Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Soul Survivors

Proving that what is in a name is indeed subject to a rather broad interpretation at times, once again this year I am - along with countless others - taking part in Operation Santa. This particular operation is the brainchild and labor of love of an organization called Democrats for the Soul, Inc., of which the Firm's Senior Partner (and one of my two ultimate work bosses) is the President. Neither the President nor the organization appears to be taken aback by the fact that (a) I am a registered Republican; and (b) I am utterly devoid of a soul. Good thing I have both of my feet for it makes to keep score: Soles 2, Soul 0.

In spite of my political affiliations and innate shortcomings - or perhaps because of at least the latter - again this year I am one of the folks assuming the role of Santa for children in Union County who have been removed from their homes due to abuse, abandonment and/or neglect and a number of whom will spend this Christmas in a foster home or a shelter or in some place other than home. While I am not ever mistaken with the sharpest knife in the cutlery drawer even I am astute enough to recognize that while it is the children who receive the presents, it is us who gives them who really receive something through this program.

This year I was designated to be Santa for a young man named Elmer - age 13. I hope that the presents he receives tickle his fancy as much when he opens them as they did mine when I purchased them. I hope he also takes a moment or two to appreciate the sensational way in which all of his gifts are wrapped, which I had zero to do with again this year. I am married to a woman whose endless array of mad skills includes being able to wrap any parcel - regardless of shape or size - and make it appear to be ready for the window display at Macy's Herald Square. What I do to package-wrapping borders on the criminal. What Margaret does borders on the sensational. As the great American philosopher Josey Wales taught us, "A man's got to know his limitations." I know mine.

I cannot fathom for a moment what these children of Union County, including my man Elmer, experience in the run-up to Christmas this year or any year for that matter. I know that Christmas has been turned into an insanely overproduced and overly commercialized affair. Yet at its core it is about family and it is - or should be from my way of thinking at least - about children. Every year all over this state, this country and the world there are kids who close the book on December without even tasting a sip of what Christmas is supposed to be all about. I know not whether that feeling - that knowledge of having gone without something so basic and apparently so readily accessible for countless others - ever goes away. There is a cliche about wounds and the curative power of time. Me? I remain skeptical. The notion of a magic elixir remains a difficult one for me to swallow.

Taking advantage of an opportunity to play a bit part in Operation Santa is far easier for me to do. Perhaps it is my ever-whitening beard and my lifelong battle with my weight that makes it a role with such tremendous appeal for me. Or perhaps it is something else altogether....

....either/or matters not to Elmer and to the other children who this year are the recipients of the presents collected by Operation Santa. What matters is that for them this year, Santa Claus is coming to town.


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