Thursday, November 26, 2009
Smiles, Dolls and Cars, Hugs and Tears...My Day as Ms. Santa
I started my holiday duties long before the first wreath went up this season. It takes a PhD in organizing to pull off my last month of the year, every year. But this time of year makes me so grateful for the little things in my life even when some things are not going great for me. I get to wear my Ms. Santa suit for the next three weeks and hear first hand from children all they want to share about their lives. On Wednesday, I visited six day-cares/after-school programs and 654 children, between the ages new born to 4th grade, had their picture made with me as Ms. Santa.
My day began at 7:00 am and ended at 7:00pm. I made two stops at department stores as a trade out for toys in exchange for Ms. Santa spending a few hours in their store. Free toys? I could not get there faster enough. Everyone was gracious and kind and volunteers were in good supply. My being Ms. Santa is not about the suit but the heart of spreading cheer and goodwill. It includes soothing crying babies, mediating between two brothers who were not getting along, promoting dolls (SIS) over cell phones for 4th grade girls, encouraging good grades and being respectful to elders, bringing back “yes ma’ma” and “no ma’ma” answers, straighten clothes, slicking down hair, tying bows, and checking diapers to name a few.
Spending the day as Ms. Santa gave me an opportunity to serve others in a small way. The photos with the children to be given to their parents showed me it is truly the small things that stir the soul to motivate others to give of themselves. Ole Time Pottery donated picture frames to Grace Eaton Day Care for me to give to the parents with a photo of their loved ones. Several grandmothers made sure they were there for their grandchildren FIRST Christmas photos and they did not mind getting in the picture too! Teachers and childcare workers were elated and everyone had fun. The visit to the schools confirmed what I already know, teachers are miracle workers. My elves, my children, were patience as the lines seemed to get longer with each passing minute and made sure I did not mispronounce a name by whispering to me if there was a name I needed to say slowly. Nothing is worse than Ms. Santa fumbling over a child’s name.
While visiting a department store, several parents asked to have their children photo made with me. “By all means”, I said to everyone from the parking lot to lay-way pickup. Ms. Santa even faced a few culture issues with a smile. While one Kurdish family was shopping with their children, their son stumbled upon me buying Barbie cosmetic bags for some of the older girls. He looked as if he had seen a ghost and looked nervously over his shoulder. A few seconds later, his family turned the corner and we all stood awkwardly sizing up the situation. The mother and my eyes met and I understood perfectly. I broke the silence by extending my hands to her and saying hello. I complimented her on her handsome son and asked if I could shake his hand. With her permission, I shook his hand and gave him a big smile. At that moment, it was not about religion or faith for the child; I was the lady standing there with a flatbed filled with toys. Some things in life are so simple. I saw him later as I was checking out and he beamed brightly as he waved goodbye to me. Diversity is alive and well in Tennessee.
I will return to the day-cares who are longtime customers of Holmes Pest Control with the requested gifts for my little friends. My “official” wish list has three hundred plus names, nearly double from last year’s count. Many gifts have been bought but I still have many more to purchase. The children were painfully aware of the economic climate that is gripping our country and many repeatedly said, “I only want ONE gift”. Dolls were at the top of my list as usual (I was pushing the So-In-Style Barbie line big time), anything that cried or pooped, Transformer cars, bikes, and one request for a lap top (I was impressed).
Many of the requests were not things 5 and 6 year-olds should be stressing about; jobs for their parents instead of gifts for themselves, hoping their family members will make it home from Iraq safely, worrying if Mom will be able to make her mortgage payment this month. The financial headlines of the day were being shared with me on my lap by children dealing with very real problems. During those conversations, my Ms. Santa hat was switched to counselor and consoler to ease heavy hearts that were so young and breaking. There were a few who cried as they spoke of economic hardships facing their families. I was glad to hold them a little longer and give them a tighter hug. No toy could fix those issues but letting a child know that I will remember to pray for their family calmed a few little worried souls. My Ms. Santa duties also include ministering as well.
I want to say "thank you" to those who helped get me to the halfway mark of my season by donating monetary gifts or giving of their precious time; Mrs. Perry, Publisher of the Tennessee Tribune, Inspired Living, Hal Cato and the Oasis Center staff and teen volunteers, Randy and Jennifer Wolcott, Dr. and Mrs. Jimmy Sheats, Dr. and Mrs. Frist, Julie Stevens, TSU's Men Track and Field Team, Rev. Janiro Hawkins, April Eaton and News Channel 5’s Urban Outlook and Gary and crew at Performance Studios.
I will close by sharing some photos with you from my very fun filled, very long, shopped out, incredible, big grateful day. Have a Happy Thanksgiving weekend. Don’t forget to pick up a few extra toys for my friends at Grace Eaton Child Care, I need you.