There’s a book authored by Alistair Maclean that goes by the title “For whom the bell tolls”. The reason it comes to mind are twofold.
For one its Christmas season of course and there are paper bells everywhere – they don’t ring but remind us that even if we wring our lives, they will lie there and remind us that it is Christmas – the time to care, to share, and of course to wear our best clothes and smiles. For ’tis the season, and there is every reason to dance the Christmas Polka with or without Vodka, but with Masks on. And the Polka is the ideal dance for social distancing!
The second reason of course is more mundane – Death. I just lost a very dear friend to a massive heart attack at an age at which he would have found the freedom to do the things he loves the most – He was about to retire from his profession and most certainly not from life. He was the most popular and socially active guy if ever there was one. He had a big heart – is that why he got a heart attack? There are so many others, who are lean, mean and a-socially well entrenched. They have small hearts and yet the bell does not toll for them – at least not yet…
Being a writer (not a journalist – a journalist writes about other’s journeys, while a writer writes about his own – generally) I thought I must put this and other profound questions to Santa Claus, primarily because he is one closest to God at this time of the year and will be his representative on earth in the coming week. A person we all love and admire for his never aging good looks, his flowing white beard, and the gifts he bears to give us all a good Christmas. But mainly for the jolliness he symbolizes, for the kindness he demonstrates and for thoughtfulness he personifies. Let me evaluate his wisdom with my own National Eligibility Test for him, I thought, maybe arrogantly.
According to tradition, Santa Claus lives at the North Pole, with a large number of magical elves, and nine flying reindeer with whose help, Santa Claus has been believed to make a list of children throughout the world, categorizing them according to their behavior (“naughty” or “nice”) and to deliver presents, including toys, and candy to all of the “well-behaved” children in the world, and sometimes coal to the naughty children, on the single night of Christmas Eve. He is supposed to accomplish this feat with the aid of the elves who make the toys in the workshop and the reindeer that pull his sleigh.
Is he really like that, or is that his stage persona? I decided to find out. Does he too, like all of us, constantly wear a mask? Christmas was approaching and I thought, unmasking the Santa, would make for a good news story. But I was in for the surprise of my life.
I requested a meeting via email – SantaKlaus@heaven.com. I was taken up to heaven (not the North Pole as is widely believed) by angels with wings on their backs, each one of them holding an arm – a delightful experience that lasted (sadly) for only a couple of minutes. I was taken straight to his office. I was wearing my best suit and was feeling a little out of place in an office that was frugal – a desk and a chair for Santa, and a couple for visitors. The room was circular and had a rather airy and pleasant atmosphere, I realized, that came from the almost seamless open windows that circumscribed the room. I looked around, and curiously peeked outside. I realized that I was looking into white clouds, and I became apprehensive about the time the angels gently put me down to address their other duties. Fortunately, I found myself on firm cloud. Santa was reclining in his chair, looking a little weary – but still his joyous smiling self – the eternal optimist. And yes, he looked exactly like tradition described him. And going by the equipment surrounding him, he was fully into cloud computing.
Me: Morning Santa. Pleasure to meet you. Heard about you, never had the opportunity to meet you. May be when I was a child, I missed you on a couple of occasions. But thank you for consenting to meet with me and for this interview.
Santa: (Smiling) Welcome, it’s a pleasure. The Media is an important part of our plans for this year, to extend our reach, reinforce Brand Santa and attract more children to our cause.
Me: But won’t you have to be careful in my part of the world? Giving gifts to kids might be considered an inducement to follow you and your principles? And you could be banned from visiting even?
Santa: (looking vexed for a moment) How can anybody misconstrue a gift? They are given at weddings, at elections, at birthdays – do they change outcomes at any of these events. Ah maybe at Elections yes. But at Christmas? And what if they follow my principles – they are the purest form of love you will find, and your part of the world and world in general needs a lot of it right now… don’t you think?
Me: (Speechless for a moment) But the World does not see it that way Santa, I said lamely.
Santa: Well, that’s the way I see it. The World has to learn the hard way, I guess. They have to lose whatever they have before they find the goodies, I guess.
