One New Year’s Day, many years ago, Santa Claus told his wife, he wanted to retire.
“No one believes in me anymore,” he explained. He was sitting in a rocker and looking out a window. His mailbox stood empty on the edge of snow-filled meadow; and across from this, smoke rose from the chimney of the workshop where elves stood waiting his list for next Christmas.
Mrs. Claus came up to sit beside him. “But who would do your job, bringing so much joy all over the world?”
“No one,” he answered.
She rested her hand atop his. “Do you remember that first Christmas Eve? We were visiting a little village in Monrovia.”
“It was dark, bleak and cold, yes I remember.”
“And the first gift?”
“We were walking by a small hovel and heard the prayer of a little child named Annabelle - it was for food for her family. I know in my heart that God put us there at that very moment to hear that dear child’s prayer.”
“And we waited outside until everyone was asleep and then you stole inside to put fruit and nuts in their soup bowls; and when you came out you whispered they had no warm blankets or clothes.”
“And, you my dear, rushed to help me supply them before they awoke the next morning.”
“Such wonderful memories. And for the little girl, you did something special.”
‘As toy maker to the king of Monrovia, I knew I was able to do more. I had a doll in my valise. Annabelle named her Holly.”
“It had been promised to the princes, but you gave it to her instead.”
“It was the right thing to do and the king understood when I explained. Besides, Annabelle was sickly and the doll gave her comfort.”
Mrs. Claus rose to make some tea. “I remember the look of wonder on the family faces the next morning when they came into the streets – searching for their generous, mysterious benefactor.”
“The entire village was excited for them. Joy in all the bleakness – all because of a few meager gifts.”
“Benevolent gifts.” Mrs. Claus added, carrying a pot of tea with sugar cookies. “Unexpected; and, in the humble hearts of the villagers, unwarranted; much like God’s gift to the world on that first Christmas morning.”
Santa accepted the proffered tea and cookies. “The king told me later that it was reported to him that the village church had its greatest attendance ever and the priest said he saw something on the villager’s faces he’d not witnessed in a long time…”
“Hope and joy,” Mrs. Clause finished for him, “spreading like the jingle of sleigh bells across the snow.”
“Throughout the entire world” Santa laughed, “and along with it, my work.”
“But that’s why we moved here, to continue what God had put in your heart.” She watched Santa take a bite of cookie and sip of tea before she continued. “I wonder if there are still other villages like the one in Monrovia and other little girls like Annabelle?”
She got up to peer out the window, to view the empty mailbox and chimney smoke from the workshop. “It does seem a shame, all this going to waste when it could do so much good.”
He rose to stand beside her, looking at the empty mailbox. “Disbelief, it seems, has stopped that good - even our mail. It’s never really been about the gifts or me, you know. It was about the hope and joy we brought; if only more people realized… believed that.”
“First, they needed something to believe in – you helped give them that. And, if you retire, you take that with you.” She touched his cheek. “They are human, Santa, don’t give up on them, even if they seem to give up on what you do.”
Continuing to stare outside, he took her hand. “Are there still those who believe?”
Suddenly, there was the sound of jingling bells across the snow as the mailman appeared at the crest of the snow-filled meadow. His horse-drawn sleigh filled with bundle after bundle of letters.
“Sorry for the delay,” he shouted up to them. “Had to call in extra help – never seen so many letters so early. Must be a lot of hopeful folk out there in the world this new year.”
Santa turned to his wife, his face radiant with joy. Retirement permanently delayed by mail - each faithfully addressed with four simple words: Santa Claus – North Pole.
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