In Service of Santa

25 Dec

Last night I watched the eight-year-old girl sitting on the sofa next to her 15-year-old brother, himself clicking unseen links on his laptop.

I overheard him and his father discussing what NORAD stood for. Wondering how such an odd topic came up on Christmas Eve, I learned that this is how high-tech folks track Santa these days.

“He’s in Portugal,” the brother announced, pointing to the screen.

His sister nodded, then came to sit next to me on the couch, where she went to work building a Smurf house on an iPad.

As I watched her work, I contemplated the simple daily act of service the brother was performing. I don’t want to give anything away here, but let’s just say that  the brother’s views about Santa’s role in the universe was, I’m guessing, considerably different from his sister’s. Still, he played patiently along, with nary a complaint about how this was pulling him away from Madden football.

Years from now (and I think you’ll agree with me here) her views about Santa are likely to change considerably – as might her views of other mystical beings in whom she places her faith. There will come revelations and complications, disillusions and re-affirmations, in her views of how the universe works, which divine beings might be running the show, and whether those beings really are keeping track of whose naughty or nice.  But what I hope will stick are moments like the one she just had with her brother: Small instances of generosity, kindness and sensitivity that unfold between caring people willing to meet people where they are in their own journeys – or, in this case, Santa’s.

“Oh,” she exclaims to no one in particular, suddenly setting aside her iPad. “I’ve got to go to bed. Santa’s coming.”

To which I could only say, “That’s right!”

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