Santa Claus does lots of toys, but hope is the real gift

Dec 18 2011 - 8:48am

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Charles Trentelman
Charles Trentelman

Of course I know Santa Claus. He and I had Mexican the other night.

Santa ran late because he had a gig, but he was still jolly, with bright red cheeks, twinkling eyes and a big white beard.

Santa's always jolly. The long hair is a pain, the red suit constantly needs cleaning, it's hot in there and babies have been known to leak.

Santa smiles on. "It's the closest I'll ever come to being a rock star," he said.

In the beginning, Santa loved children's fascination. He was in Japan and they were amazed at his beard. They didn't speak English and Santa's Japanese, sad to say, is iffy, but they'd chatter away.

In Utah, Santa found broader meaning.

Many children don't need presents, he said. They need hope. That is especially true when Santa visits children at Hill Air Force Base. They always have a tough request: Bring mom or dad home from the war.

"That's a real challenge, because they're videotaping that to send to the people over there," Santa said. "So you've got to be upbeat, both for the kids and for the people overseas. You don't want to get expectations too high, but you don't want the kids to be disappointed either."

Santa does a lot of gigs with homeless and disadvantaged children.

"I went to one school here in Ogden where they told me that kids are so poor they have to choose whether to come to school with no socks or no gloves. Maybe they have socks but no gloves, so they have to decide: Cold hands or cold feet.

"Instead of toys, we bought a whole bunch of gloves, hats and socks and that's all we gave out. You never saw such happy kids in your life."

Santa has many helpers.

He got a phone call from a girl in elementary school who, for the second year in a row, won a bicycle in a reading contest at school. The girl hoped Santa could find someone who needed this new one.

"She brought it out to me and she was just so happy and proud when she delivered it," Santa said. "She specifically said 'I want this to go to a child of a military family,' so I promised I would do that." Using his contacts at Hill Air Force Base, Santa did.

I wanted to thank her here, but Santa said she doesn't want her name in the paper. "She said 'It's not about me, it's about giving.' "

That attitude keeps Santa coming back.

Being a rock star is fun, but "for the children, I love to give them a feeling of hope, and that's really what it's about. I can't make promises but I can spark hope. When you see that hope in their eyes, that makes it all worthwhile.

"And even adults, who know better, you see the hope light up, and that's pretty cool in a world that seems to have lost hope."

I have no clue what Santa means when he says "... adults, who know better ..."

Perhaps Santa refers to rumors, often spread by silly adults, that Santa is just some guy in a fake suit and fake beard.

Sorry, Virginia. I don't talk to fakes.

The guy I interviewed is busy every December because he really does care, really does love and really does give.

Pull his beard, he really says "Ouch!" but then he laughs.

Why? I told you.

He's Santa Claus.

Wasatch Rambler is the opinion of Charles Trentelman. You can call him at 801-625-4232 or email ctrentelman@standard.net. He also blogs at www.standard.net.

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