Me: But why distribute gifts Santa? That too on Christmas eve? Can’t you do it throughout the year, so that children can be happy always? They love you so much.
Santa: (Still smiling – at my ignorance) to spread the message of Jesus. love your neighbor and show that you care by sharing…. The message is strongest at Christmas time – why? Remember how the baby Jesus was born in a manger surrounded and supported by folks who just shared their love?
Me: But Santa, I must ask. How can children do that, they are just interested in the toys and gifts that you bring, and the fun and laughter that you symbolize.
Santa: (a fond expression that cannot be described, shining through his eyes) You will be surprised by how the message of Jesus touches children. Many of the toys and gifts that I distribute are given by those that can afford them. They send them to me and tell me that they should be given to a specific orphanage / special child or friend in difficulty. Some just leave it to my office to choose. But even those children that have truly little to give, send in their gifts. These children are so so special to me. There was this one child from India who sent me ten balloons and accompanied it with an instructional note to blow them up and leave them in the pediatric cancer ward in a hospital in her town. A strange but compassionate request. I did exactly as instruct. I was actually drawn back to the hospital the next day to see the outcome of my efforts and was overwhelmed to see the happiness and joy among the children in the ward. By the way, I went invisible when I visited the next day. I have that privilege!
So, the children of this world do think about their neighbor as much as they do about themselves. The world can still be saved – That’s what my mentor Jesus keeps telling me. Though I myself am a little skeptical. He was down there a long time ago. I keep visiting every year.
Me: Santa, there is a question I must ask, and I hope you won’t mind. My readers will not forgive me if I don’t. So here goes… Do you, as is widely believed down below, make a distinction between nice and naughty children and do you actually deny them your blessings?
Santa: (with a naughty look on his face) Children are born innocent, but are by age and nature, naughty. Some, more than others, in that they don’t conform or don’t fall into patterns set for or expected of them by their parents or society. But they too love Jesus and Jesus loves them, does he not? Can I make a distinction? No. But the message must go across and the only way is through an expression of love and caring from their parents and their favorite hero around this time of the year – Santa. So, the answer is a firm no. I don’t make a distinction. But I’ve noticed a tug on their conscience when they’ve opened their gifts. So, my method does work.
Me: Santa, from where I come, children continue to believe that it’s Santa that brings them gifts on Christmas Eve, sliding down the chimney or crawling through an open window or even coming through walls into their homes. You and I know that you pass on these gifts through their loved ones – parents, friends and family that does it. How do you maintain the legend?
Santa: (Smiling) I don’t. Its people like you who do. Human beings, unlike us up here want something or someone to take the away the humdrum of routine. They need a figure, a crutch on which to lean on, in times of trouble. Both children and their parents look up to me to provide them with an opportunity to bring joy into their lives and the lives of those around them at least for that one night and day in December. Have you seen anyone refusing to shake hands with Santa? Or refusing a gift from him or failing to return his smile? Or not welcoming him into his home? If you treat your neighbor as Santa the world will be a different place, will it not? So, it’s you who want to believe in Santa and rely on him to provide cheer and joy and not the other way around. The legend will go on. as you people tend to forget Jesus Message of love and brotherhood very quickly and conveniently.
Me: Isn’t it demanding work Santa? Visiting so many homes in one night? How do you manage the organization?
Santa: (the tired look is now back on his face) Lots of work goes into preparing for my journeys across the earth. I’m lucky that I have so many people here in heaven to help me out in sifting through the letters, chalking out the distribution program, receiving and packing the gifts and then sending me on my way. But I do have my coconspirators – Parents and Loved ones who do help me out if I fall behind.
Me: Do you write back to the children? Or do you hear from them after you visit and leave them gifts?
