Recently my father played the role of Santa Claus for a holiday event hosted by a non-profit organization he and my mom are involved with. Hope Print is a community-based organization which, among other things focuses on building community in an area of the city predominantly inhabited by refugees from various countries recently resettled in the United States.
Of the children that came to sit on his lap, many were experiencing Christmas here for the first time. For some, the whole concept of Santa was new, not yet understood. Some caught on quickly, asking for phones, toys, electronics, as I am sure you and I readily did as children, eager at the chance to select our rewards for another year of good behavior.
The other night I caught up with my parents over dinner, on their first night in town. My family has travelled here to spend the holidays in my new home with me. I asked him to recount stories from his time as Santa. He told funny stories, sweet stories. He told me of what kids asked for, of children who hugged him, snuggled on his lap, of the girl who pulled him to his knees as she simultaneously proved her strength and the authenticity of his beard. Then he told me of one child’s request. A young girl, maybe 10, sat on his lap. He asked her what it was she wanted this year, the typical Santa Claus question.
Confused, or perhaps concerned, she looked up at him, eyes wide, and asked, “What can I want?”
He explained to her that maybe a child her age would want a doll, or a truck. She settled on a doll, seeing as she was a girl, her young logic explained to him. But how beautiful is that?
What could I want?
At any given moment I could present you a laundry list of things I need, let alone the list of things I want. That list lasts year-round and I don’t need Santa’s lap to start revising it, but this little girl, this child new to America, new to the concept of American Christmas, didn’t even know what her options for wanting are. I feel like I can, and perhaps should learn a lot from this little story, this little child, and her innocent, humble heart.
I love Christmas music. I start listening to it in private as soon as my wardrobe transitions to long sleeves, knits, and jackets late in the fall. It plays in my apartment, almost constantly, starting after Thanksgiving. I enjoy the typical classis, “O Holy Night”, “Carol of the Bells”, “Little Drummer Boy”, the list goes on and on. But a true favorite, that I have loved more and more each year of late, is “Grown Up Christmas List”. The lyrics talk about the adult version of a child once full of wonder asking things of Santa from his knee, now desiring things for the world, for peace, and love.
This year, as I listened to it again and again, I started to think about my own grown up Christmas list. Beyond the things I would love to find wrapped in bows under my tree, what do I, as an adult, wish for? If there were a Santa I could go to, and ask for anything, what would I really want?
I have found as an adult that it is harder and harder to think of gifts to ask for at Christmas. Once you make your own money, have access to meet your own needs, it seems silly to ask someone else to buy things for you, knowing full well you could buy them for yourself. So these bigger things, these grown-up Christmas list things, why don’t we work to get them for ourselves also?
So this year, on Christmas Eve, as I am blessed to be surrounded by my family, filled with health, and full of happiness, I too am asking “what can I want?” I am making a list of the things I want for myself, for the world I live in. I encourage you to do the same.
I grew up singing a song each year in our schools annual Christmas play, the lyrics of the chorus go as follows-
It is better to light just one little candle than to stumble in the dark,
Far better to light just one little candle, all you need is a tiny a spark.
If we all said a prayer that the world would be free, a wonderful world that this would be,
And if everyone lit just one little candle what a bright world this would be.
My heart feels as though it is constantly breaking from the hate and pain our world is full of. What things break your heart? Santa may not be able to fit their solution down your chimney, but perhaps, with a little reflection and work, you and I can become aware of these things and start to make a difference. If we each lit just one little candle, what a bright world this would be.
And that is something I could want.