Tag Archives: Post Office

Santa Claus Needs You!


by Lillian Csernica on December 5, 2016

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The letters to Santa Claus have begun to arrive. Right after Thanksgiving, I let the local post offices know that once again I’d be ready, willing, and able to join the network of Volunteer Elves all over the U.S.  We answer the letters children write to Santa Claus. We help keep the magic of childhood bright and sparkling.

If you believed in Santa Claus when you were little, please consider lending a hand this holiday season. There are always more letters than there are volunteers available to answer them. Would you like to know how much joy a letter from Santa Claus can bring? Let me share with you some moments from the more than ten years I’ve been answering these letters.

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One young lady asked for a gift certificate to a local bookstore. I called the bookstore, explained myself as a volunteer with my local post office, then told the clerk about this very specific request. Would the bookstore be interested in make a donation? The manager asked me to come on over and bring the letter with me. The result? The store donated a gift certificate for the full amount.

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Another young lady appealed to Santa Claus to help her convince the kids at school who kept telling her Santa didn’t really exist. Would Santa please send her some sleigh bells so she could prove to her classmates Santa Claus is real? I found two jingle bells, one large, one small, that looked a bit weathered and put them in a padded envelope along with Santa’s reply to the young lady’s letter. A few days later, my mail carrier brought me a note addressed to “The Post Office Santa Claus” from this young lady’s parents. It said, “Thank you so much for keeping our daughter’s dream and belief alive. WE LOVE YOU!”

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One year a letter came from two kindergarten age children, a brother and sister who included their school photos. It was clear to me that an adult had helped write the letter. The kids wanted Santa Claus to know that their family had just received housing assistance, so they were going to be moving. They were worried that Santa wouldn’t know where to find them on Christmas Eve. The children each asked for a single toy. Would Santa please bring their mother something nice, maybe perfume?

Thanks to the help of some enthusiastic postal workers, a very generous toy store, and my long-suffering and very supportive husband, we delivered two large, brightly wrapped gifts to the children’s home while the kids and their mother were out looking at Christmas decorations. Grandma was there baking pies. I discovered she’d been the one to help the kids write their letter. They watched a TV show about the people who volunteer to answer letters written to Santa. The little boy had asked Grandma if she thought Santa Claus really would answer their letter. Grandma suggested they give it a try.

One of the happiest moments of my life will always be the way Grandma burst into tears when we brought in the gifts for her grandchildren. I apologized for not knowing what perfume might be best for their mother, since so many people have allergies. Grandma said that didn’t matter. The best gift we could have brought Mom was how happy the kids would be when Grandma told them Santa’s elves had not just answered their letter but made a special trip to bring them their presents.

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Be a part of the magic. Stop by your local post office. I know more than a few mail carriers who have been the ones to answer the letters they pick up on their routes. The Post Office provides a starter kit, and there are lots of examples and suggestions online.

Happy Holidays!

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Filed under charity, Christmas, classics, creativity, dreams, Family, family tradition, fantasy, home town, legend, Lillian Csernica, love, mother, parenting, Writing

Goodwill Toward Everybody


By Lillian Csernica on December 13, 2014

I was in the Post Office the other day.  Like so many people, I spend a lot of time there during the holiday season.  While I was waiting in line, I witnessed behavior that made me understand how and why the phrase “going postal” has entered common usage.  A lot of it boiled down to Not Reading The Directions.  People had brought in packages they wanted to mail to the four corners of the earth.  Such packages must be sealed.  As in, the lid closes completely and you’ve sealed it with the correct kind of packaging tape.  Each step of this process is rife with potential for error.  Is that the right kind of box?  Is it the right size?  Did you use the correct type of tape?  Is the address correct, legible, and in the right place?  Then there’s the whole adventure of filling out the Customs form, if said package will be leaving the country.

When the postal clerks have to explain why the package cannot be accepted, people get all bent out of shape.  They want to do what they came to do and leave, regardless of the postal regulations that were created for the safety and security of the contents of that precious package, along with the people who come into contact with it.  Why is it people can’t just say, “Whoops!  Thanks for setting me straight.  I’ll go fix this.”  Instead they stand there and argue with the postal clerk.  They either don’t understand the problem, refuse to believe there is a problem, refuse to believe they have to correct the problem they created, or all of the above.  This can go on for several minutes while the rest of us stand there and watch our lives bleed away minute by valuable minute.

