Nieman: Yes, Virginia, Santa Claus exists for those in need of love and acceptance

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The world’s most reprinted editorial appeared in the New York Sun in 1897.

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A New Yorker, eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon, wrote a letter to the editor asking a very important question. She wrote: “Some of my little friends say there is no such thing as Santa. Dad says, “If you see it on The Sun, so be it.” Please tell me; Is there a Santa Clause?”

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The editors wrote back immediately. His famous letter began, “Virginia, your little friends are wrong. You are struck by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They don’t believe except what they see. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. It exists as surely as love, generosity and devotion, and you know that they abound and bring your life to its utmost beauty and joy.”

A friend of mine, Israel Lachovsky, is a close associate of Santa Claus. Last week Israel made it possible for me to interview Santa Claus. It was a great honor for me to dial Israel’s number and be put through to Santa Claus. My very first question was about his beard. is it real Santa Claus has assured me that it is indeed real. My friend told me that he saw little kids pulling Santa’s beard. Santa Claus said to him: “I am Santa Claus for everyone. All are welcome. I encourage young children to explore. So my beard has been pulled a few times. I don’t mind if that happens.”

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I asked Santa to tell me more about the little ones sitting on his lap. He told me he represented Christians, Muslims, Jews and many other religions. All skin colors were allowed to snuggle and lean against his large chest, which contained a heart overflowing with love.

I cried as Santa explained that sometimes adults with disabilities want to sit on his lap too. When they feel respected and loved, they radiate a bright smile wherever they go. Apparently everyone just wants to be heard and noticed. Santa made them feel special. And after all those years of tireless work in malls and at private events, Santa Claus loves his job more than ever.

I was told that he once had to go to work very early. The CBC in Calgary wanted him there by 6am. Apparently they needed some help getting the numbers out for their Christmas drive. When it was Santa’s turn to make the final announcement, he used his signature voice that boomed across the airways: “Ho-Ho-Ho… it looks like we’re going to be breaking records this year. I’m so glad people are helping those who need help!”

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I wanted to know more about the wish lists he gets. He said a few lists could fill a camp. But once his “socks were knocked off by a kid” who told him he wanted to be a better giver. One child even asked Santa what presents he wanted. Santa selflessly told the boy that together maybe they could get a present for someone else instead of a present for Santa. I was told there is a gift bank somewhere in our town just for that reason.

I asked Santa if he ever gets sad requests. His voice grew quiet. After a long pause he answered. “Every once in a while, instead of a gift, a kid will ask me if I could arrange for their divorced parents to get back together.”

He told me that he does not give advice or advise children. That’s what psychologists are for. I could tell that Santa Claus knows what it means, “Please walk in your own lane”.

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As you can imagine, there is a lot to do as families prepare for Christmas. Luckily I found out that Santa Claus has cousins. Apparently, a kid asked Santa Claus at a mall, “I just saw you at another mall. How is that possible?” Santa Claus told the child that it was one of his cousins; this is called teamwork so that no child is disappointed. Laziness will not be tolerated!

I told Santa that the Dalai Lama said that generosity is a form of pleasant selfishness; that some give because they are generous – a deep feeling of love, compassion and heartwarming feelings. Santa couldn’t agree more.

The New York Sun editorial, written September 21, 1897, ends with: “No Santa Claus! Thank God! He lives and he lives forever. In a thousand years, Virginia, no, in ten times ten thousand years he will continue to cheer the heart of childhood.”

dr Nieman, a community pediatrician since 1987, remains interested in the emotional intelligence and imagination of his younger patients. Visit www.drnieman.com for more information.

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