This I Believe : Raphael Fish

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year I believe in Santa Claus – the joy he brings to people throughout the world during that most wonderful time of the year; his bright-red suit and glowing frost-nipped cheeks exuding a jolly cheer. He is a man of universal appeal, spreading holiday spirit to people beyond boundaries of nationality, age, social class, and even religion. More than any of that, however, I believe in the benevolence behind Santa’s approach to giving. Growing up, I had everything I could ever need as a child – loving parents, a roof over my head, food on the table. My family was never well-off financially, but we managed. As a family of seven we lived in a cramped two bedroom apartment, all five kids sharing one of those two rooms. Every year, Christmas would present a challenge to my parents. With five kids and meager paychecks, their gift budget had limitations. For us kids, Christmas would come in eager anticipation then would often pass with disappointment upon our realization that Santa had given our friends bigger, better, more extravagant gifts that he had given to us. One Christmas early in my childhood stands out in particular.  Throughout the year, I had begun to develop basic writing skills. As the day approached I felt ready, for the first time in my life, to write my own letter to Santa instead of having to dictate one to my parents. Feeling the power of freedom, unabated by the usual considerations suggested by my parents – ‘be nice to Santa, he has millions of other kids to bring gifts to. Don’t ask him for too much’ – I loaded my wish list with all the things they had never let me include: the latest video game console, a dog, my own computer, a lifetime supply of chocolate chip cookies… This Christmas was going to be the best ever. Bright and early on Christmas morning I raced to the tree eager to see what had been left behind the night before. With high expectations, I found just a single small gift in my name. Upon opening the present, my dreams were crushed. Inside was a simple sweater and nothing more. For the next few months I refused to wear the sweater out of my childish disappointment. Despite my lack of gratitude, Santa returned the next year with presents under the tree, and the next year, and the next… And eventually it hit – I do nothing towards Santa to deserve the gifts he brings, yet he returns every year in the spirit of giving, simply to spread joy. This I believe – the true magic behind Santa is not the joy he brings just one day each year, but instead is something that I myself can strive to embody each and every day. I believe in giving without expecting anything in return and in acknowledging the gifts I do receive, the big and the small, showing gratitude for the love and care others are willing to share.