Monday, December 14, 2009
A few days ago, the local newspaper dedicated a few of their pages to children's letters to Santa. It's been a tradition with the News-Leader ever since I can remember, and I applaud them for it. Not only are the letters informative and at times very touching, they also bring back a little nostalgia. I was six when my letter to Santa appeared in the newspaper. I knew then I wanted to be a writer when I grew up.
If you look at these letters every year, and I do, you realize some things. First, toys have changed over the years. Footballs and baseball gloves have been replaced by i-Pods and Playstations. Things are a lot more electronic now. Still, there are presents that defy time and reach across generations. I was happy to see that both doll babies and Legos were still in high demand.
But though the toys have changed, the children haven't. Say what you want about test scores being lower than they were twenty years ago or kids being more lethargic than they once were. Kids are still kids, and always will be. This is a good thing.
And you realize this, too: these letters to Santa could well be prayers to God. They are full of longings and wishes, pleas and hope, all directed to someone they know can help them. And the sorts of things these kids ask for aren't really all that different than mine.
Things like faith in the midst of doubt. Take Jackson, for instance:
"Are you real, Santa? Or are you a phony? People say you are, some say not. I don't know if you are, but when I'm older I'm going to find out...I hope your real that's my belief...But one thing I want to do, to make proof that Santa's real. So I can keep my belief."
I'm right there with you, Jackson. "I believe, help my unbelief," said the man to Jesus. And so say we all.
There is also the nagging sense that I'm not measuring up. "I hope you think I have been good this year," says Sarah. A sentiment echoed by a lot of other kids in a lot of other letters. Some are more honest: "Sometimes I'm good, but sometimes I'm bad," wrote Kevin. Aren't we all? Which is the point, I think. We're not good enough to deserve all the things we ask, and yet there they are, under the tree every year. Why? Because Santa knows even though we're not so good sometimes, we're still worth much. To kids, this sort of thing is called love. To adults, it's called grace.
Of course, prayers are not all about me. There are plenty of other people who need help, too. They range from the small ("I wish you can help my mom get the tree out of the attic," writes Megan) to the big ("All I want is my six teeth and my papa to feel better. I want my Meme to get to Maryland fine, and my family together for the holidays"--Jasmine).
And then there are the prayers that are said out of pain ("My daddy back. My daddy leave and we lonely have mommy, me and my dog"--Brittney).
There are also the ones said out of pure love ("I know this is going to be a bad Christmas for some kids. so I want you to give my presents to the kids who won't be getting anything this year. God bless everyone!"--ZayVon).
I'm not sure if all those letters were answered the way the kids wanted them. That's okay. Not all of our prayers get answered that way, either. But even if they weren't, I feel pretty confident that all those kids will be writing letters again next year. Santa always come through in the end.
To read more from Billy Coffey, visit him at at his website and follow him on the twitter at @billycoffey.