|Reading at a school in 2015|
|Members of the Air Force dinning with me at Monell's.|
|Me and my hero, my son.|
With each year, I have learned to expect the unexpected and be prepared to bring comfort to hurting children and families. In 2008, the economic crises and hardship heaped on families were etched in the faces of children. Instead of asking for the new hot toy of the year, little ones remarked about who was jobless in the family. Many children did not ask for a toy but wanted a toy for their younger sibling. My heart ached as I heard one story after another from wee ones about the financial woes of the adults in their lives.
|Grace Eaton Child Care in 2009|
In 2012, the tragedy of Sandy Hook landed in Ms. Santa's lap. A deranged gunman's actions had shaken the country to its core when he slaughter babies at an elementary school. Five and six year olds asked for bullet proof vests and back packs. A few wanted the vests for their dolls and action figures! I remember several asking me to teach them how to fight a bad guy. As I hugged each one to reassure them that they were loved and everything would be okay, I fought for control of my emotions. I gave out more hugs than toys the final days before Christmas that year.
|Bullet proof vests for children.|
One encounter with a child left me bewildered and wondering what will 2017 bring. As I was winding down school parties, I visited a school at the request of a teacher I have known for years. It was my first visit to her school. I brought my winning bag of age appropriate goodies that were engaging; my Santas from around world that I have collected over the years along with my favorite Christmas books that I love to read that are as unique as my Santas. When I entered the room, parents and grandparents were in tow to help celebrate the end of the semester and the start of the holiday break. As I set up my Santas, the children gathered around me with "oohs" and "aahs" that I have come to expect. Several wee ones stared at me with bright smiles that are given to Santas worldwide. As I counted enough ornaments to give away to the fast growing crowd around me, I noticed a family in the back with a child who was not sitting with the others around me. After I sat in the big chair after the teacher introduced Ms. Santa, I talked about my Santas from various countries and read several Christmas stories. After reading to the class, I asked about their holiday celebrations that included Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa ventures. I gave out Christmas cards for the children to sign for those who were less fortunate. While some students were signing cards, others stood in line to have their picture taken with me.
|Ms. Santa picture by Martin O'Connor|
|Villa Place Santa|
After regrouping, I began asking the other children if they saw a Santa that looked like their grandfather or grandpa. To their delight, and the relief of the teacher, the children turned their attention to Granddads, Grandpas, and Paw Paws who looked like Santa. The outburst seemed like a foul mist that dissipated quickly once we began discussing all things Christmas while photos were being snapped left and right. Several children gave me extra big hugs as if they were comforting me and a few parents whispered, 'I am so sorry' after they took their child's picture. I have never had an encounter like that with a child or adults as Ms. Santa and I was determined to keep my focus on my duties; to bring love and joy.
As the family who had encourage their child to remind of how Santa suppose to look was leaving, their wee one waved bye with her new Angel clutched firmly in her hand. I waved back and blew a kiss. My wave and kiss must were doused with angel dust from heaven because suddenly the child ran over to me and gave me the biggest hug ever. That hug brought tears to my eyes as I heard her say boldly, "Have a Merry Christmas Mrs. Claus."As I hugged her back, my eyes locked with her mother. Look at God, I mused to myself.
Later, on my way home, the words of my grandfather, a Civil Rights foot solider from Mississippi, flooded my thoughts, "Children are taught to hate. God does not teach us to hate anyone." I believe the wounds from 2016 will heal but the scars will be visible for sometime. My prayer is for adults to learn and believe words matter. What we say to and about about each other can affect generations to come. I learned from this year, more so than any other year, children not only hear our words but watch our actions and reactions intensively.