Yes, Christie, There is a Santa Claus

by christie shumate mcelwee

Dear Editor: Many of my friends say there isn’t a Santa Claus because 2020 has been the worst year ever. Please tell me the truth. How can Santa exist after this horrendous year?

Sincerely,

Christie

Christie, your friends appear to be skeptical, which is understandable after the year we have experienced. An insidious virus, a racial reckoning, and an combustable political climate have created a terrifying vortex and every aspect has seeped into our consciousness. We’ve been stuck in the eye of the hurricane for months now, watching scraps from our previous world blasted away.

But, Christie, there is hope, and hope IS Santa Claus. He comes in many forms, from Hallmark movies to twinkle lights, but 2020’s Santa Claus is more than a jolly elf dressed in red. Santa has manifested himself in the hearts of all who believe in love and courage and goodness.

Santa is in the scientists who worked to create safe and effective vaccines, and in everyone who is involved in the shipping, distribution, and inoculation process of said vaccines so we can eventually hug one another without fear.

Santa is in everyone who has donated to a favorite charity or ordered takeout from a local restaurant or supported a small business.

Santa is in all the millions who either mailed in their ballots or waited hours in line on November 3 to preserve our precious (and fragile) democracy.

Santa is in all who wear masks, knowing it is the decent thing to do in order to keep us all safe.

Santa is in all who smile through those masks, who are kind to retail and food service workers, who tip generously, and who spread love instead of animosity and discord.

Santa is in all the exhausted educators who have been there in person and virtually for their students since March. 

Santa is in all the delivery workers, especially those who work for the US Postal Service. You carry hope in every letter and package you deliver.

Santa is in the courage and dedication of health care workers, those on the front lines of this pandemic.

Santa is in all the artists who have entertained us throughout 2020: the musicians, the writers, the actors, the poets, the TikTokers, the YouTubers.

Santa is in all who forgive more than accuse, give more than grab, understand more than judge. 

So, Christie, there is a Santa Claus! He will live on in our hearts forever, and years from now when we look back on these dark days, we will know that Santa still exists because he continues to spread hope and generosity and magic to all who believe.

No Santa Claus! Thanks God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

Frances P. Church, editor of The New York Sun, published September 21, 1897

The Alchemy of Love

In times of darkness, there is always light. For me, that light has often come in the form of books. Books have been my comfort, my escape, my inspiration, my love. In them, I often find words that have helped me navigate rough days. They are my therapy wrapped up in Garamond font and the delicious smell of each page.

Last week I read Paulo Coelho’s fable The Alchemist, a tale about a young shepherd boy who goes on a journey in search of treasure, but instead discovers his own Personal Legend and the importance of listening to the dreams of his heart. It is a short book, only 179 pages, but every step of this boy’s pilgrimage across the desert is a lesson in how to successfully navigate life, even though the days may appear fearful and murky.

       “Because I don’t live in either my past or future, I’m interested only in the present. If you can concentrate always on the present, you’ll be a happy man. Life will be a party for you, a grand festival, because life is the moment we’re living now.”

This morning one of my cats jumped on my lap, and for a few minutes I just sat there, petting her dark fur and listening to her purr. The other evening I stood out in the driveway, feeling the warm winds rush through the trees. I closed my eyes and thought, “This is living in the present.” This is not an easy thing for me. I plan and worry and agonize over things that are often beyond my control, but I am trying to step into the present more often, take a breath, and experience each moment.

       “Everyone seems to have a clear idea of how other people should lead their lives, but none about his or her own.”

We live in a judgmental world. Everyone has an opinion, and we comment mercilessly online, leaving untended wounds in our wake. As for me, I have begun a “step away.” I am not hiding or leaving, but the sensational stories of what may be is not where I want to live at the moment. Instead I will read credible journalism and great literature, and occasionally visit with my friends, either in person or online. I will not be sucked into the vacuum of anger, paranoia, and name-calling. I want to live in the light.

        “Remember that wherever your heart is, there you will find your treasure.”

Sometimes we are searching so hard for our treasure that we never listen to what our heart is whispering. Follow your heart may sound cliche, but it is a cold, hard truth. Sit in silence, listen carefully, and you will hear what it has to say. My heart is currently saying, “Write the damn book, Christie. Write the damn book.”

        “It’s the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary things and only the wise can see them.”

Only the wise can see them. That is a powerful thought. The extraordinary is often the ordinary. A night of food and stories spent with great friends. Your favorite song comes on the radio. A hand held in the dark. A cold day spent curled with with a good book. That first sip of coffee in the morning. We are wise when we see the ordinary as extraordinary.

        “At a certain point in our lives, we lose control of what’s happening to us, and our lives become controlled by fate. That’s the world’s greatest lie.”

I refuse to believe the world is crumbling and that we have no control over what happens. Our fate is how we handle each obstacle, how we rise after falling, how we wipe the tears and struggle on through the difficulties. There are countless stories of individuals who conquered tremendous agonies, and still found hope in each day. This is how I want to see things. This is how I want to live each moment. This is my Personal Legend.

      “What we believe about ourselves is powerful. Believe in possibilities.”

I believe in the endless possibilities of the human spirit, of spreading love, of really listening to others, and of the magic that surrounds us all.

      “And that’s where the power of love comes in. Because when we love, we always strive to become better than we are.”

Love is the most powerful force in the universe, stronger than hate, anger, or pain. Even in the blackest of moments, love peeks through the heaviness. 

      “That’s what alchemists do. They show that, when we strive to become better than we are, everything around us becomes better, too.”

We all can become alchemists. We can turn any base metal to gold. When we work to improve our own existence, we spread that to others. “It is we who nourish the Soul of the World.”

We all can be alchemists, if we truly believe in our own power.

Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams.

— Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist