The kids of Infinite Family have lots of exposure to western culture. They LOVE Beyonce and Alicia Keyes. They are gaga over Zac Efron and Miley Cyrus. They can belt out their tunes and mimic their dances moves.
One young girl via email, insisted I introduce her to Halle Berry so that Halle could help her with her dream of becoming an actress. When I explained that wasn't possible because someone like me would never know someone like the academy award winning Ms. Berry...she couldn't accept that. In email after email, she expressed her surprise and disappointment that I would hold out on her like this.
In light of this misapprehension of American culture, I use some of my time during computer training to encourage questions from the Infinite Family kids about anything "American".
No longer focused on their computer screens, the children turn to me as the fount of all wisdom. The questions come at lightening speed:
"Why are your taxis in America all yellow?"
"Why do Americans ask so many questions?"
"How can one person live in an apartment all by themselves?"
And "Is Santa Claus real?"
As the last question was asked, the room, formerly awash with raised hands and eager faces, became solemn and quiet.
This was a serious question. The children wanted a definitive answer.
But what they really were asking was:
If Santa was real & visited the children of the US, then why didn't the jolly old elf come to visit them? Did they not merit a Christmas miracle? Weren't their Christmas wishes important to Saint Nicholas?
Did Santa not visit them because they were bad or undeserving?
Up until that moment, I never imagined that the Santa story could be so hurtful.
The myth and magic that grown-ups weave is never meant to hurt. But sometimes, it does.
Just a few years ago, when my daughter finally decided to stop believing in the magic of Santa, I explained to her that she was now responsible to embody the magic. By embodying the magic through giving exceptionally and selflessly, you become Santa.
I know we all try to do this for those we love. We try to give exceptionally. We try to give without a thought for ourselves. We all try to extend and embody the myth to those outside of our homes, outside of our communities...to extend the myth of magic to those who have so little magic in their lives.
Facing the somber-faced children in the tin-roofed, concrete block computer lab, I still needed to give them an answer.
So I told them, if Santa was real, he would NEVER FORGET them. You, beautiful and beloved, would never be forgotten by a benevolent and bountiful Santa Claus.
How are we embodying the magic, extending the bounty, this season? One option is to extend yourself to the children of Infinite Family. Weekly video conversations with a child longing for adult attention and the opportunity to make their own dreams come true, gives you the opportunity to embody the magic like nothing else.
Thank you for being Santa this season...to those in your home, in your community and those in tin-roofed shacks in Africa!