Monday, September 22, 2008

Santa Claus

Santa's First
by Larry Fitzgerald, BSC Graduate of the International University of Santa Claus

One of the most fulfilling ministries I've ever had the privilege to participate in is helping Santa Claus come alive for children and the young-at-heart. This I've done for about 37 years, now.

The first time to wear the red suit

I'll never forget my first experience as Santa ... when the phone rang nearly four decades ago. A friend of my father explained hurriedly that the guy who was supposed to make "Santa's first arrival" the day after Thanksgiving could not do it. He asked if I would fill in. "What am I supposed to do?" I asked. He replied: "Just put on the suit and say, 'Ho, Ho, Ho.'" But I found that children wanted more than that. They wanted to talk. So talk we did. Not just about what toys they wanted but about their lives.

The first time Santa cried

The first time I cried as Santa was when a child sat on my knee and said, "Would you bring my daddy back home for Christmas. He's in prison." That was a tough one. That's when I reassured this child that Santa loved him but sometimes mommies and daddies have to be away. "But," I said, "Maybe you can send him a special Christmas card." (The little boy's mother nodded.) He smiled at this.

Santa's most fulfilling experience

Being Santa for children (and the elderly) at church and in the community is rewarding. Serving as a model for print and television ads is fun. But the most fulfilling experience this Santa has ever had is working with children associated with hospice care. These are kids who are dealing with terminal illness in their lives. Either they have the illness or a loved one does. One young lady was given just three months to live. Her parents warned me that she hadn't smiled in several weeks. Santa came into her room with that one goal -- help her smile. I joked with her. And, smile she did. She asked for Santa to visit again the next day. After three months of daily visits, she was much improved. Today, she is 28 years old and in complete remission. The doctors were at a loss why she is alive but if you ask her, she will tell you why she's well: "Santa made me laugh."

Is Santa real?

Is Santa real? "Santa Claus" was a real life Christian hero named Nicolas of Myra. He was a kind and generous gentleman who cared for people -- especially children. Every time someone helps another or gives to others without expectation of return, then he or she is Santa. And Nicolas' life is honored. Is Santa real? Just ask a 28 year old who re-learned how to laugh.

P.S. Santa's favorite book ... Many months ago, I was privileged to read A Scrapbook of Christmas Firsts in the manuscript form. I have a large library of Christmas books but, aside from the Bible, this is now my favorite. I particularly like the short stories of all the Christmas firsts. (Can't wait to try the recipes and tips, too.)


Brenda Nixon said...

LOVE this charming, cozy picture of you Larry. What a hugable-looking Santa you are.

Cheri2628 said...

I just discovered this site, and it's wonderful! I love Christmas!

Rebekah (the_littleminx) said...

Awww, love this interview. The bit about your first Santa cry had tears welling up in my own eyes.


Jennifer Y. said...

What a wonderful interview! I loved both the questions and the answers...very touching.

Anonymous said...

So sweet! Love it.

Dina said...

Scrapbook of Christmas firsts sounds great. I love Christmas.

photoquest said...

I love the stories you've posted for us.

Anonymous said...

Hi and happy holidays (early wishes!) Saw your book SOCF on My Friend Amy and wanted to leave a comment here not only to enter the contest for the huge Xmas basket but also to say thanks for acting on a really wonderful idea. And including some terrific looking artwork - I love the cover, too!

signed, Oh

windycindy said...

What a stirring and enjoyable interview! This sounds like a fantastic Christmas book to own and giveaway! Many thanks, Cindi

Abi said...

The part about Santa crying was very touching. Have to learn to think on your feet. Good response. This book looks like a wonderful book. I'd love to win it.

ABreading4fun [at] gmail [dot] com