ON Sept. 21, 1897, eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon writes to The Sun. She says that some of her friends say there is no Santa but that her Papa says, “if you see it in The Sun, it is so.” So Virginia makes a plea in her letter to the editor, “Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?”
Unlike Virginia, I never had any doubts. As a child, I knew Santa didn’t exist. It certainly wasn’t for lack of trying on my mother’s part to weave this myth into my childhood that I disbelieved but I knew it was her. I knew Santa wasn’t real.
I don’t take things at face value. I believe in authentication. When presented with a fact, I triple check the veracity of that fact. When I ask questions, sometimes, I already know the answers but I ask anyway because I want to know what you know and what you are willing to tell me. I vet almost everything I hear and everyone I meet. That’s me.
And yet, for all of my skepticism, I believe in Santa. Yes. As a child, I didn’t believe in Santa. But as an adult, I know for certain He exists.
He doesn’t appear only on Christmas Eve. He appears more often than we think. Every day, in fact—dropping off gifts we don’t even put down on our Christmas lists—gifts of life, love, learning, friendship, faith, forgiveness, health, hope, healing.
Sometimes, Santa appears in random faces--in the barista who refuses to take your money when you order a hot chocolate drink, in the cab driver who stops his meter while searching for your destination, in the fast food worker who helps you when you’re lost and frightened in a strange city on a chilly night.
I think of all the random acts of kindness I received from strangers when I was young, alone, vulnerable and away from home and before the era of mobile phones. How can I not believe in Santa? Or in God? Or in angels?
Santa doesn’t always appear as a rotund, cheerful man in a red suit, carrying a sack heavy with gifts. Sometimes, he appears as a fairly regular guy, maybe in scrubs, who saves you by excising the cancer not just in your body but in your heart.
Whether it’s the friend who thoughtfully tells you to stop wasting your time on a guy who doesn’t deserve you or the nurse at recovery who’s gently rubbing your back while you’re retching to calm you—Santa is present, every day, everywhere, if you care to look beyond what you see.
Every person you meet in your life who treats you with decency and respect, who shows you kindness and compassion, who believes in you, never gives up on you and loves you unconditionally—is Santa.
It is ironical that as a carefree child, I didn’t believe in Santa while as a cynical adult, I believe with all my heart that he is real. That in itself is proof that love, forever and Santa exists. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.