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Just Believe

Blind faith is not natural for an adult. Belief is, at the core, the basis for most human cultures. It’s instilled in many of us from birth, but the unwavering belief of a child is the only pure form.

At the Santa set belief is a prerequisite of the experience. For whatever reason, at some point reality begins to fade a child’s firm knowledge that Santa Claus is a matter of fact. The best way to handle that question of identity — a driver’s license.

In the week leading to Christmas, an 8-year-old came to our Santa set with his siblings to give a rundown of their wish lists. It’s a typical scene — tri-folded white printer paper with lists and sub lists of barely legible handwriting, boxed out all over the page. Lego Star Wars, Nerf guns and Baby Alive appear to be popular this season.

The young man told Betsy and his parents while in line “that’s not the real Santa.” He was about to taint the magic for his brother and sister, so Betsy leaned down and said, “ask him for his driver’s license.”

So, when it was his turn, the boy marched up to Santa and demanded to see some ID. Santa, being a professional, pulled a gold-plated business card case from his stand. On the front, Mr. Kringle’s likeness and the words “Santa Claus” are engraved in cursive.

Santa pulled out a laminated card issued by “The Arctic State of the North Pole.” The ID was activated in 1645 and expires in 2049. His date of birth is 0245 AD. The license allows him to operate a flying slay pulled by eight reindeer. The child’s gasp quickly morphed into a smile.

His faith restored, the boy sat on the floor in front of Santa’s chair in a huddle with his brother, sister and parents and proudly read his Christmas list.

The 8-year-old walked away saying, “It’s really him, mom! It’s really him.” If he was riding the Polar Express, there’s no doubt this young man would hear the bell.

This is what Santa does for people — gives them something to believe in a world filled with doubt. Betsy and I are petitioning mall management to arrange a farewell line as Santa exits his set for the last time on Christmas Eve. Our vision — a string of employees from every store lining up, forming a tunnel of applause as this gentle and decent man leaves our lives until Thanksgiving.

It’s a meaningful way to show appreciation for someone who so selflessly gives a month-and-a-half of his life every year to see hundreds of children, many whom have taken a picture with him since infancy and some he may never see again.

Taking photos at the Santa set is a seasonal, part-time job which is here and gone quickly. It helps with Christmas bills and credit card balances and gives so much more. I believe.

Contact Mike Mendenhall

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