Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Columns

December 6, 2013

Why Santa sometimes needs help

“Why doesn’t Santa bring these children gifts?” It was an insightful and observant question from the mind of a young child helping last year with the shoebox project, Operation Christmas Child. But it could be asked beside a Salvation Army Angel Tree or at the Little Jimmie party sponsored every year by the Bluefield Daily Telegraph.

The organizer of the event at my church was as stumped as the parent facing the inquiry from one of her three kids, so the organizer asked me what I would say. It reminded me of veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church, editor of New York’s long-defunct Sun, who offered a quick response to a similar question in an unsigned editorial dated Sept. 21, 1897. It is the famous, most reprinted editorial to run in English language newspapers, commonly known as the editorial, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.” Because I’m not qualified or capable of answering alone the question as well as Mr. Church did, I sought help from others. I hope what follows will be suitable to answer the questions of your insightful and observant child who might be concerned that Santa doesn’t care about underprivileged children or, worse still, thinks they somehow ended up on the naughty list. That would be a travesty which we need to address for children who believe in the magic of Christmas.

Dear Little Friend, once there was an 8-year-old girl named Virginia who was troubled because her friends said there is no Santa Claus. Her father told her to write to their local newspaper, the Sun, saying, “If you see it in the Sun it’s so.” So she did just that and the editor answered her question in the newspaper: “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist and you know that they abound and give your life its high beauty and joy... You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see.”

You might, my Little Friend, be confused when you are helping your mom or dad or grandparent buy presents and wrap them and give them to children who people say may not get any presents. A child asked his mom about this when they were packing shoeboxes to go all the way around the world and she said it may be the first Christmas presents the child ever receives. The child wondered why Santa hadn’t brought them any before.

First of all, we don’t know for sure if that child on the other side of the world had received any gifts before. But there are some kids, you may have heard about, who don’t get a lot. It is not because Santa forgot about them. It is not because they are on the naughty list. Really, they didn’t do anything wrong. They may just have very little and the biggest gift they get Christmas morning is some extra food, a new shirt, or a big hug from a loved one ... and that is exactly what they needed. Not a toy truck or a new doll. What they received, that wasn’t a toy, might simply have been at the very top of their wish list.

Christmas is a magical time of year, I would agree, but even a magician needs an assistant sometimes, right? He can’t do it all alone. I think parents and kind strangers pitch in and help out — becoming assistants to the magician. When you and your parents or loved ones go to the store and buy presents or clothes for children at Christmastime, you are becoming one of Santa’s elves. You are also becoming, as we are asked to be in the Bible, the hands and feet of God. The Bible talks about poor people more than 2,000 times. We are asked to take care of the poor, the underprivileged, so that is what we need to do, whether Santa already has or not.

I asked some other folks to offer their input, to answer this tough question that could have so many different answers, and this is what they said:

“Santa has many, many helpers, and he relies on them to ensure a very merry Christmas for all children, in every community. The helpers can assist in many ways — donations, shopping, party preparation — but they all do so with the spirit of Santa, and the true meaning of Christmas in their heart” — Samantha Perry, editor, Bluefield Daily Telegraph.

“Santa has many helpers all around the world. Every year he chooses new helpers and, if we are lucky, he chooses us. This year, he chose us and, if we are lucky, he will let us help again” — Miss Toni.

“Santa wants us to feel the blessings of giving to others” — Valerie.

“The kids are underprivileged, so we are doubling trying to help them” — Cheryl.

“Santa has asked for some help because the world is such a big place” — Jay.

“I’m not sure if Santa will bring them gifts, I believe he will, but we are giving them gifts also because Christ taught us that giving is a blessing and we want to give these people a blessing” — Ted.

So, Little Friend, I hope that helps you understand something I admit we adults don’t fully understand and have to simply offer thoughts and opinions from our hearts and minds. My answer would ultimately be that we are privileged to help those who are underprivileged and some day, I would guess, they, too, will have the privilege — not only of getting a new toy — but of giving help to others themselves.

Jaletta Albright Desmond is a columnist who writes about faith, family, and the fascinatingly mundane aspects of daily life. She lives in North Carolina with her family. Contact her at jdesmond@bdtonline.com.

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