My sister told me a story about her adventures in the Post Office.  She was waiting in line.  A woman ahead of her had two of the big brown paper shopping bags with handles filled, and I mean FILLED, with Christmas cards that needed to be stamped.  Did this woman simply buy the required amount of stamps then step aside to a convenient counter and being processing her cards?  Nope.  The woman had opted for a particularly glittery and embossed Christmas card.  She was worried that some cards might be heavier than others.  This is a responsible concern.  She wanted to put the correct amount of postage on each card so they got to the people to whom they were addressed.  Did she step aside and go use one of the scales that are available in the lobbies of most post offices?  She did not.  My sister said she just knew what was coming.  The woman was going to expect the postal clerk to weigh every single one of those cards.  We’re talking dozens, mind you.  My sister said what really made her teeth grind was the way the woman got all miffed over some of the cards needing two stamps instead of just one.  Well gosh.  If you’re going to blow the kind of money on the really glitzy type of Christmas card, the kind that sells for at least twenty dollars and there are only eight cards in the package, then one would think you’d already accepted the minor detail of a hefty postage bill.  Once again, another argument, another refusal to be reasonable and considerate.  Another long line of people whose time was just as valuable and who didn’t appreciate having it wasted on a problem that could and should have been avoided.

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Is it really so hard?  Is it really that much of an effort to think ahead, to take advantage of all the online options available these days, to act in a manner that recognizes the feelings and schedules of the other people around you?  Example: waiting in line to check out.  I had several items in my cart.  A woman got into line behind me.  She had a handful of items, didn’t even need a hand basket.  So I motioned her to go ahead of me.  She was hesitant, asking if I was sure.  That’s polite.  I assured her I was fine for time.  We had a nice chat while we moved along toward the registers.  How much of a difference did that make to my overall day?  Maybe ten minutes.  How much of a difference did it make to my stress levels and to those of the woman ahead of me?  A huge difference.  We were out buying gifts for special people, relaxed and enjoying the moment together.

Now if it sounds like I’m bragging, I’m not.  I am not a patient person and I grumble to myself quite a bit over people that slow me down when it’s no big deal and I’m the one who’s overreacting.  I have learned that every moment is a choice.  I can choose to be miserable and spread that misery, or I can choose to be quiet and not add to someone else’s stress.  Now and then I have an opportunity to do somebody good.

Let’s think about this.  We’ve all had those moments when a total stranger has done something nice for us.  Held a door, let us go ahead in line, said something to lighten a difficult moment.  That moment of compassionate connection dispels the horrible feeling of being overwhelmed and isolated, just each of us against the whole world.  Somebody noticed we were having a rough day.  Somebody offered kind words or a helping hand.  Somebody took a moment out of his or her life to recognize our struggle and do something supportive.  What a powerful gift that can be!  I always shiver when I come across a story about someone who explains how there was One Person who made all the difference.  If not for that One Person, the man or woman who is telling the story would have committed suicide that day.  Quite often that One Person was aware of some problem, but had no idea things were so terrible that suicide was on the horizon.  We never know how what we do will impact the people around us, the people they interact with, the people years down the line that will never even know we existed.

I was raised to treat the elderly with respect and consideration.  Open doors, step aside and let them go through, give up one’s seat on the bus, train, etc.  These days when I do any of those things, the senior citizens react with surprise, even shock.  And then they smile.  They remember the old rules.  They were taught better manners than the general standard people seem to find acceptable these days.  When I acknowledge their status as my elders, and therefore deserving of respectful treatment, I restore to them the dignity of their position in society and I honor the fact that they’ve earned some special treatment from the rest of us.  This is the kind of world I want to live in.  This is how I hope to be treated once my hair goes gray all over and I need a cane or a walker.  If I don’t perpetuate that standard of behavior through my own actions, how can I possibly expect the coming generations to practice it or even know it exists?

So come on, folks.  Join me this holiday season in giving the gift of Goodwill Toward Everybody.  Slow down a little.  Take a breath.  Remember it’s not all about you.  When you meet people who obviously do think it’s all about them, remember Bob Cratchit, who has every right to despise Ebenezer Scrooge yet still wishes him well.  Why?  Because Bob Cratchit knows about the importance of true charity.  He refuses to sink to Scrooge’s level.  Keep in mind that Bob Cratchit is a special needs parent at a time when life is really grim even if you do have money for a doctor.  Bob Cratchit sees Tiny Tim as his role model, enduring his suffering with patience, never saying a bad word, and staying cheerful despite the family’s struggles.  Even if we accomplish nothing else for anyone else, we will have chosen the higher road for ourselves.  We will have made a commitment to compassion, to remaining the people we choose to be.

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How To Be One of Santa’s Elves


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.

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Filed under Depression, Family, fantasy, Goals, Humor, Special needs, Writing