Yes Virginia, there still is a Santa Claus.
'The more things change, the more they remain the same'. This adage is never more true than around the Christmas season when children, on the cusp of discovering awareness ask their parents, "Does Santa Claus really exist?"
Eight-year old Virginia O'Hanlon asked that question of her father and not knowing how to answer he suggested she ask someone wiser than he.
Her simple question ended up on the desk of Francis P. Church, an editor with a New York City newspaper, The Sun. His response to that eight-year old girl appeared in the September 21st, 1897 edition of the paper and to this day remains the most reprinted editorial ever to be published. Yes, the more thing change, the more they remain the same, and that question haunts every parent to this day.
It is oft said that the best salesmen are those who believe in what they sell and if it is true wouldn't it follow that a parent's thoughtful answer start with their own belief... or re-belief?
One has but to stop for a moment, just the briefest of moments to see evidence of Santa all around. His effect is both monumental, and yes, magical.
Has there been a child who hasn't changed their normal behavior just a bit, weeks, or even months before Christmas to insure a place on not the 'naughty' but 'nice' list? To a mother's relief are there not bedrooms just a little more organized, homework completed without complaint and offers made to do chores that might ordinarily require a little more age and experience? During that time don't those mothers find themselves smiling just a little more than usual and offering a silent, heartfelt thanks for the blessing they have received? A jolly man standing in the room with a red, white fringed suit isn't necessary to prove the existence of Santa Claus... it takes no more than belief.
There are many who would argue that the commercialism of the holiday has taken Christ out of Christmas, but has it really? For those who live by and follow the Christian faith isn't Santa Claus, the belief in Santa Clause the embodiment of what is good, caring and charitable? No matter the reason or motive a little bit of peace on earth and good will toward men is never a bad thing.
For those without a strong Christian faith, of different faith or no practiced faith Santa Clause is no less a stimulus for those small acts or expressions of caring that change lives for the better. Simple things that throughout the year of otherwise hectic lives may be forgotten but somehow during the season reappear with blissful acceptance.
As if to perpetuate a stereotype there are those who vociferously complain about holiday shopping but yet fill stores and malls in search of that perfect gift that signifies a love that is not always vocalized. Does it not happen, on many occasions that those who are chronologically appropriate hear the mellow voice of Bing Crosby extolling the virtues of a White Christmas and for a moment, just a fleeting moment eyes are cast upward as they remember Christmases past with parents who are here no longer. Can the existence of Santa Claus be denied as a husband, squeezing the hand of his wife a little tighter than normal secretively wipes a tear from his eye in hopes that no one has noticed? Does the absence of a jolly man in a red, white fringed suit change that moment or did it occur because of a belief in that red suited man?
Is it mere coincidence that those otherwise conveniently invisible souls standing at intersections any other time of the year become suddenly apparent, and when handed some financial help through an open car window are also graced with a smile and a wish for a Merry Christmas? Is it mere coincidence that for that moment two people feel slightly better about themselves, and the world?
The more things change, the more they remain the same. As it was when Virginia posed her famous question, men and women still march off into the unknown and fight to protect that which we cherish, our loved ones, our way of life, our freedom. And as it has been, as it is now and as it will be in the future there are those who will hear the soulful strains of "I'll Be Home For Christmas', think of their loved one in a far off land and know that the words are those of dreams but dreams that will be long in coming, and for some, dreams that will never come true.
It would be a simple matter to explain some happenings in terms of technology, public relations or media ratings, and without doubt many are, but perhaps, just perhaps, some are much more.
What is it than inspires one to go beyond their everyday employment responsibilities, to put forth that extra effort to identify that wife, or mother or child who lives every moment in fear for their loved one. Why do they go beyond what is expected to insure that at least one family will be brought together through the wonders of cyberspace on a Christmas Eve, one in safety and comfort thousands of miles away from the piece of earth where their loved one stands muddied or perhaps bloodied from a battle just ended and with knowledge of the next one to begin.
For the few moments that bandwidth or satellite will allow, the true meaning of Christmas is realized, and as the image fades away the lingering words of 'I love you, I'll be home soon' are shadowed by the truth that they are, in truth a sincere wish, not a certainty. Does the absence of a jolly man in a red suit with white fringe lessen the joy, the happiness and hope? Does the belief in the spirit of Santa Claus give impetus to that television station employee to do not what is just required, but so much more?
As we once again approach that magical day if you are asked by a child, a loved one... or yourself, if Santa Claus exists, yes he does... and as long as there is love in the world he always will.
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