The Santa Effect

Arriving early for a Christmas event, I sat down with Mr. and Mrs. Claus, also early arrivals.

“Jim,” Mrs. Claus says, “We’re walking up the street to Starbucks for some hot chocolate, wanna come?

“Okay,” I said.

As soon as we walk into an airy night merry and bright,  Santa is immediately met with smiles, handshakes and requests for photos from teens, parents with babies, seniors, anyone, everyone on the street. It takes twice the time to reach Starbucks than normal but it was worth watching. And when we walked through the door, the crew of employees – all smiles and cheers – greeted Santa and Mrs. Claus as if they were Bruce Springsteen and Lady Gaga!

That’s when I came to this very interesting, ethical conclusion: EVERYBODY LOVES SANTA! Regardless of age, race, or the latest social media posting on their phones, everyone stops and turns their attention to the greatest rock star of the season.

With Santa and Mrs. Claus surrounded by their fans, I walk up to the one person left behind the counter and order hot chocolate for them both.

“Do you know them, personally?” the barista asks me.

“A long time.”

“Must be great,” she smiles as she busies herself writing their names on the cups.

It is great, I thought, to have friends who, once every year, go out and attend to their flock, not to be rock stars, but to bring happiness to everyone they greet, and see the joy in everyone’s eyes.

Forget about the ethical fallacy of lying to young children in telling them Santa exists. We all believe in him!

“He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist,” veteran newsman Francis Church wrote in response to eight-year old Virginia O’Hanlon.

“Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to,” Valentine Davies wrote in Miracle on 34th Street.”

And Santa Claus is that faith. He is that generosity and love. His eyes sparkle, his smile is infectious, his manner engaging, and he never ever has a bad word for anyone.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

So here’s my Christmas wish this season: when you see a stranger walking toward you, just smile and see what happens; just say “Merry Christmas” and bring a little joy to someone’s life.