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Shine On: The Giver of Gifts

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Johnny had always wanted to help when his Uncle Mike dressed up as Santa and delivered gifts to kids in need before Christmas. His family collected gift lists from a local hospital or homeless shelter, then they’d get their neighbors or school families to donate gifts. And then, Uncle Mike would give the kids their favorite treat: a visit from Santa.

This year Johnny was finally old enough to help. His mom made him a bright green and yellow felt costume complete with silver bells, brass clasps and large red buttons – the perfect outfit for one of Santa’s elves – and he was going to carry the gift bags for Santa.

Their first stop was the orphanage. Johnny smiled from ear to ear as he watched the children’s faces beamed with joy when Santa came through the door. Their toothy grins and giggles as Santa called them by name and handed out special gifts filled Johnny just like he always thought it would.

The children’s hospital and the homeless shelter were no different. Johnny couldn’t understand how his Uncle Mike had learned all the kids’ names, but the small detail made it that much more magical for the kids. Always a hand selected gift for each kid, always a hug from Santa, always a booming, “Merry Christmas” from the jolly old elf. As they left each stop, the volunteers or staff would hand over the children’s letters to Santa.

After hours of laughing, smiling and lugging around heavy sacks of presents, Johnny’s back ached and his cheeks hurt. He sunk into Uncle Mike’s front seat as they drove home and sighed with satisfaction. They had given these children the Christmas of their dreams, and it felt good.

“Hey Johnny, do you have those letters to Santa?” Uncle Mike asked. “Uh yeah, they’re back here.” Johnny reached and grabbed the bags from the back seat. “Why don’t you read a few,” Uncle Mike suggested.

Johnny felt a rush of excitement as he pulled out a handful of folded pieces of paper and cut up construction paper. He opened the first letter, and noted how the little girl wrote the “S” in Santa backwards and asked for a pony.

“Go on,” Uncle Mike told him. Johnny opened letter after letter, reading them to Uncle Mike. Some asked for video games or dolls or board games. Some asked if Santa was real and how he got around the whole earth in one night. And then one letter made Johnny stop reading aloud.

Dear Santa, it started. For Christmas this year, all I want is a mommy and a daddy. Love, Tierstyn.

Johnny slowly read the letter and looked up at his Uncle Mike. Uncle Mike stared straight ahead at the road and simply said, “We can’t answer every Christmas wish.”

Johnny kept reading. A few letters later he came across this one: Dear Santa, I don’t want any presents this year, I just want to be able to go outside again and not be so sick. If you can’t make that happen, could you at least make sure no one else gets sick like me? Love, Landon.

Hot wet tears fell off Johnny’s nose. “I thought tonight was going to be about spreading joy,” he whispered to Uncle Mike. “I couldn’t wait to see all the smiling faces when we delivered the gifts.”

“I know,” Uncle Mike told Johnny. “Sometimes playing Santa is about the gifts you can give, and sometimes it’s about being reminded there is only one true giver of gifts. And the only reason we are able to give anything at all is because we’ve already received so much.”

“Without cost you have received. Without cost you are to give.” Matt. 10:8. May this Advent shine a light on all the good gifts God has given to you and all those you love.

Dominick Albano is the director of digital engagement for The Catholic Telegraph, as well as an author and national speaker. He and his wife have been married for 13 years and have four sons.

This article appeared in the December 2020 edition of The Catholic Telegraph Magazine. For your complimentary Subscription, click here.

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