There are moments we who are storytellers, we who don the Red Suit are touched by. There are moments we never forget. Standing in front of hundreds of children, dozens of children or just around a campfire and tell stories to make kids laugh or making them jump with a sort of scary story is great fun. to have boys and girls say, "that was so cool, Mr. Storyteller" is rewarding enough.
But donning the Red Suit, that is different. All storytellers have magic moments. Moments when the audience breathes as one. Moments where time is suspended and not one sound is heard other than the storyteller's voice.
There are other moments that are more than magic. Moments when you are humbled. Moments when tears well up in the corners of your eyes, to be wiped away by the white gloves you wear with your Red Suit.
Moments like this one in the photo from Storytelling Santa's friend Jenny Daws. A hushed moment as a Mama and Daddy push a wheelchair up and gently lift a frail little angel out and carefully place her in Santa's arms. Santa moves around in his chair so his shoulder supports the head of the little angel, her eyes closed, not moving at all. She is aware something, someone is different and her face shows concern, but Santa whispers to her and she relaxes. He continues to talk with her in whispers the whole time, lost in that place, just Santa and the angel. He forgets the photographer, forgets to look at the camera. He pushes his beard back so it doesn't tickle her face and he whispers and softly sings a Christmas carol.
The photographer takes their photo and the parents thank Santa. He thanks them for sharing that moment with him... a beggar in a red suit. There are more kids, some hurting, some barely aware, some smiling and excited. They are all someone's baby, someone's promise. A treasure in a little package.
Oh my, they break your heart when the only thing they ask for is "just one more Christmas with my whole family". Or the little girl who asked, "Can you bring my Daddy home from Afghanistan?"
"I miss my Grandma in Heaven. Can you tell her I love her?" "Santa, I wish my Mommy and Daddy would stop hollering at each other."
They don't always ask for toys, you see.
They Believe. They are filled with hope and joy and wonderment.
And then, Santa's mind is drawn back a year or two, an evening visit in a community building, sponsored by a local church. Dozens and dozens of little ones have sat on Santa's lap. He recited "The Night Before Christmas" and many of them joined in as he spoke those magical words.
Just before Santa is to leave a disheveled mother comes in, hair a mess, clothes not clean, disoriented (someone whispers she smokes crack all the time). She asks if there is still time for her three little children to see Santa. All are under 10.
Of course there is time. This night Santa has all the time in the world. The children don't ask for I-pads, cell phones, Transformers, baby dolls or even Legos. They ask for socks, a robe, a new shirt no one has ever worn.
Did you hear me? A new shirt no one has ever worn. That is his Christmas wish.
And the last of the three, a little girl about 6 or 7 sits on Santa's lap as Church Folks find food, bags of cookies and hot chocolate for the other two. This little sweetheart in clothes that don't fit is so happy to sit on Santa's lap.(and her clothes have not been washed, which angers and saddens at the same time). She just sits there and leans in to his chest for a minute.
Santa's lap is a "safe place", you see. She leans against the Red Suit, content and safe.
Finally she gets down to business... "Now, what would you like for Christmas?" Santa asks.
"I don't know, Santa. (she pauses) Maybe, if it would be alright, a Toy? Just a Toy?" Her ask is a question, a plea, a dream that her crack ridden mother will not, cannot fulfill. Unless someone else finds the way to their door all the extra money will go up in the smoke of a crack pipe.
Her eyes plead as she looks into Santa's eyes and asks for a toy, a single toy. Santa wonders how long it has been since she had a toy?
What do you say? What would you say? Santa never promises anything, of course. He listens, hugs and gives them candy canes. He has no real magic. He has no toys to hand out. He has only peppermint candy canes.
He is just a beggar in a red suit. A myth brought to life for a moment in time. Nobody important. Just a pretend.
Oh, that his red toy sack was everlastingly full of toys. If only he could fly with his reindeer to a workshop at the North Pole and bring a toy to every little one, food for hungry bellies of children everywhere.
Buy, you see... he depends on me, on you.
There weren't any toys in Santa's vehicle that night. From that day till this Santa always has Teddy Bears hidden in his truck, ready for occasions where he knows a little one needs a bear to hug.
He, like others, tries, not always successfully, to wear the mantle of Saint Nicholas of Myra (in modern day Turkey), the first Santa. As he leaves Storytelling Santa often lifts families, children that sat on his lap in prayer. For that is the only gift he can truly give.