A few years back, my son Jacob returned home heart-broken from school.
“What’s wrong?” I asked him.
“Some kids at school were laughing at me, saying there’s no such thing as Santa Claus.”
“No such thing as Santa Claus?” I replied.
“Well, is there?” he asked, searching my eyes for the truth.
I took a deep breath and gathered my thoughts—knowing full well this was going to be a defining moment in our relationship, as well as his young life. Just like my father before me, I answered Jacob’s question with a question of my own. “What do you think?”
He thought about it for a moment and shrugged. “I don’t think Santa’s real,” he said and looked at me, his eyes filled with the tears of betrayal.
I shook my head. “I think you’re all wrong,” I told him and stood. “Come with me. I need to show you something.” I led him into the basement.
Climbing over a pile of boxes, I finally reached the box that was filled with Isabella’s—Jacob’s little sister—Christmas presents.
“Who are these for?” he asked, peering into the box.
“Bella,” I told him honestly. “And I need your help wrapping them, okay?”
He nodded and we began our work right away.
As we wrapped the toys, I explained, “Santa Claus is the spirit of Christmas, Jacob…the spirit of giving from your heart as an expression of love. Santa Claus is a reminder that there are more important things in the world than the worries of everyday life.”
His eyebrows danced in confusion.
“Santa Claus is the spirit of true fellowship,” I added, “…of feeling connected to the human race and celebrating that bond through simple acts of kindness and generosity.
I watched the struggle behind Jacob’s innocent eyes, as he tried to understand. “Who are these presents from?” he asked, sticking a new tag onto one of the gifts.
“It’s from you,” I told him, “but write Santa Claus.”
His eyes flew up.
“Santa Claus lives in all of us, Jacob,” I explained with a nod, “so the kids at school are wrong.”
Although it took Jacob a few days to reconcile this new truth, it all came together on Christmas morning. As Isabella unwrapped her Christmas presents, Jacob was watching his sister closely—and smiling wide. Filled with joy, his eyes twinkled with the love of the jolly old elf, himself.
Long after I’m gone, Santa Claus will live on in my children, I thought and received one of the greatest gifts I’d ever gotten.
Steven Manchester is the author of three #1 bestsellers. His most recent title, critically acclaimed Gooseberry Island, is available now. His latest, The Changing Season, arrives Spring 2016. Please visit his website for more.