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A Conversation With Santa

John slams his car into gear, leaving work. He hates Christmas. "It's such a waste of time," he thinks to himself, "when the world is so messed up." He drives through downtown and sees people carrying on with their normal lives: happy, carefree. They don't know what it means to worry about basic survival every day as he does. He speeds away from downtown, hoping to leave the sights and sounds of Christmas far behind.

Pulling up to his house, he parks in the driveway. He couldn't wait to get inside his own home and away from the neighbor's cheery Christmas decorations.

He was tired when he got home. It had been a long day, and John felt like he didn't have any energy left in him. He didn't make any plans this year with friends or anything really, and then there's that nagging feeling in his stomach that tells him nobody cares about him anymore. They're too busy making merry at home with themselves and their families instead of worrying about a single solitary soul like John, who doesn't have anyone to call. He wants to sleep, but it is not going to happen.

John makes a cup of coffee and sits at his kitchen table. He leans back in his chair and closes his eyes, and breaths deeply. The smell of fresh gingerbread enters his nose. Strange he thinks I do not have gingerbread in the house. He begins to sense he is not alone. Slowly he opens one eye and then the other. Confused by the sight before him, John shouts, "who are you." Seated across the table, a figure dressed in red with a flowing white beard responds in a comforting voice, "Why John, you know who I am."

"I know who you look like but who are you?" asks John, still in a state of confusion. "John, I have known you since the day you were born. I know your Christmas wishes since you were old enough to form them. Today, as we sit here, your secret Christmas wish is not to spend Christmas alone."

John takes a sip of his coffee, "if you are Santa, tell me a gift I received as a child." "Well, John, in 1973, you received the present you most coveted, an Apple Krate red Schwinn Stingray with 5-speed gears and shock absorbing saddle. You could not wait to show off your new pride and joy."

Not wanting to believe this person could be Santa, John knows no one he currently is in contact with could have answered his question in such a manner.

Seeking to prove the appearance of Santa is real and not a dream, John asks Santa if he would like a cup of coffee. If there were a coffee mug to clean, it would be proof that something had happened. With Santa's blessing, John prepares a fresh cup.

Already knowing the answer, Santa asks, "John, why do you dislike Christmas so much?"

Attempting to deflect the question, John throws out, "Christmas is a fake made-up holiday."

Accepting the deflection challenge, Santa asks, "How so, John?"

Feeling he has the upper hand on Santa, John responds, "Everyone knows Jesus was not born on December 25th.

Santa smiles, "John, no one knows the date of Jesus's birth. Non-Christian and Christians alike have argued Jesus's birth date for millennia. Many people point to Jesus being born in the spring, others in the summer, yet without a specific day to invalidate a December birth date. Early biblical scholars calculated the nine months of Mary's pregnancy following the Annunciation on March 25th resulted in a December 25th date for Jesus's birth. In the end, is it commemorating the birth on a specific day determined by "experts," or is it the birth itself that matters? Only each individual can answer the question."

John presses on the Christian aspect of the holiday. "So what about Christians who do not celebrate Christmas."

Very interesting, John. "The Christian faith is as diverse as the human race. There will never be consensus on every aspect of living a Christian life. People pick and choose passages from the bible to justify a whole host of Christian lifestyles. Some choose bible verses to show Christmas as a pagan holiday, and some choose verses using Christmas to further the Christian faith. This diversity of thought is not a Christian trait but a human trait. It is human nature to justify one's existence by comparing oneself to others; Christians have not been immune to comparing their theology to the theology of other Christians. The church has been divided into many parts. It is easy to lump all Christians into a homogenous group, but as you can see, Christmas its self is a point of division."

John counters with, "The earliest Christians did not celebrate the birth of Jesus nor does the bible say anything about celebrating his birth."

Santa leans back, "What most people fail to understand is that the modern world is a different time in culture from 2000 years ago. It was not a tradition to celebrate annual birthdays. Nor was it for centuries to come. Perhaps the bible is silent on the matter as it was not an issue at the time. When the bible was written, two millennia of Christians did not exist; everything was new."

"So what of the pagan parts of Christmas," asks John.

"John, let us define pagan rituals and celebrations as pre Christian practices. When Christianity began to spread, society was already ancient and had long-established practices and cultures. During Christianities spread across the ancient world, it ran up against these established cultures. As time passed, the origination of traditions was lost. The practices not against biblical teaching were continued as traditions and not "pagan" worship practices.

Each person in this "modern" world has to make their own peace with the traditions that have survived."

"Santa, you know that Christmas is challenging for many people."

