(The other day, I went back into the archives of passages that I wrote to the teachers at my school. I found this piece from 2009. This brought back a lot of memories, and also, with them, the reminder to savor every single moment. That little boy sitting on Santa’s lap is twenty years old. I genuinely miss those wonderful moments from long ago…)
Each year I get a terrific honor. I’m Santa Claus at our annual church fair. For the better part of Friday evening, and on Saturday morning, I am Santa. I’ve been doing this for a long time – since my kids were little.
When my kids were little and they talked to Santa, they didn’t know that the Santa they were talking to was me. It was a very special time – priceless might be the word for it. I savor in those great memories.
As my children got older, they, of course, figured out who played Santa Claus at church. Fortunately, that didn’t take away from them believing in the jolly old elf. I simply explained that I was actually helping the real Santa. (Now, to be clear, I still believe that’s what I was doing. I was helping Santa because, well, I still believe in him. Yes, I believe in Santa Claus.)
But, this piece isn’t about Santa necessarily…
For people who believe(d) in Santa, I think there are three “Santa Stages” that people go through.
The first stage is, of course, BELIEVING that Santa is SANTA! You know, looking up seeing him sitting there and getting that great “THAT’S SANTA CLAUS!!!!!” feeling. Along with this comes happiness, joy, excitement, and (yes, Virginia, for some at least) fear and crying.
Some kids are shy about Santa, some are scared to death of him, and some are only too eager to talk and visit. But, they all believe. Absolutely. Positively. 100%.
There is something very special about being Santa Claus. It is a joy to see the excitement and the wonder in a child’s eye when he meets you. Let me just say, there’s nothing quite like it!
Before I get to the second stage, I like to talk about the third stage, the one I’ll call CLARITY and COMFORT which I think comes with adulthood (I may not quite be there myself). Grown-ups know what they know about Santa. Because of this, they regard the dressed-up Santa in a variety of ways – as nice or cute or even stupid. To some, Santa is just annoying – just some guy up there is a red suit and a fake beard. Still, on the other hand, there are adults who approach me to get pictures with Santa. Some still even tell Santa what they want for Christmas (diamonds and cars are popular among this set). Some people in the third stage wave at me. Some just ignore the ol’ guy. Whatever the adult does in this situation, he or she does knowing the “true facts” (or so they think) about Santa Claus. They are comfortable knowing what they know. Sometimes that knowledge allows them to embrace their inner child, other times not. In which ever way these people respond to Santa, they seem comfortable in their decision.
But, it’s the second stage, the stage I’ll call TOO COOL, that I wish to write a bit more about. And again, much of this has nothing to do with Santa Claus, at least in a larger sense. It’s the second stage that really fascinates me. This stage is usually comprised of the older kids who are pretty sure (some know outright, others just suspect) that they also “know” the truth about Santa Claus. Because of this, the kids in this stage feel they are too cool for that Santa sitting up there in the chair. (It’s actually sad when I look out and see some of these non-believers knowing that it was a year or two previous that they looked into my eyes with wonder, excitement, and joy. It wasn’t long also that they believed in (or maybe they knew of ) Santa’s magic.)
In the room at our church where Santa sits (it’s actually in a dining hall) there are always people around. Many are eating or waiting on line for a funnel cake (baked in a station right next to Santa).
Sometimes Santa just sits alone up there and notices all the people. The people in the TOO COOL stage just ignore the big guy. They sometimes go out of their way to ignore him – lest their old feelings resurface and, in spite themselves, they run up and hug their old hero. These kids will look in every direction – up, down, left, back, forward – often with a fixed glare, but they try, some desperately, all always determined, to never look at Santa. If, by chance, they glace, and Santa looks back and waves, they ignore, they feign indifference, and they immediately look away with an expression only a young adolescent can give – now more determined than ever to avoid that old man in the red suit – eyes fixed ahead, not even blinking, “I will NOT look at Santa Claus.”
That’s the TOO COOL for Santa stage.
I sometimes think that it would be nice to play Santa in a big store with hundreds of people waiting to see me. I’d love to have a real professional Santa suit. It would be great to have throngs of visitors. (Just as an aside it would be nice to be Mickey Mouse at Disney World. You see, I also think he’s real.)
But, where I’m Santa, well, sometimes the visitors are few and far between, and Santa has a lot of down time by himself, lonely in room full of people doing other things as he just sits waiting… watching… and thinking.
There is sometimes plenty of time to sit. And watch. And think.
Plenty of time.
I sometimes wonder about myself when I see the STAGE TWO kids. I think, “Are there ever things that I’m “too cool” for?” Are there ever things where I say, “I’m beyond that, I don’t need it – it’s childish or beneath me in some way.”
I hope not. In life, I hope that I always see the goodness and the wonder in all things. I’m not sure if I really do, though. In fact, I’m sure I don’t.
A while back, I shared an experience I had about lingering in an outside area of the school just watching a bumble bee. I don’t think I ever watched a bumble bee for as long a period before that moment – or since. In that moment I recall thinking, “I should do more of this.”
How much of life do we miss by just going through it?
And maybe that’s what I’m wondering. I shouldn’t be too cool, or too worldly, or too experienced, or too old, for anything. But I think I often am. I think we all are. I think we sometimes we spend too much time determined to look away from Santa (or something else that’s good) that’s just off our peripheral vision. Sometimes we work so hard to avoid looking for or at the good, and, as such, we miss it entirely. Sometimes that good thing is actually too hard to see or, like the kids just out of the BELIEVING stage, looking at that goodness makes us all too vulnerable.
My message here is that we should look to Santa, no matter what we think we know about him. There might be a time when we know that he’s not real. We might be so sure of that fact that we won’t even look at him, but we should. We should take the time to look and look closely. We should look. We need to look. We need to find the wonder in all things, just as kids find the wonder in Santa Claus.
Take the time each day to notice something somehow somewhere that wasn’t noticeable before. It’s often the little things that we’ll find, those things that we were just too busy, too cool, or too hurried to look at before.
These are the things that can make all the difference, like finding out that Santa Claus is real.
(I know this is true, because Santa asked me to write this – for you.)