Santa Claus. St. Nickolas. Kris Kringle. Whatever you call him he’s one important dude this time of year. For years, we have visited Santa in Birmingham at his Shain Park outpost and every year the same man has heard the heartfelt wishes of my kids. That’s him in the picture above. This year was no different….and yet it was different. For the first time, Conall and Mairen were not enthusiastic about going. Declan was still quite eager but the others were not. Mairen said she had nothing she wanted to ask for and Conall has begun to ask worldly wise questions about Santa. The problem, of course, is that Santa is real and my kids are not at all sure of that. They wonder how he travels all over the world in one night (even with the time zone help). They wonder how it is that the elves make the exact same gifts that they see in stores all over town. They wonder how reindeer can fly.
I remind them that Santa is a living presence in our world. He is imbued with magic and kindness. He is thinking about others and imagining what would be the perfect gift for them. He is singing carols and eating cookies all season long and anticipating the fun of Christmas morning. He isn’t cranky or frustrated when the items he is wanting are hard to find or make. He isn’t worried about whether the gifts he is giving are big enough or bright enough. He isn’t concerned that some Christmases are leaner than others. Nope not my Santa. Santa embodies hope and good will and caring about others.
Remember, a gift given is not the same as love given. A gift received has nothing to do with the warmth or depth of feeling between two people. That exists without gifts, without baubles. Showing how much you love and appreciate someone isn’t about what gifts you give but about sharing your feelings every day.
So this year, when Santa visits and if his sleigh is lighter than usual, know that he doesn’t care any less about you than he ever did and maybe, just maybe, not being able to give you more material things frees him up to share his affection and joy that much more easily.
Share your love, your belief, and your hope and each day will be your best.
Molly O’Shea, MD Birmingham Pediatrics + Wellness Center