our puny brains around so we may understand his most compelling revelation, that he is an instrument of peace, understanding and love. In a querulous and unpredictable world these are truly the only tonics we can rely on.
The worst of us is on display day in and day out but Santa reminds us that the best of us is so much more powerful than our anger, envy, greed and pettiness. When we open the doors of our hearts magic happens. Despite disasters natural and unnatural, we prevail. Despite earthquakes, floods, famines, scores of our brethren consigned to homelessness on our streets due to a lack of political will to a solution, we prevail. Despite dangerous political extremism both at home and abroad, bank failures causing the loss of home and hearth to millions of good, hardworking people, we prevail. Even after the most horrific massacre of innocents in the month of the birth of a special infant by an unbalanced individual with an assault weapon, because we know we have such noble capabilities as well, we prevail. Each day we brush our collective selves off and go back to the job of making this world a better place for ourselves, our children and each other. We prevail. All of our losses and tragedies remind us that this wonderful gift of life is all too fleeting and all too unpredictable. Like after a rainfall when a campfire barely lingers in the moist kindling we commit ourselves to breathing oxygen into the embers, carefully stoking the wood so the flames may spread and warm us. So must we spark joy wherever we see complacency, especially when we observe it in ourselves. This is how we prevail. There is magic in that. But it is also work.
When you donate to a charity, or take the time to help a weary traveler navigate the subway system of our fair city, or assist an elderly neighbor up a staircase with groceries, or commit one of a billion random acts of kindness in your personal quiver of compassion then you are acting as Santa Claus would. You can perform this magic any day of every season of any year. Santa lives in all of us. YOU ARE SANTA. We all are. So Merry Christmas Santa, no matter who you are, or what you look like, no matter if you are a girl or a boy, black, white, brown, yellow or green, if you wear a funny red suit and harness or a silly hat with silly shoes in green and red and with an apron as you guide children of all ages through a line or snap pictures, if you are a mom or a dad, or an uncle or an aunt, or a grandma or a grandpa. And nothing, no cheap reportage or silly political rhetoric can ever take that away from any of us. He is one in all of us. E pluribus Santa if you will. In the words of the old song, No no they can’t take that away from me. Or you. Or you and you too. Hope that clears everything up. Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night.