"Yes, John, and it pains me this is so," Santa says sadly. "Many people have a sense of not belonging. Christmas is a time of year that heightens this sense of not belonging.

The world is not static; sad and unexpected challenges are part of living life and always will be."

"Ok, Santa, what is to be done to help."

"John, let us start with the difference between empathy and sympathy; while they are similar, they differ on how they can make someone feel.

Sympathy happens on a surface level, giving not requested or welcomed advice. The listener only understands from their own perspective.

Empathy is connecting on a level that puts the listener in the other person's shoes. Actively listening to what they say and not judging them.

I know you have the feeling of not fitting in. As time has passed, the number of people you would consider as friends have dwindled. As much as you soul search, you cannot find an answer as to why. Sometimes you are sad, at times lonely, and times angry. I believe you would rather have an empathetic conversation than a sympathetic conversation. "

Sighing, John responds with, "yes, I am tired of people needing to fix things; I don't need help; I crave understanding. My life is not lesser than anyone else's; it just seems to be different."

" Saying you are not alone, John is an understatement. Getting back to Christmas, you need to understand that the Christmas you have is the Christmas you create. In other words, if you say humbug to Christmas, then you will have a humbug Christmas. You make a choice."

With emotions beginning to well inside, John responds, "Knowing me as well as you do, how else am I supposed to be at Christmas."

"You see, John, Christmas has a different meaning for everyone. Much of how people perceive Christmas is created in childhood. People may not realize it, but a person's childhood experiences last a lifetime. Childhood memories carried into adulthood of Christmas can be good or bad for many reasons."

Recalling his childhood, John leans forward, his elbows on the table, "I can see that."

"Christmas has always had a religious and a secular component. They are not exclusionary; the two overlap on the premise of peace on earth, goodwill towards men. Unfortunately, people who say they want nothing to do with Christmas on both sides miss the point that December is an excellent time to practice empathy and giving for the entire year. Peace and goodwill can be practiced without the visible trappings of Christmas."

"Compare coworker's response when you arrive at work with a scowl on your face to the response of your coworkers on days when you arrive to work with a smile on your face. There is an improvement in the attitude of your coworkers when you smile. All because they did not feel they were walking on eggshells when around you."

John nods in agreement. "It is true when someone is in a bad mood; it affects the spirit of the office. I am affected when it is someone else."

After taking a sip of his coffee, Santa responds, " You know, too many people fill their holiday with busy work. In all of the busyness, they get tired and angry, ultimately losing the reason for the season. It may be the only time of year they volunteer for charities. Add to that all the parties, and then there is the never ending quest for the perfect gifts.

Providing empathy and generosity to others is the best way to have a Merry Christmas. To accept with Grace when kindness is shown to you."

With a twinkle in his, Santa says, "Merry Christmas, John." Laying a finger aside his nose, Santa nods and is gone.

Stunned by the sudden disappearance, John blinks his eyes several times. He shakes his head; this only happens in movies and stories. Looking down at the table, he sees an empty coffee cup where Santa had once sat. Then there, in the air, hangs the smell of fresh gingerbread. Shaken by what had apparently just taken place, John reaches for Santa's empty coffee cup and gets up from the table.


John opens his eyes to the sound of the alarm clock. He had set it to wake him up early as he had a special errand he wanted to complete on his drive to work. It had not been a restful night with visions of his conversation of the night before running through his head.

Having gotten himself ready for the day, John heads to the kitchen. He finds two coffee cups in the sink. It wasn't a dream, he mutters to himself.

He pulls into the coffee and doughnut shop parking lot to complete his morning errand. Strangely the Christmas decorations in the window do not make him upset.

Pulling the door open, he walks inside. Behind the counter is a young woman busy getting ready for the day. Etched on her face is the stress of knowing how busy the shop will be this close to Christmas. She also knows how impatient customers are going to be.

Seeing the stress on her face, John says to himself, "ok Santa, I am putting your advice to the test." He walks up the counter and smiles the warmest, friendliest smile he can muster. The young lady sensing a friendly customer, relaxes and smiles back. John thinks to himself, "old Santa was right; it does feel good to brighten someone else's day."

The young lady smiles and hands John his large coffee and two boxes of mixed doughnuts nestled into boxes that resemble Christmas presents. John responds with a smile and a "thank you. Have a great day."

Arriving at the office before anyone else, John grabs the doughnuts and hurries inside. John strides quickly to the office break room. He places the boxes on the counter with a small sign that reads "Merry Christmas from Santa."

John sits behind his desk feeling much better than he did the day before. Perhaps he could get used to making a small difference on a daily basis.

© Alan Simpson

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