Here's another failed attempt to win a short story contest, but I enjoyed the story and think you will also. Comments and criticisms are welcome. Have a very Merry Christmas!
“Look Dad! It’s Santa!” said my four-year old daughter Rylee in a hushed tone of surprise and reverence. I looked up from serving soup in the homeless shelter and saw an old man with a bushy white beard holding a soup bowl. Santa was in a homeless shelter!
I smiled and poured him a large scoop of hot soup. “Did anybody ever tell that you look exactly like…”
“…Santa Claus? Yes, because I am Santa Claus,” he said finishing my sentence for me. His face was blank. No jolly laugh. No twinkling eyes. No ho, ho, ho.
I glanced down at my daughter and saw a look of concern come over her face. “Don’t worry. He’s not the real Santa. The real Santa lives at the North Pole and is a jolly old elf,” I said trying to comfort her.
“Ho, Ho, Ho,” he replied with a deadpan look as he took his soup and moved on. I continued to serve soup to the others, but couldn’t take my eyes or mind off of the Santa look-alike as he sat and somberly ate his soup. When I finished serving, I sought him out.
“Feel better after the soup?” I asked.
“Like a bowl full of jelly,” he replied evenly without smiling.
“You know, I am sorry that life has been hard to you, but you didn’t have to burst my little girl’s bubble. She still believes in Santa Claus.”
“Well, I am Santa Claus.”
I chuckled. “I know you look like Santa, but…”
“…Santa Claus is just a fictional character to bring magic to Christmas,” he said mockingly. “You see, you don’t even believe in me, and yet you lecture me on not bursting your little girl’s bubble.”
My face flushed with a touch of anger and shame.
“Most people don’t believe anything they can’t see or touch anymore. How can you believe in the miraculous birth of the Son of God when you can’t even believe in Santa Claus even though he’s sitting right in front of you?” he asked earnestly.
“I guess you’ve got a point,” I mumbled as I stood to go. “Merry Christmas,” I said sheepishly as I walked away.
Over the next few days the conversation with the homeless Santa troubled me. What should I do? How could I help? He was right, I didn’t believe in Santa, but I did believe in helping my neighbor. So when my boss asked for Christmas party suggestions, I got an idea!
I told everyone at my office about my encounter with homeless Santa and asked if we could sponsor him. We could take up a collection to buy him new clothes, and a few Christmas presents, and he could come play “Santa” at our company party. Everyone loved the idea!
I spoke with the director of the homeless shelter and made all the arrangements. Everyone contributed generously and the company matched our efforts. We got him new clothes, shoes and a winter coat. We found a small private shelter and paid for three months rent. We bought a month’s worth of food and stocked his shelves. We were all excited about helping him as the day of the Christmas party arrived.
It was a wonderful night! Homeless Santa came dressed for the part with the traditional red suit, black boots, and bag full of toys. He was the life of the party as he gladdened hearts with his rosy cheeks and his hearty “Ho, Ho, Ho!” He had a magical touch with children, and my daughter Rylee beamed as she sat on his lap. By the end of the night, we all believed in Santa Claus.
As the party finished and we gave him our gifts, he cried openly at our generosity. We joined him, but they were tears of joy. Everyone called it the best Christmas party ever!
That Christmas Eve, Rylee and I put out milk and cookies for Santa and waited together by the fire in my big leather chair. Of course, we both fell asleep long before the clock struck midnight, and missed our chance to see Santa. But the next morning the cookies and milk had been replaced with a note –
“Inasmuch as you have done it unto the least of these my brethren, you have done it unto me.”
(P.S. I moved back to the North Pole.)
© 2009, Brock Booher, All rights reserved