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“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus”

The most reprinted newspaper editorial in the English language appeared in the September 1897 New York Sun when eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote, “Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus. Papa says ‘If you see it in The Sun it’s so.’”

She asked the editorial staff, “Please tell me the truth, is there a Santa Claus?”

Editorial writer Francis Pharcellus Church responded anonymously for the paper: “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."

Is there a world without COVID?

This classic Christmas story has survived the ages. About now, we are all wondering if there is a world without COVID. Just as we will survive the ages, every year I think we search for the love and generosity that give our lives beauty and joy.

Here’s my Christmas story this year:

Among the early Christmas cards in our mailbox was a letter from the Internal Revenue Service. Typically not the start of a good day. This was not a letter from the IRS thanking me for having paid my taxes, but it was a letter outlining some technical issues about a payment for which I was responsible as well as interest going back to 2017. Most of us cannot even balance our checking account without the services of a sharp accountant, and here I was trying to reconcile some bank statement from four years ago.

I contacted our financial wizards, and they mournfully informed me that, yes, I owed some funds and would be well advised to take care of the matter. This is similar to your dentist advising you that you need a root canal. I chose to resolve the tax issue promptly.

Here we are in the midst of hectic chaotic holiday season and all the turmoil of just life alone, and to properly track my payment to my favorite government entity, I trekked on a bitter cold morning with boots, mask, gloves, hat, and warm coat to the post office.

To my amazement and relief that I wouldn’t have to wait in a long line, I was the only person present in this branch office. I walked up to the counter and was warmly but uneasily greeted by a middle-aged woman. She seemed uncomfortable behind the counter. And in front of her was a small sign that said: “Retail apprentice. Please be patient.” Off to her left somewhat subtly was a younger supervisor. And then the process began.

I explained somewhat facetiously the importance of the letter, requested the paperwork for a registered return receipt transaction. This consisted of three separate forms, each of which had to be filled out by me. I was politely told to go over to a table to fill out the paperwork. When I brought the packet back to the counter, I had forgotten to fill out line 7, section D. The trainee politely pointed out my error but then there were some other oversights on my part. Back to the table I went to mend my evil ways. But then something magical happened.

The supervisor gently guided the trainee through the process, explained the importance of lining up the barcodes, almost lovingly showed her how to scan the documents on scanners that look like part of the space shuttle.

As the older trainee became somewhat flustered and confused, the younger supervisor with an atmosphere of kindness and compassion showed the recruit how the gadgets and the devices all worked. The acolyte recruit repeatedly explained to me that “I am really new to all this stuff.”

After a few minutes, a series of stamps about the size of a poster were embedded onto my documents, they were fitted onto the envelope, and hopefully my tax reparations will arrive in the Kansas City office of the IRS. I asked the recruit if she would visit me in jail if the letter did not make it. We each had a hearty laugh.

Yes, there is . . .

Bottom line: “Yes, Virginia,” it really does not take much to bring a little “Christmas” into someone’s life. Be patient, be attentive, be kind, put yourself in the shoes of someone who struggles. Find joy in kindness, be kind, always.

Happy holidays to all, and cheers for a COVID-free new year.

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