At my place of employment, I have earned the reputation of being a bit of a Grinch around this time of year. I’m not a “holiday spirit” person. I’ll wear ugly sweaters and watch the old stop-motion TV movie specials, like Rudolph or Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey, but that’s about it.
Over the last couple of years, we’ve started having “Santa” visit our store on weekends during the holiday season, so kids can take pictures with him and tell him what they want for Christmas. Last year, my boss asked me if I wanted to be an elf during one visit, to which I replied, “I’d rather have my eyes pecked out by geese.” So, needless to say, I’ve never been the jolly assistant during these events.
Our “Santa” is actually an employee of our store, not an outside volunteer. It’s the same at all of our locations – we get a suit sent to us, and someone has to don the costume, fake beard, and red hat to play the role for a couple of hours on weekend afternoons in December.
We are lucky, though – because we’ve got a guy who looks exactly like Santa on our staff. He didn’t need the beard, the suit, or the hat – because he had his own already. He starts growing his beard out over the summer every year in preparation for the holidays. Even before we started doing “Santa” visits, he would come to the store in full Santa regalia on Christmas Eve and Black Friday, just to hand out candy canes to kids and wish them a Merry Christmas. His wife (who is also an employee) dresses as Mrs. Claus and helps him meet and greet with the kids, and walks faithfully around the store to make sure no wide-eyed believers are missed, even though she relies on a walker.
This guy works early mornings and does freight/stocking outside of his Santa shifts. I remember one morning – in August, no less – when a little boy saw him working out on the floor and gasped, “Santa!” He wasn’t in his suit (obviously,) but he genuinely looks like Santa, so he slipped into the role immediately, knelt down, and asked what the kid wanted for Christmas. The kid was thrilled, and his mom was so grateful that our employee played along without missing a beat. Well… even my cold, black heart grew three sizes that day.
Earlier this week, I asked him about how the last Santa visit went, and he told me about how a mom brought in her baby to sit on his lap. She’d been born premature, and despite being a few months old, was so small she was barely the length of his arm. I can’t imagine having to deal with things like that. Children who might be sick, or scared, with worried parents, or lofty hopes. But he handles it all in true Santa fashion – he treats the kids with respect, spreads as much joy as he can, and assuages their fears to the best of his ability.
I admire his dedication – besides being a loyal and hard-working employee, he and his wife give their all to being “Santa” and “Mrs. Claus” when winter comes along, all for the sake of the kids. They don’t have to do it – they do it because they want to. Even a Grinch like me can appreciate that, and recognize – in a world that, at times, seems very bleak – things, and people, can still give us hope and inspire us to do our best.
Happy holidays, y’all.