When I visited in Africa the first time, I remember telling Timothy, a Masai safari guide we met in Kenya, the story of Santa Claus. Timothy didn’t know much about Christmas, and he’d never heard of Santa Claus. He laughed when I told him that we put live trees in our house so that a magical old man can leave presents beneath it while we sleep.
I believed in Santa Claus until I was in the 10th grade. Call me naive, but I’ve always had a profound faith in the power of good – even of the magical sort. After all, I had little else to explain why, like clockwork, the same little girl that ate government cheese and free school lunches the rest of the year, somehow found a pile of perfect presents beneath our Christmas tree each December. Like most kids, I’d had my doubts, and as a sophomore in high school, I found gifts stashed inside the family van and learned that Santa wasn’t magic at all, but more real than I imagined. He was just pure generosity, hope, faith and good, that lives in the hearts of my parents and so many others this time of year.
Just as I can’t see Santa, I can’t see those things, but their invisibility makes them no less real. As The Sun responded to 8-year-old Virginia’s famous letter asking if there was a Santa Claus:
“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy…
Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see…Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world…
There is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernatural beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.”
I’ve experienced so much unseeable beauty this holiday season. Just before the holidays, you helped us make our second loan in Tanzania, for $30,000, enough for a new classroom, which will accommodate the fourth graders who will move to Class 5 in 2009, and a school bus to replace the rickety old van into which more than 40 children and teachers would cram for multiple trips each day. Construction of the new classroom has just begun and on Christmas Day, I received a text message from Mama Lucy that a refurbished school bus had been purchased.
When I was in Tanzania last summer, I asked the mother of 2-year-old Rehema about the importance of the school bus to the parents of Shepherds Junior. She said that she sometimes felt like she had to risk her child’s safety by putting her in the van to ensure that she gets the best possible education. With the purchase of the new bus, that’s a sad tradeoff she’ll no longer have to make.
I also received the best possible gift from Mama Lucy and the fourth graders at Sheperds Junior School. Stay tuned for my next post for more about this very special present.
Whether you still believe in Santa Claus or, like Timothy, have never heard of him, whether you celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or just the universal spirit of giving that’s present throughout the holiday season, I hope the good that you have created for 242 amazing children, and their entire community, throughout 2008, is a reminder of what is possible when we work together to make the world a little better place.
Just like Santa Claus, good exists – if we simply create it.
Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa and, to everyone, an incredibly Happy New Year.
I hope the invisible spirit of generosity and giving that has made miracles possible in 2008 continues for many, many years to come.
|Just enter your gift amount & click the donate button:|