Through Santa’s Eyes
Earlier this week, Santa Stanley made an appearance to help fundraise for Camp Kesem at the holiday photobooth :)
I should actually say re-appearance. Being Santa this week reminded me of four years ago, when I dressed up to hand out presents to kids my senior year of high school. It was an unbelievable experience and here was my attempt at putting it into words for a newsletter:
Generosity is something many of us take for granted, especially in the winter season when the holidays roll around. Many of us enjoy the socializing over giant family feasts and gift giving that bring us happiness during this time. But we often forget about the less fortunate, those who aren’t able to share our jubilation in getting exactly what we asked for from Santa. This past winter, I learned the true meaning of Christmas spirit. As the President of the San Mateo Police Activities League (PAL) Youth Director’s Council, I helped start the first annual holiday toy drive to collect toys for local kids who otherwise wouldn’t receive a Christmas gift. In early December, we organized the toy drive with a goal of 250 gifts for deserving kids who are less fortunate. Our council was composed of only ten high school students and we were hesitant at first, mostly because we had never attempted a project so big, but also because we were afraid that our enthusiasm would be met with apathy. We were going to spend long hours in front of toy stores asking for donations, so we had to trust that shoppers would respond graciously to our initiative and spirit.
I was pretty nervous at first going up to strangers and asking for a contribution of any size. Being rejected over and over again by people who simply ignored my presence eventually became kind of expected. But these many moments of shame were easily wiped away when someone came over and dropped of a toy they had picked up in the store. Just seeing the toys pile up one by one in our little collection bin gave me and my team the boost to continue braving the cold, wind, and rain.
Much to our surprise, we collected over 300 gifts including four bikes, and $900 overall in just two weeks. Our drive was so successful that we were able to select multiple gifts for 85 kids and also give half of our gifts to officers to hand out on Christmas Day and to local charitable organizations. I was stunned by our success, not because of the great amount of time and commitment we put into it, but because of the local generosity we received. In our increasingly competitive society, I was starting to lose sight of generosity. It seemed like Christmas spirit, or so they say, was fading away behind the commotion of shopping season. But in participating in a drive like this, giving instead of receiving, I saw the spirit of generosity alive and strong.
Although the collections and gift-wrapping were great, the best part was dressing up as Santa and handing out gifts to the kids. I put on the fat suit, beard, wig, hat and all, and found my inner Santa as I “Ho! Ho! Ho!”-ed my way through one of the most memorable nights of my life. Upon seeing the happy children who could only smile and give the big white-bearded man a hug, my countless hours handing out flyers and toil in organizing the whole thing instantly melted in their warmth One mother even cried when she came down to the police station to pick up a bike we chose for her son. She couldn’t believe that there was such generosity and care in the world. I didn’t really believe there was either, until I saw the world through Santa’s eyes.