I was part of this Christmas story years ago, and its not far from my thoughts each year as the holidays roll around. Our local post office had a special Christmas project, featuring volunteer letter carriers who would dress up as Santa on Christmas morning.
We were promoting our overnight delivery, and promised that every customer who mailed themselves an overnight envelope could expect that Santa would deliver that envelope on Christmas morning. Any special packages tucked away on the porch by Mom and Dad would be put in his sack before he knocked on the door. Quicker than you could say “Ho Ho Ho!” the children could be heard racing frantically to the door. Santa had come, and he gladly passed out presents to all.
One of our letter carriers told this story as we gathered later that morning. He had five or six stops to make that morning, arranged in logical order as he took off from the post office. He started his deliveries in one of the better parts of town. The houses were large, the yards well kept. As he stepped onto the porches, he found a multitude of presents at each stop, He struggled to fit them all in his sack. He rang the bell, and he could hear the pounding of children’s feet on the floor as they raced to the door. The door would open, and the screaming children would take the gifts from Santa, ripping off wrapping paper in an uncontrolled frenzy.
After three or four more stops similar to the first one, our letter carrier was to his surprise a little disillusioned and disappointed. The magic of Christmas was somehow tarnished watching children throw one half-opened present aside in a rush to open the next. He thought maybe his expectations were just set too high.
He had one last stop. The house was in a different part of town, a much poorer section. He arrived to his final stop- a simple house in disrepair. He left his vehicle, and carefully stepped on a porch that had more than a few boards missing or broken. He was looking for presents to fill his bag with. His eyes finally fixated on one present, poorly wrapped, resting near the door. As he picked it up, it was obvious that it was a second-hand doll. Parts of it were discernible because of the tattered wrapping. He picked it up and paused. This would be her only present. He felt sad-if anyone deserved a special Christmas, it was this child.
He forged ahead. Knocking on the door, he bellowed with all his might, “Ho Ho Ho! Merry Christmas!” He paused, but heard nothing. He waited, and finally saw the door slightly open- the little girl was having trouble prying it open. Santa gave it a little push, and there she was- a small, quiet little girl in hand-me-down clothes who barely spoke. Santa got down on one knee, and handed her the present, expecting to see signs of disappointment on her face. She took it, and very quietly said “thank you, Santa”. As she gently opened it, she recognized it as a doll, and immediately clutched it to her chest. She looked up at Santa with tears in her eyes, and motioned him to draw closer. “Thank you Santa…..it’s just what I wanted!” she whispered in his ear. Eight simple words, but words that will stay with those of us there that day for the rest of our lives.
Christmas has changed over the years, becoming more commercial and complicated. Maybe it takes a little girl of modest means to help us remember what Christmas is really about. A thankful spirit is all I want for Christmas this year. It is far more precious than any gift that may come my way.