Santa: (smiling) I am available on Email, What’s app, Face book, Twitter, and other social media. Children too, are now very tech savvy and are constantly in touch with me on my Cloud Computing network. I do try and answer every mail or post that is on my social media pages or messages on my Phone, but my time is limited, and I do miss out on quite a few. However, there is a special mail that I received last year on the 30th. Let me read it for you: I have it here somewhere, (Searches through the mail on his computer)
I waited up for you on Christmas Eve. I wanted to see you come into my house on a sled with your elves and reindeer pulling you. I wanted to pat them and run my hands through their fur. And your beard Santa, your flowing beard, I wanted to run my fingers through it and hoped you would pay me on the head with your gloved fingers and bless me with the gifts I was expecting. And then I would give you a big hug. My Mom kept on telling me to go to sleep and that she would wake me up when you came. I fell asleep and when I woke up it was morning. And I saw the gifts you had left behind near the Christmas tree. I was both, disappointed and delighted. And then I had a big fight with my mom as to why she didn’t wake me up. She spoke. I too fell asleep. Next Year I promised myself I will stay awake when you come. And then I found a piece of your beard. Did you keep it for me Santa? knowing that I wanted to run my fingers thru it? I’ve kept it safely under my pillow. for when you come next year.
Me: (I was getting a bit emotional so decided to change the subject) Santa, if you don’t mind, shall we get on to a slightly different subject? You are considered a close confidant of the Almighty, part of His inner circle, and a favorite, if I may say so. What are his views on the civil strife, crime, and the wars between nations?
Santa: (looking rather sad) what has changed? During Jesus’s time on earth, the situation was the same if not worse. Human beings have evolved and progressed, and the pursuit of and greed for wealth and power over the earth, over fellow human beings and the flora and fauna of the world has depleted the humaneness that God had inbuilt into each one of you. I am not clear as to what end this pursuit is for – Some do it for the greater glory of God, some for the greater glory of their nation, province, community, race, and religion, and some purely for themselves.
Me: So, is there a solution to this or will it continue?
Santa: (Pensive) God is concerned. It was expected that there will be deviations from the created norm, that’s why you are human, but the extent has exceeded even our imagination. But we don’t sit idle. Every year God, through his various angels, saints, clergy, the institution of the family, and me. He tries to spread his message of love and brotherhood, even using modern methodology like the TV and the internet. but it does appear that Satan is often far ahead of us, and we have to catch up with him. Often a grim reminder is necessary to remind you all that a human being cannot be separated from his humanity – that’s why the periodical earthquakes, famines, tsunamis, and the like. They are just gentle reminders, and they never fail to remind you on earth that love, and brotherhood can never be replaced by fame, fortune, or power.
Me: All that is fine Santa. I appreciate the efforts, but what I fail to understand is why does the almighty take the good human beings from this world before they have had an opportunity to fulfill their promise, before they are able to conduct the excellent work their creator tasked them with? or cripple them that they can’t function without pain? They could have certainly helped make the world a better place. (This was a question I was waiting to ask!)
Santa: (turning to look out of the window maintains silence for a minute, then turns back to me and says with a pensive look on his face) From up here, the good people can do so much more to help you all down there. It’s a choice we make so that we can help you better survive the storms of the world. As regards your second question – why make people – good people and their loved ones suffer? Well, that’s a trickier question to answer, but briefly, the answer lies in faith, hope and charity. You have faith, you will have hope and when you have hope…has it ever been belied? Tell me.
Me: I was not fully convinced but decided against taking this line of questioning further – What if I was next?) You never seem to age. So how old are you actually? And what is your secret? I’m sure all of us on earth would like to know…
Santa: (Laughs) certainly more than 14 years old. There’s no secret in my longevity. It’s the love of the children that keep me going.
Me: Thank you Santa for such a wide ranging and honest exchange of thoughts. A couple of quick ones to end our conversation. How do you celebrate Christmas here in heaven? And what is your favorite Christmas carol Santa?
Santa: (guffaws) Just like you do down there on earth. Eat, Pray, Love. And my favorite Christmas Carol has to be “Santa Claus is coming to town.”
Me: Thank you Santa. I will disseminate your message in the world as much as possible.
I must say the return journey was uneventful. And just as I touched ground, my alarm bell rang, and my life began to wring!
But as I promised, I am disseminating. Have a lovely Christmas – full of the Christmas Spirit – the real one – Sharing and Caring, Loving and Living… for others.
This Article is written in the lighter vein. It hopes to bring a smile to your face, and you must not ascribe motives to its contents. There is no connection to events and characters in real life and if perchance you find a connect with any such real-life event or character, rest assured its purely coincidental.