I’ll be the first to admit it: I am a Christmas maniac. I listen to Christmas carols even during summer months when I need a pick-me-up. I have two winter coats: one green, one red. I have been known to wear pins in the shape of reindeer and snowmen.
But this year, my sense of Christmas spirit has really been delayed. I’ve been under lots of stress at my day job, my dog has had a few health scares that have served as painful reminders that he’s getting very old and he won’t be my little guy forever, and for a bunch of various reasons I haven’t been able to plan a trip home to go see Santa with my nephew.
Yesterday’s news of the tragedy in Connecticut really shook me to the core. I don’t even have any thoughts to share on the topic other than expressions of the same sentiments we are all feeling: rage, confusion, unbearable sadness.
Today when I woke up my first thought was to hightail it over to the JAF post office on Eighth Avenue to pick up a letter written by a child to Santa. Operation Santa is an initiative run by the post office in New York in which all of the letters addressed to the North Pole are collected and distributed to anyone wishing to send a kid in need their Christmas wishes. Getting over there and participating this year has been on my mind since Thanksgiving, but there’s always been an errand to run or a meeting to attend, and I’ve been putting off that trip to the post office. This morning, doing something kind for a child I’ll never meet was my top priority.
I ended up selecting two letters, one written by a 17-year-old boy whose father is out of work and whose Christmas wish is for gift cards to buy winter clothes, and the other written by a 13-year-old boy whose parents are having a tough year because of Hurricane Sandy. Answering letters written by teenagers is especially meaningful for me, because teens have such a raw deal in our society. Our reality TV shows send them misleading messages about how their lives are supposed to be, the financial hardships upon our country keep their parents busy at jobs instead of at home keeping an eye on them, and in general, they’re shoved into adulthood before they’re ready. I think it’s an important message for people at any age to believe that when you need help in life, and you have the courage to ask for it, someone will hear you. 17-year-olds aren’t grownups. Kids at that age, on the brink of making decisions that will shape the rest of their lives, need to know that there are people in the world who care about them. I can’t stand the thought of kids at that age throwing away opportunities because they think no one cares about their future, so why should they?
And so I spent my afternoon in line at the sporting goods store buying gift cards for cool kicks, wondering about the lives of these boys who wrote letters to Santa in the hope that someone would find their letter special enough to respond. It’s such a small act of charity in light of what the people of Newtown, Connecticut lost yesterday, but it made me feel like I am doing something to assure two kids out there in the world that they are special.
Please do something this holiday season to put a little more love back in the world. Even if it’s just sending a card to someone you normally wouldn’t, or leaving a candy cane on the desk of a coworker you don’t know so well. We’ve all only got a short amount of time on this planet. If there’s anyone in your life who doesn’t know how much you care about them, please make sure you tell them this year.