“I need to know, Daddy. Is there or isn’t there a Santa Claus?” Hands placed firmly on her hips and looking me squarely in the eye, I knew that a truthful answer needed to be given to Amy, my …
“I need to know, Daddy. Is there or isn’t there a Santa Claus?” Hands placed firmly on her hips and looking me squarely in the eye, I knew that a truthful answer needed to be given to Amy, my darling 8-year-old. “Well,” I stammered (attempting to give myself enough time to think of a creative response), “there are some things you just have to figure out for yourself.”
Now 36 years old, Amy still firmly believes in Santa Claus, but with a wisdom reflecting her years. “I still believe,” she smiles when asked, “but in a different way.” Fantasy has been replaced by reality only in the sense that Santa now reflects the deeper meaning of this wonderful time of year. Even amid the hassles of trying to find just the right toy, locating a parking spot within a mile of the mall, spending small fortunes on blinking lights and reindeer with red-noses, climbing on shaky ladders to hang twinkling lights from gutters, and gaining an extra ten pounds eating way too much chocolate, for those who understand who Santa really is, there is immeasurable, indescribable joy.
In part, that joy is represented in Santa’s willingness to give without expecting anything in return. So much of our giving during other times of the year is just the opposite. We purchase a gift, clearly writing our name on the card, hoping that the receiver of our kindness will acknowledge our thoughtfulness in picking out just the right present. If, for some reason, the recipient is not overwhelmingly pleased with our selection, then the giver feels somewhat rejected.
With Santa, children are given the pleasure of a fantasy of an unselfish jolly old man who spends 11 months a year carefully making toys that will delight children around the world and then another month sitting in malls anxiously anticipating each child’s arrival, listening carefully to every child balanced upon his knee, and somehow remembering that special gift to be delivered on Christmas Eve. Children understand that this is Santa’s purpose in living and thus give no serious thought to giving anything back to Santa outside of a few cookies and a warm glass of milk. After all, Santa’s joy is not in receiving, but giving.
When we discover the Santa within each of us, we, too, can come to truly understand the insurmountable joy of giving without any conditions attached. To give without recognition is truly one of the greatest joys of life, but experienced by far too few people. Because we are taught to look out for ourselves and thus make sure that there is “something in it for us,” it is difficult for us to imagine why anyone would give unselfishly.
But just as there is tremendous joy in watching your children excitedly unwrap the presents delivered by Santa on Christmas morning, letting the old guy in the red suit have all the credit, there is joy in giving without expecting anything in return. When we discover the potential reality of the Santa within each of us, we share in the joy that Santa experiences each Christmas Eve.
Do you still believe in Santa? I hope so. The reality of who Santa is, is so much better than the fantasy.
Rob Coombs is a professor with a doctor of ministry degree and a doctor of philosophy with an emphasis in Family Systems.
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