The morning fog had lifted as we made our way to the park in Mendocino, California. It had rained earlier but the sun was finally peeking from behind the clouds. The were artisans and musicians with booths and tables arranged with their goods on display. Over towards the edge of the park I saw an older man. I was drawn to him as he sat there with his gray head bent over his table working on something. As I approached he looked up with his faded sparkling eyes and asked me to sit down. He handed me a small book to read. “You’ll have time.” He said smiling at me. “It will only take you a minute but it’s worth the time.” It was a true story entitled the Christmas Story by Jay Frankston. It fascinated me so I bought several copies and had him autograph the small books. He shared how that as a Jewish child he had always felt like Christmas was a big party for everyone and he wasn’t invited to it. He went on to tell me this story.
“When I got married and had kids I decided to make up for it. I started with a seven-foot tree, all decked out with lights and tinsel, and a Star of David on top to soothe those whose Jewish feelings were frayed by the display and for them it was a Hanukah bush. And it warmed my heart to see the glitter, because now the party was at my house and everyone was invited.”
But he still felt like something was missing so he bought a Santa suit, spent time watching how Santa was with the children at the mall and did the same. For two years he played Santa to his own children but by the third year he said; “The Santa personality in me had grown and needed more than I had given him.” He wanted to do more. He came up with the idea of going through the many letters sent to Santa each year that ended up in sacks at the post office where he lived in New York, City. Most of them were gimme, gimme, gimme letters. But one changed it all for him.
I hope you get my letter. I am 11 years old. I have two brothers and a baby sister. My father died last year and my mother is sick. I know there are many who are poorer than we are and I want nothing for myself. But could you send us a blanket because mommy’s cold at night. Suzy.
He sent Suzy a telegraph which said: “I GOT YOUR LETTER. WILL BE AT YOUR HOUSE ON CHRISTMAS DAY. WAIT FOR ME. SANTA.
It began, right there, a giving tradition for his family, that went on for many years. It started with 18-20 children and grew to as many as a 120.
His little book touched me so much with what the true spirit of giving is really about. He took an icon of life, didn’t argue about whether it was spiritual or even of his own tradition but made it a beautiful and moving act of generosity. If you can find the book I would suggest you get it. It is a great little treasure.
One person can really make a difference!