In my early years of elementary school, I was exposed to a dangerous group of people. The non-believers. Santa isn't real, they said. I argued and discussed and asked my grandma, who informed me that Santa was, indeed, real. I shared this information with my classmates. They told me that it was all a big lie, that Santa was really your mom and dad or whatever adult you happened to live with. Finally, I caved in to the pressure. If none of my friends believed, they must be right.
When I was about ten years old, my older cousin, Jim, came over for a little visit during the pre-Christmas season. I must stop at this point to tell you that I, along with all of my neighborhood girlfriends and some of my other cousins, had a huge crush on Jim. He was cool and rebellious and liked sporty cars and Harleys and never talked down to me. Unlike the other adults, he never asked me to leave the room when he started to talk about something. What's not to love? Jim asked me if I was ready for Santa to come and bring me presents. "Santa isn't real, Jim," I said. "He doesn't come and bring anybody anything."
"You don't believe in Santa Claus? I do!" Jim exclaimed. "I know that Santa is real and I bet you he comes to your house on Christmas Eve. So promise me you'll leave some milk and cookies out for him." I did promise, because I couldn't refuse my cousin Jim. I left out cookies and milk for Santa, along with some carrots for the reindeer.
When I woke up on Christmas morning, Santa had left a beautiful fuzzy red and white cloth boot full of candy for me. Along with it came a handwritten note from Santa himself. The handwriting looked an awful lot like Jim's, and he had been visiting just before I went to bed on Christmas Eve. But my heart awoke to a beautiful new faith in Mr. Claus. This small gift, and the loving gesture by a person whom I so admired, made me realize that Santa really does exist. He lives in the hearts and deeds of all people who do things large or small to make others happy. Santa isn't just about giving tons of gifts, or extravagant ones. Santa is about doing a small thing like trying to help a child retain her faith and innocence and joy.
The gift was a loving and generous gesture, and I treasured that cloth Santa boot for years. It always had a position of honor among our holiday decorations. I lost it when I moved out of Gram's house, but I still think about it every Christmas. Jim didn't just give me a lovely tangible gift. He gave the greatest gift of all. He showed me through his actions that a person I practically worshipped loved me and cared about me having a joyous holiday. For that moment in time, I was truly special. And I will forevermore be a believer in Santa. Thank you, Santa Jim!