I wrote the column below, “Yes, Santa, there are Virginias,” in 2006. Based, of course, on the famous letter “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” it still seems relevant:
It was Christmas eve. I was placing the last of Shannon’s gifts beneath the tree when I was surprised to see Santa Claus, sitting, head bowed, in a chair beside my fireplace. As startled as I was to see the old boy, I was more surprised by his long face.
“Why, Santa, what’s the matter?” I asked, going to kneel beside him.
He sighed, turning twinkle-less eyes toward me. He began to speak then shook his head, as if the effort was too great.
“What, Santa, what?”
“It’s the children, you see,” he said. “Their lists seem to get longer each year. X-boxes and laptops and iPods. I’m just not sure I believe the true spirit of Christmas exists in the hearts of children any longer. Do they know about giving, like that little girl Virginia, who wrote in to the newspaper so many years ago? Please, tell me, are there still Virginias?”
I took his hands in mine and said: “Santa, you have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. In this great universe of ours, where commercialism and materialism are so readily visible — accessible on televisions and computers and cellular phones and Blackberries — it may seem that compassion and caring and neighborliness are virtues of the past.
“But you of all people know you must believe beyond what you see on those lists. Yes, Santa, there are still Virginias — they exist as the Christmas spirit that lives in children’s hearts.”
I pulled out my newspaper and began to point to stories and photos. “That spirit exists in the hearts of the students who held a blood drive to honor their friend who had died. It exists in the souls of the friends who raised funds for medical expenses of a young girl injured in a tragic car wreck.
“It exists in the minds of schoolchildren who filled backpacks with supplies for students who came here after a hurricane demolished their schools.
“It exists in the dancing eyes of young girls as they shopped for a girl their age who will spend this Christmas season in a foster home.
“Christmas spirit is most obvious in December, that’s true, but it is there the whole year through. It is there in February when a young boy sees a news report about a child who has lost his home to a fire and offers his much-loved bear to his mother, saying, ‘That little boy needs this more than I do.’ It is there in April when a child sends a care package to a soldier, and in September when a student asks the new girl to sit at her lunch table.
“Oh, how dreary would be the world if the hearts of children were empty! It would be as dreary as if there were no Santa Claus. No Christmas spirit? Thank God it lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Santa, 10 times 10,000 years, it will continue to fill the hearts of children of every age.”
Santa raised his head and I saw the familiar twinkle in his eyes.
Giving a shake of his head, he asked, “How could I have forgotten?” He slung his pack on his back and turned toward the fireplace.
“Thank you,” he said. “You have given me a great gift.”
“Merry Christmas, Santa,” I said, giving a smile. With a wink, he was gone. But I know he’s never truly gone because, like Virginias and children everywhere, I believe.
Photo: “Santa Bob” Boyer by Wil Elrick