I was eighteen the first time I put on the red suit. My mom decided that it would be fun to have me play Santa at our family Christmas party. Of course, I got voted down and the same old, smelly guy that had done it for years was retained and did the appearance. I really don’t know what the reason was that I didn’t get to do it other than I was still pretty young.
Now that I had the suit, mom and I figured we could use it. We stopped in on a few families in our church and I was able to visit with them. I sure enjoyed giving back to those who had helped me and the joy on the kids faces was so rewarding.
Putting on the suit seems to transform your heart. All your worries, stress and fears just melt away and this joy… no, this intense level of jolly hits you and your heart swells.You have a new high and it’s not drug induced. You find a happiness that cannot be described. A twinkle comes to your eye and your cheeks get all red. Your belly laughs become deeper and more genuine. You actually jiggle like jelly at times, or so it seems. It truly is joyful being Santa.
That same year I was blessed to be granted permission to go and visit some of the sick children at Primary Children’s Hospital in Salt Lake City, Utah.
As I visited with the children I felt bad that I couldn’t stay longer. I felt that my visit was actually helping these kids feel better. Staff, parents and patients alike were genuinely pleased to see Santa. I would walk up to doctors and nurses and ask about their days and I felt as if they were happy I was there. Just for a moment I felt I had given them some kind of relief from the stresses of their jobs. Even if they knew that I was just helping the real Santa, their day seemed less stressed because of the memories Santa invokes. Childlike innocence rushes forward and a giddy sensation tends to follow most adults when I approach them as Santa.
I remember far to well the fear and worry that came to my mind as I was asked to visit one young girl who was not doing well. The nurse told me she didn’t have much time and wasn’t sure she’d see Christmas morning. Could I do this? I wondered to myself and I worried that I wouldn’t do a good enough job. What do you say to a child who is in this condition?
I walked into her room and didn’t feel right being boisterous and loud. Instead, I approached her gently. I took her frail hand and got down on one knee. Tears filled my eyes as I thought about how sick this little baby was. I called her name softly and patted her cheek. She opened her eyes slowly and looked into my eyes. It took a minute for her to recognize Santa but once she did, oh boy! She was thrilled and perked up with a huge smile on her face.
I pushed aside my emotions and went about my work. The raw feelings just waiting beneath the surface. I knew that it wouldn’t take much to spark them and I’d start to cry again so, I ignored them and decided she needed me to be the best Santa I could be.
We talked briefly about her and her family. We talked about playing in the snow and making snowmen and snowball fights. We talked about what she wanted for Christmas and even though I don’t remember all that was said that day, I knew I needed to take the time to get to know her.
The hospital had informed some of the parents ahead of time that I may be stopping by. Her mother had graciously provided a present for me to give to her and as I handed this gift to this child, her heart filled with wonderment and joy…the tears flowed openly now. I couldn’t stop them.
I spoke to her of Jesus Christ and we talked about heaven. She said she knew that God was real because He had been with her many times. She told me how He had talked to her one night when she was alone and scared. I told her that if it wasn’t for Jesus Christ being born I wouldn’t have a job. I don’t think she cared about that or about my jokes. She was just happy for a moment to not be thinking about being sick. She was gracious and smiled as I told jokes but she was focused and slowly coming to the reality that she didn’t have much time left on this earth. Her level of maturity far exceeded my own.
I hugged her for a long time and then kissed her head. I thanked her for being so brave and so good. I encouraged her to say her prayers and then I hugged her dad and finally her mother. Her mom whispered a thanks in my ear but I knew who had been blessed by this visit. My heart was full to overflowing as the Spirit of God filled the room and testified to me that this little one would soon be hugged by Jesus.
I reassured the mom that this was God’s plan. I told her how I didn’t think this was fair but that it wasn’t for me to understand God’s purposes. I encouraged her to hold onto her husband and her family and that they would be a great source of strength over the next few days. I can’t explain why this little one was having to go through this trial but I knew it was for us to witness and that this was how we were to grow. This was to be a lesson for all of us. Nurses, doctors, parents and even Santa.
As I walked out of the hospital that day I knew my life had been changed. I had met a child that was going to be with God and that she was innocent and pure. I am grateful that this memory is still so vivid in my mind. She reminds me of an innocence and purity that I want to have in my own life. I decided that day that I would always try my hardest to carry that love and faith with me into every visit as I played Santa.
I have come to the knowledge that Jesus Christ is the very Son of God. That God lives and together they want us to be happy, to have joy, to strive to be good to our fellow-man. We must hold onto these lessons. Patience, love, kindness and striving to have purity are goals we should work on. Love in our homes and a deep sense of love for our family is vital. I know that it is OK to have faith and trust in the Lord.
I don’t put on that beautiful red suit as much as I’d like to these days. I would love to play Santa as much as I could during December and perhaps even more than that. But what I have gained from being Santa is a determination to carry with me that same feeling of trust in God, that same desire to be pure and ready, that same testimony that Jesus Christ is why we have Christmas and Santa believes in Him. I strive to carry with me the same feelings and testimony as I play Santa and I try to have the Christmas spirit with me all year-long.
May you have the Spirit of Christmas with you all year as you remember Christ is the reason for Christmas.