Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays.
It is the time of year for joy, renewing friendships, fumbling with decorations for the tree, trying to figure out why the lights don’t work, celebrating our families, shopping at Target at 9 pm trying to find the life-sized Mick Jagger wind-up toy, affirming our faith, and eating a lot. For children, it’s also a time for what the playwrights and screenwriters call “the willful suspension of disbelief.”
It’s time for the fat man with the goodies.
When she was 7 years old, my daughter Joanna appeared before me and said “Daddy, can I ask you a question?” (For the record, 7-year-olds do not walk up; they appear.)
“Of course, my angel, you can ask me anything you want.”
“Daddy, is there a Santa Claus?”
That was not “a question.” “A question” is “How do you make tapioca pudding from scratch?” Or: “What’s the largest carp on record?”
“Is there a Santa Claus?” is The Question. (With the possible exception of “Do I look fat in this dress?”)
Rebecca and I had decided that when Joanna popped The Question we would tell her the truth. So I said:
“Do you mean is there a guy in a red suit who comes down the chimney we don’t have, leaves you the presents you’ve asked for including a full working farm complete with a John Deere tractor and a goat, goes back up the chimney we don’t have, gets on a sleigh pulled by eight tiny reindeer, takes toys to a zillion kids, eats 80 tons of chocolate chip cookies, and makes it home to the North Pole in under 24 hours?”
“Do you really want to know?”
INSERT DRAMATIC PAUSE HERE.
“No, there’s not.”
“You and Mom do it, right?”
“I thought so.” And off she went.
After I answered Joanna’s inevitable and unavoidable question it occurred to me that no one has ever proved to a moral certainty that there is no Santa Claus. For a large number of my friends that statement alone confirms suspicions that I am spending too much time in a parallel universe.
But think about it. Just because you don’t believe something doesn’t mean it’s not true. You can say the same about leprechauns and unicorns. Just because no one has found a unicorn so far doesn’t mean they don’t exist.
I’m not talking about dogmatic belief. There are enough dogmatic kooks wandering the Earth and hosting talk radio shows already.
I’m talking about accepting the possibility of the existence of Santa, sustainable life on Uranus, the unselfish generosity and compassion of Congress, and the Hawks winning the NBA championship.
It’s when you accept the possibility of things that you open the door to wonder, to the child locked inside, to a different way of seeing the world.
We aren’t strangers to accepting possibilities; our religions are built on it. It’s called faith. We are constantly accepting beliefs and facts that cannot be proved to a moral certainty.
When you accept the possibility that you’ll get the promotion, make the sale, close the deal, take that vacation to Kuala Lumpur, things will change. Why? Because you have crossed over to the world of the possible. It’s nice over here.
That’s my Christmas present for you. It’s the chance to see the world in a new light and to derive joy from the possibilities.
Is there a Santa Claus? I don’t know. That’s between you and him. But I’ll tell you this: I’m not going to be surprised if the doorbell rings one day and at my door is a guy in a red suit who wants to borrow a cup of reindeer food.