We All have a Santa Inside: Let Him Out!
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus - and it is each one of us. Not just in December, but all year through, we should look to keep the spirit of “Santa Claus” alive in our communities. It doesn’t have to take a lot of money or time. Whenever we lift even just one person, we start a positive ripple effect. We all have something to give.
“I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet”, said Helen Keller. This very quote was the inspiration for an annual Smile Bus trip to NYC to see the Christmas Spectacular show at Radio City. We look for people in our community who have had a difficult year due to illness, bereavement, trauma, economic hardship, family dynamics, or other challenge and take 50 people to see the show in New York City (about a 2 ½ hour ride each way). Aboard the bus we sing carols, play games, have food and beverages, and disburse surprises and treats. We make memories for families stressed to the breaking point, providing a day of joy where they can park their troubles at the curb and have a day of laughter, pampering, respite. Where kids can just be kids, instead of cancer patients, or where families who cannot afford a Christmas can have a celebration to remember.
This year, our 10th Smile Bus will make the journey, our 500th rider will enjoy. The great, vast majority of these people will never be clients, and that’s perfectly fine. The best way to give is to expect nothing in return - to do for those who cannot reciprocate. What you receive in return is far beyond measure - the knowledge that you had a hand in making a memory for people, bringing light and laughter to their lives. For my children, it was an awakening to how blessed they are, that they don’t have to worry about their next meal, having a roof over their heads, or clothes on their backs. For me, I understand that I should be grateful for my own “problems”. It truly is my favorite day of the year.
Driving downtown last year, I saw a section of the city that had been “yarn bombed”. What does that mean? It means that people who crochet and knit had hung gloves, hats, and scarves they made around town for anyone to take, for free, on the cold and blustery day. They brought warmth, expecting nothing in return but the warming of their hearts knowing someone out there was warm that day because of this act. My heart was warmed seeing a homeless man bundled up with these lovely creations as he made his way down the street. What a great idea!
In our area, someone has recently created a Facebook page for people to post items they no longer need but are in good condition such as clothes, baby items, school supplies, household goods, furniture, appliances, etc. and people in need can obtain them at no cost. This is a wonderful way to pay it forward, bringing people together. The person who set up the page did not have to pay anything, but served as a catalyst toward making this connection happen.
Each night, groups go down to our local Ronald McDonald House to cook a hot meal as a measure of comfort to people whose children are receiving critical care at our major hospital and trauma center. It’s not just about the food, but also about listening to people as they tell their stories, talking to the kids, sharing a smile, and letting people in crisis have one less thing to worry about. It’s a great feeling to see someone’s face light up because their favorite food has been made, or they are excited about the dessert you’ve prepared. It’s a very special experience to do this simple act of service.
We rise by lifting others. Whatever act of kindness, large or small, we all can do something. Some things require money, some require talent (such as the knitting), and others require nothing but time. As we come into the fall season where we will begin to focus on harvests, gratitude, and the like, seek to bring the spirit of Santa Claus to someone. Give for the sake of giving. We all have a ‘Santa” inside us - let him out!
The opinions expressed are solely those of the author. Seek advice from a qualified financial professional before taking any action in regard to your finances.
Todd A. Slingerland, CFP®
6 Tower Place Albany, NY 12203
(518) 867-4000 x105 [email protected]