Santa Claus: a poweful myth
Last week I had a wonderful opportunity. This was the third time that I have served as Santa Claus for the Christmas party of the Women’s Community Revitalization Project, www.wcrpphila.com, an organization that provides housing and other help for homeless women and children. When I learned of WCRP’s need for a Santa Claus a few years ago, I instantly felt moved to step up. I had no idea whether or not I would succeed as Santa and no idea what it would be like, but I needed to find out.
I’ve always been intrigued by the myth of Santa Claus. An all-knowing being who responds to the wishes of all children sounded a lot like the kind of God I have never believed in but have always found fascinating. Now, for a few hours, I could step into the role.
Every time I’ve been Santa, I have loved it. Children stand in line, waiting excitedly for their turn to sit on my lap and to talk to me for a few moments. Some of the children sing Christmas songs to me. Many ask me about my life: What is Mrs. Claus doing while I’m away? When am I returning to the elves? What will I do when I get back to the North Pole? Are the reindeer waiting for me on the roof?
One girl always asks me if I’m a “lady Santa”. Three times now, I’ve told children that I am indeed a “lady Santa”, and three times I’ve seen them nod, absorb the information, and continue to ask me about my reindeer o elves. The capacity to hold mutually exclusive truths is a wonderful one!
This year, I asked one little girl what she wanted for Christmas. She looked directly at me and said, “I want my family to be safe.” After being asked for countless baby dolls and games, this request was unexpected and painful. It is likely that someone will give the children who sat on my lap a baby doll or a game; their requests are simple and likely to be granted. But this request is so much more challenging. Living in North Philadelphia, having recently been homeless, this young child has known more than her share of fear and lack of safety.
As I held her on my lap and looked into her eyes, I responded, “That’s a very important wish. I hope that it will be granted.” And I pledged to keep working together with others in our city to try to make this child’s wish come true. Maybe, if we work hard enough and do not give up, next year, all of the children of our city will be able to take their family’s safety for granted and ask for the baby dolls and games that young children should be wishing for.
Go to www.heedinggodscall.org to learn about work we can do to help end gun violence.