“Yes, Virginia There is a Santa Claus”
We continue our discussions of Children’s stories and their lessons for us that we left off several months ago, and return with some Christmas Classics. This week we will look at, “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus”.
Starting right off, our lesson begins with the reminder that we can and often DO learn life lessons from things that happened in the past. Our challenge, our ‘growth opportunity’, is to learn the lesson, and then move on in the journey.
This story happened in 1897, and is now a worldwide happening, the most re-printed editorial.
This is how the story goes:
In 1897, an eight-year-old girl named Virginia O’Hanlon from New York City
sent a letter to the New York Sun, a major newspaper at the time and to this day. Following her father’s suggestion that anything printed in the NY Sun was true, she asked:
“I am eight years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. … Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?”
Virginia is asking the age-old query every child asks every parent at one time or another, does Santa Claus exist? Is he real? We all have wondered that same thing.
Virginia’s letter worked its way to Francis Church’s editorial desk and it was he who was tasked with the heavy responsibility of responding to the eight-year-old.
In perhaps the most famous newspaper editorial ever written, Church, a former Civil War correspondent who had seen more than his share of life’s harsh reality on America’s battlefields, gave an impressive response, not quite what would be expected from a writer whose other writings typically espoused hardened cynicism, skepticism toward religion and superstition, and a generally curmudgeonly approach. A regular Scrooge!
Here is his answer:
Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except what they could see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.
Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.
Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.
Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove?
Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and un-seeable in the world.
You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart.
Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, Virginia, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.
No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
What do you think?
He sounds like a Unitic!
In the 120 years since this editorial first appeared, our skepticism has only grown. Our national and global outlook can sometimes seem glum.
But the optimism Mr. Church proclaimed in 1897 is still true today. Santa Claus exists. He is real.
That is what HOPE and FAITH are about.
Myrtle Fillmore said it well…”Instead of thinking of the people whom you have believed to be evil and an undesirable influence, think of the goodness of God in the life of all His children. Think of God as everywhere-present light, love, peace, power, and life. Think of all men, all women, all children as abiding in God’s presence and expressing God’s qualities.”
Faith is the complete reliance on the power and goodness of Spirit and the firm belief that you are always connected to this goodness. Always affirm your faith and not your doubt. When you affirm that things might not work out, that your troubles continue to mount, that your problems are insoluble, that God has not been listening, or that you are powerless in the face of so many struggles, you are affirming doubt rather than faith. The ability to know faith and affirm it allows it to manifest in your life.
In John 14:27, Jesus said, “My peace I give to you.” This is an affirmation of faith. He certainly wasn’t suggesting that peace is very difficult to have and you must struggle for it. Jesus brought peace to everyone by affirming it. Likewise, in his healing work, he didn’t imply that we haven’t been having a great deal of success lately with leprosy, but if you listen to me you have a thirty percent chance of surviving over the next five years. Instead, he declared, “You are well,” affirming faith at the highest spiritual level, and healing took place.
We all know that the “seen” is not all there is to our existence.
Gravity is not seen, smelled, touched or heard and yet is keeps us firmly planted on the ground. Life’s meaning is not only captured in what is seen or what is tangible but, as Church noted, in the unseen world of values like generosity, love, courage and wisdom.
Though their existence is ignored at times, values are just as real. They give our lives its meaning. They make our common experience understandable and without them all we would have nothing but an undifferentiated mass of meaningless facts.
About 2,500 years ago, Plato, was probably the first to present the idea that the “seen world” of our common experience is only mere appearance. It is not real.
For Plato to understand reality, concepts like beauty, truth or generosity, which give meaning to the facts of our existence, can only be accessed through the reasoning of our mind. Our senses give us meaningless facts of the seen world and may even deceive us, such as when we are driving and see a mirage as a puddle of water or when we put a straight stick into a lake and now see it bent.
Reasoning and intellect are the true sources of wisdom and knowledge. We discussed wisdom & knowledge last week. I would add that true reasoning & intellect comes through the heart.
In our “real” world, Santa Claus, like most great true stories, is rooted in history.
It is generally recognized that Santa Claus originates with the person of St. Nicholas the IV, Bishop of Myra in Asia Minor, now Turkey.
St. Nicholas, whose feast day is Dec.6, was known for his gifts to children and generosity to the poor and his sense of justice for all.
Though poets like Clement Clark Moore (the author of “It was the night before Christmas …”) have added to our notions of Santa Claus through the years, the best of his spirit that is embodied in our Santa Claus and exists in us.
If you don’t believe that look at Virginia.
She passed away in 1971 at the age of 82 and credited Church’s response to her with having greatly influenced her life.
Virginia went on to earn bachelor, masters and doctorate degrees and became an educator in New York City, serving first as a teacher and then a principal.
Moreover, the story of Virginia’s letter and the Church’s editorial response continue to inspire acts of generosity.
Macy’s and the Make-A-Wish foundation launched the “Believe” campaign and New York recently honored Virginia’s legacy with an educational scholarship in her name.
Our world can be an impoverished one where Santa is a pale shallow symbol used to get us to consume and buy more, existing only in department stores as a prop to get you to shop.
Or Santa Clause can be embodied in a story that opens us to new visions of truth and generosity. Santa Claus may need us to exist, but our reality also depends on his existence and how we choose to honor him.
So, yes Virginia, yes to all of us, there is and better be a Santa Claus.
He is as full of truth as the fellowship of our family and friends gathered around the Christmas tree; Fellowship here at Unity.
Santa is an example of faith and hope. Isn’t it faith and hope we see in the children as they look at toys and wait to see Santa.
I remember as a child looking through Sear’s and Penney’s Christmas catalogs, with eyes wide with wonder and a heart of hope…..
That hope is in our hearts every day, even when we doubt it. It’s just a matter of remembering what we are doing on this journey together….helping each other bring to life that seed of the kingdom of heaven to fruition.
We are moving forward in spiritual consciousness, leaving behind the certainties of the past and stepping outside our collective comfort zone so we can continue the process of bringing it into existence.
Jesus himself warned us that the process would seem chaotic and scary—that the brighter the spiritual Light we express through our Oneness with the Divine, the darker the shadows of fear and resistance would seem.
We must stay centered in our absolute faith that it’s all a part of the divine plan, it’s all Good, and the result will be more than worth the process.
We are not sitting off here doing something by ourselves and occasionally asking God, outside of us, to help … Our part is to consecrate our senses to the Truth and train our thought children to express joy, love, faith, wisdom, life, and health.” (Myrtle Fillmore)