by Lillian Csernica on December 14, 2013
I’ve been a volunteer for the local post office answering letters to Santa Claus for almost ten years now. During that time I’ve read requests that range from outrageous (in the funny sense) to really sweet to downright heartbreaking. When adults grow up and leave the magic of childhood behind, I think many of them forget that in the minds of children, Santa Claus can be the court of last resort. I highly recommend the movie “Dear God,” which is all about a ragtag team of post office workers who get together to answer the letters that get sent to the Dead Letter office. These are the letters written to God, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and other similar beings. These are the letters written by desperate people in need of whatever help and hope they can get.
The letters children write to Santa Claus are not all about toys and clothes and the latest electronic gizmos. Children will tell Santa what’s really on their minds and in their hearts. One year I got a letter from a little girl who asked Santa Claus for just one thing: she wanted her mamma and daddy to stop fighting. I talked to the Postmaster about how to reply. When you volunteer to answer the letters to Santa Claus, it’s important to understand that it’s not all sugarplums and flying reindeer. Some of the letters come from children who are in really difficult home situations, children who are delicate and need all the support they can get. I’m no LCSW or MFT, so I’ve gone to people who are for advice on what to say to such children and how to say it. The last thing these kids need is to have Santa Claus ignore their pain or brush aside their cries for help.
That said, I’m happy to report that there’s a great deal of joy in this wonderful task.
One year a lovely little boy sent Santa Claus a Christmas card. That was it. No wish list, no requests at all. The boy simply wanted to wish Santa a Merry Christmas. How sweet is that?
More than once I’ve received letters from children who have included a few dollars to help buy toys for poor children. Doesn’t that just give you hope for the future of the planet? (FYI, I always give the money to the postal carriers, who take it back to the kids’ parents.)
A letter came in once with a tiny Oreo that had mint green filling. The young lady wanted to send Rudolph a special treat. She had an unusual name. This is important because while I was out and about, I heard this young lady’s name called. I turned to her and told her that Rudolph really appreciated the Oreo. Up at the North Pole we get a lot of gingerbread and sugar cookies, so the Oreo was a rare treat. The girl’s eyes opened wide. She turned to the girl with her and said, “I told you so!” They wanted to know how I knew about the Oreo. Under terms of strict secrecy, I told them I was an elf. My long hair hides the points on my ears.
Lately there are a lot of requests for Duct Tape. I’m almost afraid to ask what so many children are doing with that much Duct Tape.
One year a young lady asked for a gift certificate to the local independent bookstore. Supporting literacy is very important to me. I called up the bookstore and explained my role as a post office volunteer with a letter to Santa Claus that specifically mentioned that bookstore. Would the bookstore be interested in making a donation such as a gift certificate? They told me to come on over and bring the letter with me. All they wanted was a photocopy of the letter, and they were kind enough to cut a gift certificate for a generous amount. When I turned that letter in to the post office, complete with gift certificate, the postal carriers were amazed. How had I done this? All I did was ask. People are happy to get involved with the magic of Christmas, especially in support of a child who wants to do something good and useful.
When I’m out doing my errands and my Christmas shopping, now and then I’ll come across a child of the right age to still believe in Santa Claus. If I have the opportunity, I’ll ask the child’s mother or father if the child has written his or her letter to Santa Claus. Depending on the answer I get, I will say rumor has it that if the letter is posted through (my local post office), it will get an answer. The parent will usually take the hint, and then give me that slightly dazzled smile. It’s the same kind of look I get when people see a copy of my novel and realize that yes, that really is me in the back of the book photo. I’m one of those people who is part of a magical process most people don’t quite understand.
Please, if you have the time and imagination, consider volunteering at your local post office to answer the letters to Santa Claus. The Post Office will give you a starter kit that includes a form letter you can tinker with within reason. I make it my policy to give the answered letters to the postmasters unsealed. That way my answers can be read and approved and there’s no risk to anybody of something weird getting through. Unfortunately, there have been some volunteers who have written some inappropriate replies, so the Post Office does have to be careful. My policy has insured that I’ve never had a problem or a complaint.
Children grow up too quickly these days. Technology is taking the place of magic and folklore and old-fashioned traditions. Please join me and all the other people who are part of Santa’s Volunteer Elves. We’re doing our best to preserve the magic of childhood. There are kids out there who really need it.