Few things are more special than a child's belief in Santa Claus. I still remember the feeling of anticipation that coursed through my little body as I waited for the arrival of Santa. We were lucky as kids because the real Santa came to our mall in Pocatello, and he came in style.
Santa arrived at the Westwood Mall via helicopter from the North Pole. We would all gather around a roped-off section near Dairy Queen. Little boys and girls jumped around with nervous energy while their eyes and ears looked and listened for signs of the helicopter on the horizon. There would be an announcement that he was coming, and the anticipation would increase. When the helicopter was finally seen the crowd would erupt with excitement. As the helicopter drew near, little eyes would see Santa in his bright red suit, flowing beard, and hands covered in white gloves waiving at kids big and small.
The helicopter then would fly around the crowd so everyone could appreciate the sight. After a gentle landing, sans sled and reindeer, Santa jumped out to the screaming enthusiasm of all who had been patiently waiting. He walked to the rope line and the crowd parted like the proverbial Red Sea, parting for Santa to lead the way. We fell in line and followed behind him, making our way to the mall where the line to sit on his lap would begin.
To my memory, the wait time was hours if not days, each child before me wasting Santa's time with their "important" lists while prolonging my wait. Finally my turn would arrive, he welcomed me by name, and I would bound up to share my heart's desires. He always listened, but his only promise was that he would come. Before my turn concluded, Santa would wave to my parents and address them by name, reinforcing to me that this truly was THE Santa Clause.
Year after year, this was our tradition. But like the little boy in "The Giving Tree," I grew up and that innocent enthusiasm turned into selfish cynicism. I still recall the day when that cynicism lead me to confront my mother about the so called "truth" of Santa, while we were in line to see him no less. She pulled me aside, sat down with me facing her, and asked me what I thought I knew.
With a tear streaming down her face, I proclaimed that I knew the truth; that Santa was not real. And with that absurd proclamation, I broke her heart and ended my childhood; boys are cruel at fifteen. I was actually nine, but I allowed my "knowledge" of the truth to taint something that is so special and so innocent that once lost can never be truly reclaimed. It is like trying to save an injured sparrow; try as you might, somethings can never be brought back.
As parents we come closest to reclaiming it when we share the magic of Santa with our children. To see that innocent belief, to feel that unbridled enthusiasm, we can almost recapture it ourselves. But nothing compares to the faith of children, and from that we can learn.
Our knowledge, our experiences, our jaded cynicism accumulated over a lifetime often serve to block simple faith. And though my faith in Santa may never be reclaimed, my faith in Christ remains innocent and I dare say, childlike. Contrary to what some may proclaim, my faith in Christ is not an infantile faith in a mythical figure.
Faith is personal, simple and innocent, but unlike faith in Santa, lost faith in God can be found again. So this Christmas, as you enjoy the innocent faith of children in Santa, take a minute and reflect on the strength of your faith in Christ. Is it simple, is it childlike, or has it been lost? If your faith is too complex and adult centered, use this holiday to recapture your childlike faith. If your faith is lost, it is right where you left it; all you have to do is look.
Jim is am an attorney and graduate of Gonzaga University and Marquette Law School. He lives in Spring Prairie near Burlington. He has been in private practice for 17 years. He is in the process of closing his practice due to a diagnosis of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). He his married with 6 kids. Jim is a community blogger and is not a part of the Gazette staff. His opinion is not necessarily that of the Gazette staff or management.