Saturday, January 5, 2013

Santa is Real, and He's Everywhere

Christmas is over, but I have one last bit of holiday business before I move on. A PSA of sorts.

My six-year-old wanted one thing for Christmas, which he talked about every single day for months. It was his only request in his letter to Santa. The ultimate gift: The Queen Anne's Revenge Lego set.
This is a big set that became very expensive near the holidays, thanks to the law of supply and demand. But my child was OBSESSED. So, being suckers, we bought it for him. So did my generous parents. And then, being practical suckers, we sold the one we'd bought and rush-shipped it to some other desperate parent. 

We were ready for Christmas.

Then, on December 22, our UPS driver brought a large, mysterious package that made a Lego-esque noise when we shook it. John face went white when he looked at the sender: Operation Santa. We locked ourselves in our bedroom and opened the package, hands already shaking with guilt and dread, and found a beautifully wrapped, brand new Queen Anne’s Revenge inside.

Attached was this note:
Oh.... crap. We had no idea this program existed. I hadn't wanted to clog up the mail but our obsessed kiddo knew a letter required a stamp and a mailbox. And we didn’t know Santa was real. We didn’t know!!!!! 

I tried to track down a number for Operation Santa, some kind of central office for returns, but I came up empty. Post offices participate in the program and then individual volunteers can choose letters to answer anonymously; donors bring their gifts back to the post office for shipping.

We found one Toys for Tots location still accepting donations, and John got the Lego set there just under the wire. We can only pray it was a blessing to another child this Christmas. We have far more than we need or deserve, and after reading about some of the letters Operation Santa answers, I was reminded of just how lucky we are. 

So spread the word!

Santa isn’t a person; he’s a network. 

There are real elves who read letters. Don’t mail a letter to Santa if you’ve already got the job covered, because not every kid has a Santa sleeping in the next room, or grandparents who can shower them with gifts, and the post office is there for the kids who don't.

We still feel horrible about the whole thing, but I try to find a silver lining in my posts so here goes:

I’d been depressed about more and more lately – about senseless shootings, violence against women, against children, against people. About dysfunctional politics, apocalyptic predictions, a pile of goals unmet in 2012, and a whole cranky family all sick for Christmas. 

Meanwhile, a stranger I will never meet read my son’s letter – just a simple note asking for a decadent toy – and decided to make him happy. Just to make him happy, without even taking credit.
Maybe a family like us had an extra set, or maybe our elf went out of his way to buy this gift. Either way, it struck me as an act of exuberant generosity. And as guilty as I felt for the gift we didn't need, it’s possible that I did need a dose of kindness. It gave me a little faith in joy just in time for Christmas.
Make someone happy.

1) Don’t mail a letter to Santa unless you need the help (tell your friends!), and
2) Don’t forget that every act of kindness makes a difference to someone. Always. 

I am amazed every day at true stories of bravery and selflessness in the face of tragedy and horror. But once in a while, isn’t it nice to know that good isn’t only a response to bad? We aren’t just all selfish people all the time until something stuns us into action. For all the dark possibilities in the human soul, we have it in us to simply want to make someone else happy. 
I hope I can remember that every day of 2013.

Our charity Lego set was a fluke occurrence, and a lot of generous people work with the post office every year to make Christmas special for kids who wouldn't otherwise get a visit from Santa. If you want to answer letters from children in need, you can find out more about Operation Santa here. And if you ever find yourself with an extra present, think of Toys for Tots, or a local shelter or hospital. If anyone has other ideas, I'd love to hear them.

Happy New Year!


  1. Wow, I had no idea operation Santa existed. I "e-mail" my kids' letters to Santa. But that is so sweet, what a wonderful program. And I'm sure some lucky kid is thrilled with his/her Queen Anne lego set.

    Thanks for sharing such a beautiful story.

  2. Oh thank goodness nobody replied to our letters! I didn't know about this program, either. We like to take the kids out and have them pick a present each for Toys for Tots. But the Operation Santa program sounds neat, too. Maybe when the kids are older, we'll give it a shot. And from now on, I'll be careful how we mail Santa!

  3. I was telling my husband about your post and I got all teary-eyed. I guess I needed the reminder about the good people in the world too. Thanks Sarah!


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