Faith Renewed Every Year

Santa Claus always comes, bearing wonderful gifts. Strangely, I’ve never seen him in a red suit.

Once, in another town, he appeared as a little girl about 11 years old. She was from a needy, single-parent family. I saw her while some Jaycees were hosting a group of kids on a shopping tour. They were given money and told to buy something they’d like for Christmas.

She bought something for her mother, then found the toy her little brother wanted. She spent every cent she’d been given.

Later, a fellow who had noticed what she did slipped her a few more dollars and virtually forced her to get something for herself.

Another year, Santa appeared in the form of a fellow whose hands were becoming numb because he’d been standing outside in a near-freezing drizzle for hours. He was selling Christmas trees as part of a project to help the needy.

A few years later, in 1985, Santa came dozens of times and sent hundreds of envelopes to some folks who’d set out to ensure children who had lost everything in terrible flooding that year got something for Christmas. The envelopes, from all over the United States, contained checks.

Not a single child of which the group became aware was missed that Christmas.

Later in life, I met an unlikely Santa. He’d disguised himself as the most unpleasant human being in his small town. He owned a small store. His reply to the then-common greeting, “Have a nice day,” was, “Have a nice day, your a–.”

After he passed away, a single mother with now-grown children revealed that every year while they were young, the store owner had furtively left a large box of Christmas presents and the makings of a holiday feast on their doorstep. One night, she caught him — and the old Scrooge made her promise never to tell a soul.

Just a few years ago, I met another fellow who insists he isn’t Santa Claus. For some time, he and his wife agree not to give each other anything for Christmas.

At least, that’s how he tells it. The truth is that they give each other a marvelous gift. With the money they’d otherwise have spent on presents, they buy gifts and Christmas dinner food for a family that could use the help. One year, that cost them around $800.

Then there’s the Santa I came across this year, about whom I told you a few weeks ago. She’s a woman who has struggled financially. This year, she was spotted taking a name from an “Angel Tree,” so she could buy presents for a child who otherwise might not find anything under the tree on Christmas morning. A friend who knows her remarked that until this year, her own youngsters probably would have qualified to have their names on an “Angel Tree.”

Then, there was the minister who contacted me, about a child who had gone through some really tough times. This St. Nicholas thought a personal computer would do the boy a world of good. He wanted to know if I knew any organization that might help.

If I didn’t, that was all right, St. Nick assured me. He’d buy the computer ($800-$1,000 at the time) out of his own pocket.

Thanks to several of Santa’s helpers, he didn’t have to do that.

Eventually, kids conclude we haven’t been telling the truth about Santa Claus, because they have never, ever seen the fellow we describe outside of a parade or a department store.

Too bad we never let them in on the secret. He doesn’t wear a red suit, sometimes isn’t jolly — and very frequently isn’t a man.

But Santa Claus exists. I’ve met him many, many times.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Myer can be reached at: