Sunday, December 23, 2012

On Being Santa

Santa with his most excellent helpers
This past weekend, I was gifted with the chance to become someone magical.  For two hours on a drizzly evening, I became Santa Claus.

With the aid of a big fluffy pillow around my middle, a bright and cheery costume from our Academy Award winning neighbor (Art Direction in 2010!), and three lovely female assistants (who happen to be related to me), I was magically transformed into a new man;  Pere Noel, Father Christmas, Sinter Klaas, Old Saint Nicholas.  Kris Kringle.

Santa awaits.

Apparently well liked.
The reason, you ask?  This was not a holiday meeting of sedate geriatrics, nor a collection of pre-schoolers, or a fund raiser for the Red Cross or the local Kiwanas club. 

I had been asked to become one of Santa's helpers for 50 or so rowdy, running-around, laughing, wild, awkward, noisy, wonderful and amazing middle school students.  This was the Christmas event for Young Life Wyldlife in our neighborhood.

To add more fun to the mix, a large quantity of artificial snow had been prepared.  I was seated in the midst of this classically Southern California winter scene, where I cheerfully greeted all the kids as they were lead to the tennis court to be surprised by Santa.

There is nothing quite like being center of attention in the midst of a tennis court full of middle schoolers.  These kids found the ultimate joy in dumping artificial semi-wet plastic snow on the head, into the mouth of, and down the flowing beard of Saint Nick.  Did I mention that artificial snow has all the taste appeal of microscopically shredded plastic trash bags?  Add to this the wonderful attic musty smell of artificial Santa beard sticking in your teeth.  One other item - it turns out the application of artificial plastic snow to a concrete tennis court surface yields the most slimy and slippery surface in the known world.  Santa is very lucky that he did not end up in traction.  It was all pure joy!
The highlight of the evening was when all the kids surrounded Santa's chair, depriving him of precious oxygen, in order to receive gifts and candy.  To say that this scene resembled pandemonium would be an understatement. 

However, in the midst of this raucous bunch was a lone 6th grade boy who managed to work his way to the front of the large crowd, in spite of his smaller stature.  Let's call him Jeff.  He had a gift for me I never expected.  Jeff was determined to be in the front row to greet Santa, as evidenced by his skill at elbowing his peers out of the way in order to get front and center with the Big Man (me).  Upon arrival about 18 inches in front of my face - he leaned in and announced, shouting with great passion, "I BELIEVE IN YOU!  NO MATTER WHAT ANYONE SAYS, I BELIEVE IN YOU, SANTA!!"

That is what Christmastide is all about.  It's what Young Life is all about.  Believing.  Believing in kids, no matter how loud and confused and awkward they may seem.  Young Life leaders try to listen to these kids, love them, and believe in them.  And in doing so, it our hope that these kids, the messy, noisy ones on that tennis court, will come to believe in a God who created them, and believes in their futures.  Each and every one.

Merry Christmas to all.  And to all a good night!

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