Yes, everyone, there is a Mr. (and Mrs.) Claus

I ran into Santa Claus the other day.

Really.

For many years, I have tried every trick in the book to catch a glimpse of jolly old St. Nick. Milk and cookies didn’t work. Neither did staying awake nearly all night in a stakeout from which I could see the Christmas tree. I must be getting older, because doing that last year was really tough.

But last Tuesday, I finally caught up to him. He never admitted it, but a short conversation with him made it clear he indeed is Santa Claus.

Funny thing is, he resembles a fellow who lives right here in Ohio County. And he drives a car, not a sleigh.

We’d struck up a conversation about being ready for Christmas. I wasn’t. He was.

He explained that for years, he and his wife have agreed to limit spending on Christmas presents for each other. That’s where their holiday frugalilty ends, however.

For years, my friend explained, he and his wife have “adopted” a needy family and provided everything required for a really nice Christmas. Food, presents, the works.

Last year, it cost them about $800.

My friend Santa is not a wealthy man. He and his wife are solidly middle class folks. Eight hundred dollars is a significant sum for them.

But when it comes to really enjoying Christmas morning, imagine being in their home Sunday.

Many local residents donate money, food, toys or other things that help make Christmas merrier for the less fortunate. My family has done it for decades. It makes our Christmas warmer, knowing we’ve done something in the true spirit of the day.

Perhaps you know what I mean. If you go out of your way to help neighbors in need during the holidays, you understand the selfish motivation. It just makes you feel good.

As I’ve written for many years, it’s the knowledge that somewhere in the Ohio Valley, a little girl who knew mommy and daddy didn’t have the money for that special doll found it anyway, under the Christmas tree.

It’s knowing a little boy who has been shivering while waiting for the school bus in a thin jacket meant for fall now has a nice winter coat.

It’s understanding how their parents feel, too. On Christmas morning, they get to enjoy the smiles, giggles, oohs and ahs that come only from children whose home has been visited by Santa Claus.

Christmas is all about love, in may ways. It’s about the love of a God who sent his only son to us. It’s about the love of a Messiah who went to the cross for us. It’s about us understanding the command to love one another — and doing so.

It all comes together Sunday.

We revel in the pleasure our children and grandchildren take in new toys and clothes. We enjoy surprising spouses with really nice gifts they didn’t expect. And yes — admit it — we like it when we unwrap thoughtful presents for ourselves.

But nothing compares to sharing our Christmas spirit of love with those who need it most.

Still … $800. That’s a lot of money.

It made me think of the famous “Yes, Virginia” reply New York Sun Editor Francis Church wrote many years ago, in response to a letter from an 8-year-old girl. Her friends had told her there was no such thing as Santa Claus, she wrote. Would the newspaper tell her the truth, please?

There is a Santa Claus, Church responded in print. “He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist,” the editor explained.

That was the kicker, for me.

My friend doesn’t look like Santa Claus, doesn’t live at the North Pole and, most of the time, doesn’t act like Santa Claus. For one thing, he works for a living.

But Francis Church, writing long ago, blew his cover.

At long last, I’ve finally met Santa Claus. The real one.

Merry Christmas, Mr. and Mrs. Claus. And merry Christmas, too, to the thousands of other Ohio residents who also do what they can to ensure the spirit of the day is present in every home.

God bless you, every one.

 

Mike Myer is executive editor of The Intelligencer and Wheeling News Register.

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