Homeless Santa  

Posted by Brock Booher

Here's a new, edited, and improved version of a Christmas story I wrote a few years ago. Merry Christmas!

Homeless Santa

My four-year old daughter tugged at my sleeve and pointed. “Look Dad. It’s Santa!” she whispered.

I looked up from serving soup in the homeless shelter and saw an old man with a bushy white beard holding a soup bowl. Except for the tattered army jacket and his unkempt appearance, he did look just like jolly old Saint Nicholas, minus the jolly part.

I smiled and filled his bowl with hot soup. “Did anybody ever tell that you look exactly like – ”
“Santa Claus?” His face was blank. No jolly laugh. No twinkling eyes. No ho, ho, ho. “Yes, because I am Santa Claus.” He stared back at me in a way that made feel transparent.

I glanced down at my daughter and saw her chewing at her bottom lip. “Don’t worry,” I said trying to comfort her. “He’s not the real Santa. The real Santa lives at the North Pole and is a jolly old elf.”

The old man stared at me with the same deadpan look. “Ho, Ho, Ho,” he said 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 by himself and 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 stared at me with that same blank expression.

I fidgeted in my seat wishing that maybe I hadn’t initiated this conversation. “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. His voice had changed and I could tell that he was mocking me, along with everyone else who makes that statement. He pointed his finger at me and continued. “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 and I looked away.

“Most people don’t believe anything they can’t see or touch anymore,” he said. “How can you believe in the miraculous birth of the Son of God when you can’t even believe in Santa Claus when he’s sitting right in front of you?”

“I guess you’ve got a point,” I mumbled as I stood to go. “Merry Christmas.” I stood and walked away with my tail between my legs.

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, help him find some temporary housing, and a buy him few Christmas presents. In return 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 party. Homeless Santa had ditched the tattered army jacket and cleaned up his beard. He 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 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, my daughter 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 the jolly old elf. 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.”
Thank you for believing in me!
Santa Claus
(P.S. I moved back to the North Pole.)

The Enemies of Success  

Posted by Brock Booher

Have you ever felt inadequate? Maybe you felt like you didn’t quite measure up, or like everyone else was better than you at some particular task. You looked around and saw yourself lacking when you compared yourself to others. I feel that way every time I sit down to write something new. The task humbles me and makes me dig deep within myself for courage. Self-doubt is the enemy of accomplishment.

Have you ever bragged about your abilities or felt so confident that you were smug in your approach to a particular challenge? Maybe you even believed that the task was so far below your abilities that you did little to prepare. You almost felt insulted that someone with your talents and skills was asked to perform such a menial thing. I know what that feels like as well. It takes a great deal of arrogance, even hubris, to write something intended to help others. Arrogance is the enemy of excellence.

A few years ago I was at friend’s house for a get together. His son had just returned from two years of missionary service for the LDS Church in Peru and we were celebrating. It was heartwarming to see a son reunited with his family. The celebration also sparked a nerve with me, a lurking emotion that had niggled at me for years. It reminded me of how lost I felt when I came home from my time as a missionary. Those awkward feelings of grief and loss mingled with the joy of returning home are a strange combination that lingered with me for years.

Many young men and women in our church serve as missionaries. Currently over 85,000 young men and women are serving worldwide. It is truly an amazing statistic when you think about all the things these young men and women could be doing with their lives. No matter what your religious beliefs, you have to admire their dedication and sacrifice. But what do they do after that sacrifice? Who do they become? How do they transition back to normal life after such incredible missionary experiences?

I was venting my feelings of thirty years ago to my friends at the missionary homecoming. I complained that we (meaning the members of the Church) don’t do enough to help theses fine young men and women transition to a successful life after successful missionary service. They must have sensed my anguish and concern, but were much quicker to see a solution than I was. My friend Brent (a coach by profession) looked at me, shrugged his shoulders, and said, “You’re a writer. Write a book.”

His candid, no-nonsense approach to the problem hit me in the face. Like any good coach he didn’t just nod his head and commiserate with me. He assessed the situation and then told me what I needed to do. His call to action stuck with me, and I thought about the idea for weeks. It hit me with incredible energy, and I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I felt prompted to move on it, but self-doubt crept in. After all, who was I to write advice for returned missionaries? I’m not an expert. I have no credentials. I pushed the task aside for almost two years feeling inadequate and unworthy to accomplish it.

Perhaps I felt unworthy of the project because my writing journey started out of sheer arrogance. I waltzed into the world of writers with overconfidence and arrogance only to be humbled by the craft. I know firsthand the cost of hubris. I understand all to well the price for arrogance. I certainly didn’t want to approach such an important project with pride driving me forward.

The idea lurked in the back of my mind but from time to time it would thrust itself into front and center, but each time my feelings of inadequacy pushed it back into the shadows. My wife Britt kept prodding, almost nagging, me to get busy and write it. She knew I could do it. She saw my passion for the topic. She believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.

Eventually, I was asked to work directly with the young men and women returning home from missionary service, and I could no longer ignore the promptings. With the faith of my wife behind me, I started the project. It went slowly because of my internal battle between self-doubt and arrogance, but eventually I finished something I deemed worthy of sharing with others.

In an effort of improve the product, I sent the manuscript to my publisher. I hadn’t published any nonfiction, so this was uncharted territory. I was humble in my approach (not necessarily the best approach for building confidence in your publisher) and offered to work with anyone else who might be writing something similar. I still felt that surely someone else would be better qualified to publish this advice.

When Emily from Cedar Fort emailed me and offered to publish the book, all those feelings of inadequacy came crashing down on me again. I was terrified that my efforts would not measure up. My deadline was also very tight. This time, instead of running away, I reached out to my family and friends and asked for their specific prayers. I swallowed my self-doubt, along with my arrogance, and with heaven’s help I finished the manuscript on time.
To say that I wrote this book would be a lie. I put it together, but I pulled from the wisdom of friends, family, and Church leaders. I also felt the guidance of the Spirit through the process.
Both self-doubt and arrogance can destroy any successful endeavor. Both are distortions of the truth, like some caricature drawing that exaggerates a particular feature to the point of dominance. Both are false emotions that can keep us from becoming the best we can become, or from doing the best we can do. If we are to become or achieve anything worthwhile we must deal with these two enemies of success.

It has been over thirty years, but I can still remember that empty feeling I felt when I walked off the airplane after my mission. I hope that this book will make it easier for all the wonderful young men and women coming home to deal with the transition from full-time missionary to faithful returned missionary.

*** Return and Continue With Honor will be released on February 10, 2015 and will be available Deseret Book, Barnes & Noble, Amazon, and other book retailers.