LESLIE CRISS: One is never too old to truly believe in spirit of Santa Claus



“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exists, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.” – Editorial in the New York Sun, 1897, by Charles Dana, responding to a letter from 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon

Today the Thanksgiving leftovers should be just about history. And the thoughts of children – and others – turn toward the incredible journey of a man called Santa, who leaves a wake of joy and smiling faces.

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. I believe.

I believe because of my Uncle Charlie. Charles F. Vincent died in 2009, but he will forever be the person I remember who best exemplified the spirit of giving.

He lived in the small, rural community of Holcomb in Grenada County. With his year-round beard he put lots of folks in mind of Kenny Rogers. But for lots of years as December neared, he became Santa. He was Santa for churches, businesses, clubs and civic organizations.

Every penny offered for his Santa services went to the Shriners to be used in their Crippled Children’s Hospitals.

No one asked him to do it. He just did.

I believe because of a story I read a few years ago about a small airline whose employees for several seasons offered Christmas to large groups of terminally ill children.

These kids showed up at an airport near their home or hospital and got aboard a jet. Their destination? The North Pole.

But not really.

After flying the friendly skies for a while, the jet landed at the same airport from which it had taken off. But those children believed with their whole hearts they were sure-enough-by-golly at the North Pole.

And they weren’t disappointed.

They were taken to an area of the airport that had been transformed, magically so, into a virtual Christmas wonderland. Complete with Santa and elves bearing gifts.

The airline didn’t have to give of its time and fuel and funds. But it did.

I believe because of a man in Wilson, N.C., whose terminally ill wife wanted only to see a white Christmas.

Kevin Pearson found a company that could help make that happen.

He took his dying wife for a ride one day and when they returned home, four tons of ice had turned their property into a winter wonderland. Laurie Pearson watched with great joy as neighborhood children frolicked in her snow.

I believe because when we were little girls, my sister and I always left a plate of cookies and a glass of cold milk for Santa on Christmas Eve. And every Christmas morning, the cookies were gone, the glass empty.

One special Christmas, the North Pole resident left my sister and me a special treasure.

Scrawled in his own handwriting, around the cookie crumbs on the paper plate, the big man wrote: Dear Leslie and Beth, Thanks for the cookies. They were good. Rudolph enjoyed them, too. Love, Santa.

Oh, yes. I believe.



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