by Don Keelan
Two weeks ago, at the Bennington Museum, a bi-weekly columnist (who for obvious reasons will remain anonymous) was for three hours, Santa Claus.
In front of a beautiful Christmas tree, in an oversized wooden chair, Santa rested and heard the individual Christmas wishes from about 90 children.
Outfitted in beautiful dresses, little girls voiced their hopes that Santa would bring them an Easy Bake Oven, a Barbie doll for some, and an American Girl doll. And for others, a teddy bear at Christmas would be enough.
The young lads had their lists. Their faces showed deep concern that Santa would locate their home in Pownal, Bennington, or Shaftsbury. Each expressed his hope to receive at least one or two of the electronic games endlessly marketed to children.
As he has done so many times in past Christmases, Santa said to the youngsters he would do his best to fulfill their hopes for Christmas morning.
It wasn’t until late into the third hour that a delightful, seven-year-old boy, dressed in corduroys and a blue sweater over a white shirt, came up and asked the aging Santa, “Is there any hope that my mother and father could be together at my house on Christmas morning?”
Taken aback by the little boy’s question, Santa asked the boy, was there anything else he might want? Courageously, the youngster replied, “Can you make this happen, Santa?”
For several days, Santa pondered the boy’s wish for something good to happen to his family and concluded that the spirit of hope, the very reason that we pause at this time of year–in between busying ourselves with shopping, cooking, wrapping, and card writing–clings to each of us for our loved ones, our friends, and the lives of those we don’t even know will somehow be better.
And if we look beyond our own homes, we express the hope that the Christmas season generates: that events and people’s lives beyond our reach will also improve.
I would venture to say that no one who could, if they had the influence, would not reverse the tragedies emanated from wars, earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, floods, fires, and diseases that our world endured this past year.
Nevertheless, during this season of hope, we should pause from our busy tasks and wish that the individuals and families of those directly impacted by the recent tragedies will not lose hope. In time, their lives will also be changed for the better.
Santa wanted so much to tell the young boy that his mother and father would be together at Christmas. But saying so wouldn’t have been the right thing to do. No more than it would be to have told some of the children that they will surely get that iPod, laptop, or go-kart.
Looking at the young boy’s eyes, it was evident. He wanted nothing material: no toys, no games. He just wanted to share Christmas morning with his mother and father.
It is uncertain if the boy’s parents will reconcile and be there for him on Christmas morning. What is certain and real is the gift this little fellow gave to Santa, the gift of hope.
If a seven-year-old boy from Bennington can harbor so much trust and hope for what appears to be such a difficult situation, can we be any less hopeful that there is a chance for a better world? And isn’t this the time of year to do just that?
Santa wishes all of you the true meaning and blessings of the season and the hope that all of our children’s dreams will get fulfilled.
The author writes a bi-weekly column and lives in Arlington. This column was originally published on Christmas Eve, 2005, and has been published every Christmas Eve since.This column was awarded 3rd Place in the 2021 New England Better Newspaper Competition, sponsored by NENPA