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Monday, December 16, 2002
[ "Is there a Santa Claus?" EMAIL ANSWERED ]

We take pleasure in answering thus prominently the communication below, expressing at the same time our great gratification that its faithful author is numbered among the friends of 'The World According to Pete':

"Mr. Petrisko,

I am 8 years old. Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says, "If you see it on 'The World According to Pete', it's so." Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?

Virginia O'Hanlon"


Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. I'd very much like to tell you that, but I can't. Its just no longer true.

Santa Claus is dead.

He was killed by rampant consumerism and corporate greed.

Now, you might be asking, "Who killed Santa Claus?" and I will tell you. If you want somebody to blame for the jolly elf's demise, I can name his killer. Your parents, Virginia. First and foremost, blame them. However, they did not act alone. Millions of people worldwide, aiding and abetting each other, are at fault.

But in the end, the result is the same. Santa Claus is as dead as Thankgiving's turkey. No more will his cheeks be rosy. Nor will his droll little mouth draw up like a bow ever again. No longer will his little round belly shake like a bowlful of jelly. We just have to be grateful that, unlike that turkey, nobody actually ate the corpse of Santa. Thankfully, forensics turned up no sign of cannibalism at the scene of the crime.

And, sadly, now that the corpse of Santa has been stolen from the morgue, I imagine its only a matter of time before his cold, lifeless body turns up for sale to the highest bidder on eBay.

For far too many, that in itself would embody the modern day spirit of Christmas.

That said, Virginia, you might be comforted to know that the true spirit of Christmas still lives on in a few people. Many are wide-eyed, innocent children such as yourself. Others are grown ups who still have the often lost ability to look at life with childlike wonderment.

Virginia, I want you to know that I will do my best to spread the Christmas spirit. I will do what I began to do last year at this time.

Each year, I take a small percentage of my yearly income and pass that cash out to the less fortunate around Christmas time. Living in the black heart of downtown Phoenix, I don't have to go far. The downtrodded and outright homeless walk the streets around here, as they do in many a large metropolitan city. Last year, I gave out a small handful of twenty dollar bills and, a few days afterwards went back out to see what my gift was used for. I talked to the people I had seen previously, or at least their friends and family if I couldn't find them again.

Here are their stories, which might bring you some comfort and hope, Virginia, during this season.

1. Danny. He was huddled at the mouth of an alley, bent over and shaking. Even though it was a crisp December morn, he was sweating profusely. He asked me, in a soft voice, for spare change. I gave him a twenty. As if transformed, he sprang to his feet, saying, "I have to make a call." While at a nearby pay phone, waiting for a call back, he vomited repeatedly. But he was smiling, for now he had that Christmas cheer. The next day, his body was found in that same alley, the needle still stuck in his arm. Yes, it was a blue christmas, and so was he.

2. Porsche. Standing on a street corner, late at night. Dressed in a short skirt and halter top, she wore way too much makeup and jewelry. When I approached, she asked me if I wanted a date for the holidays. I told her no, and gave her the gift. She spent the rest of that night at a nearby motel, in a warm bed, alone. For the first time in many years, she could spent Christmas sitting by the tree, instead of on her back under it.

3. Marissa. A young woman towing three small kids with her. She looked worried, for she was a single mom who didn't know how she'd explain to her little ones that Santa wouldn't be coming that year. Not only did I give her a twenty, but ten dollars for each child too. On Christmas Day, not only did each kid find a small present waiting, but there was a modest dinner served in their home. Good times. Good times. It almost gives one a warm and fuzzy feeling deep down inside.

4. Kristopher. Definitely the worst off of the lot. Living in the park by the public library, he was a real mess. His ill-fitting clothes were filthy, his large belly stuck out from under the too small tee shirt he wore, and he had no shoes. Dead leaves and the remains of his last meal littered his beard. His breath was heavy with alcohol. Before giving him any money, I asked, "How did you become homeless?" His answer was mostly incoherent, but there was one phrase he repeated over and over.

"It happened when everybody stopped believing in me."

I don't know what became of him, nor what he did with the gift, because I never saw him again. Maybe he moved on, as the homeless sometimes do, and is living on the streets of another city. Maybe even your city, Virginia.

Many years ago, in reponse to another little girl's letter, a wise man wrote, "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, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond."

It could be said the same is true of the Christmas spirit. But like that spirit, these things have been lost in our busy, workaday world. Now, people have faith in the almighty dollar. The poets are dead. Sexual harrassment, and the restraining orders that often follow, have turned love and romance into a noble notion that many aspire to find but cannot because of fear.

And so it goes. We can't push aside the curtain and view the unseen world, because we're too blind to even see the real world before us.

Sorry to be such a downer, Virginia. At least your eyes are still wide open, able to see the wonders before you, and I hope they will remain so. Now, and forever.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!!

ptp333@yahoo.com

(If you'd like to comment on any of the WAP blog posts, faithful reader, please email me at that address. On Christmas Day, we bring you a "very special" holiday message. So check back then!)

posted by Pete 10:38 PM
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