Tuesday, December 21, 2021

There Is Always Hope

Penelope and Santa

Before I start this story, let me just say to all of you that I'm sorry for not writing and posting anything new lately. Frankly, my friends, between my volunteer positions, taking care of my horses, maintaining our property, fulfilling my responsibilities at our local American Legion post, and helping Santa, this time of year is a little hectic. 

For those who didn't know, I've acted as Santa's helper for many years. And as most of you know, we here in tiny rural Glencoe, California, with our population of 189, only have a small Post Office and American Legion post. Our American Legion hall acts as our community center for everything from celebrations of life to baby showers, and much much more. It is a place where everyone is welcome and we really have a great time. That's especially true when Santa comes to visit us.

Santa decided to visit our tiny American Legion post here in the Sierra Nevada Mountain foothills in 2009. He takes a few hours out of his busy schedule to return ever since. And yes, since we are at an elevation of 2,720 feet, give or take a few feet, we do have the chance of snow at Christmas. 

Each year, Santa arrives at the rustic hall to meet well-wishers and enjoy the greetings from neighbors and friends who have also brought their children. The children here are always amazed and joyed that Santa made it back again. This place is a berg that is a little more than a blink on the two-lane state highway. Most see Glencoe as a place they passed on the way to somewhere else. 

Frankly, many here are glad they are not stopping and want them to keep going. Many like how Glencoe has refused to conform to the hustle and bustle of cities. This bastion of rural America in California refuses to be something we are not. This is a place where a handshake still means a lot. It's where your word still means something. It's where who you are as a person is a lot more important than how much money you have in the bank. 

Of course, while the sportscar you would drive in the city may turn heads, up here you may get more of a nod of approval if your truck had a load of hay or your jeep looks as if you decided to play in the mud. And while dressing in expensive name-brand clothes might impress some in places like San Francisco, up here one's more impressed if they find out you filled your tag this deer season. Of course, unlike life in the city, we have our discussions about what makes the best all-around self-defense carry pistol. As for talking about who prefers what deer cartridge? Some will say it's the .308 while others will always believe that the tried and true .30-30 is the way to go. 

As for the local 4H Club for the kids, that's always of interest. When Santa gets to Glencoe, he hears a lot of requests for pigs, goats, horses, a lamb or two, a steer, and of course puppies -- preferably a good cow dog. As for asking the children up here if they "help at home?" The answer is always yes. Of course, if Santa has the time, he may be told exactly what chores are being done and by which sibling.

That was the scene at Glencoe's American Legion post this last Friday. Santa arrived. Yes, to the joy of all and the amazement of the children, he shook hands with neighbors and old friends who still couldn't believe that Santa had made it one more year. 

As he made his way to a chair positioned especially for him to meet the children, he lifted one child and then another, looked at Moms who took pictures with their cell phones, and then finally found his chair. 

Surprisingly, there were a lot of people there. And yes, many were new faces. As for children, Santa was surprised at how many were waiting for him. As for those hesitant to meet Santa, even 2-year old Penelope stepped forward with all smiles once Santa winked and asked, "Who's my pumpkin?" 

Her outstretched arms were a relief to Santa who saw the possibility of hysterics. That's not to say that the night did not have a couple of children who simply didn't want anything to do with Santa, his beard, red suit, or jingle bells. There were those who made their discomfort known loud and clear. Others who were not at all intimidated by Santa came forth happily. 

That was not the situation for a teenager who was coaxed by friends to take a picture with Santa. I watched as her friends encouraged her to come over to where Santa was sitting in front of a Christmas tree. Finally, she sat on my knee. 

Over the years, Santa has found that some children are comfortable talking to Santa while others are not. In the case where the latter is the situation, he tends to go directly to the big question. And yes, I was there when I heard him ask her, "So, what would you like for Christmas?" 

Remember, this is a place where country kids ask for dirtbikes, quads, or maybe a new saddle. It's a place where 4H kids want goats, pigs, horses, a lamb or two, and of course puppies. Instead of any of the above, the teenager said, "I want hope. There's just no hope these days." 

I listened and heard Santa tell the teen, "There's always hope. Always." 

Her reply was to simply look at him and shake her head no. 

For the rest of his visit, Santa met with the children and their parents but couldn't help but wonder why a teenager would feel so despondent about the future. Wanting to know why a young person would feel so bleak about life, he asked to talk to someone who knew her. And yes, it was then that he found out how the teen had recently experienced a tragedy in her family. She suffered a horrible loss that made her feelings of despair so understandable. 

Many there came because they wanted their children to see Santa. Most all were there with family and it made all feel good to see so many fill their hearts with the feeling of Christmas. All there were filled with joy. That is, except for one. That's what Santa was thinking about when he stood up and walked across the room and up to the teenager. He told her that he heard what happened. It was then that she hugged him.  

It was then that Santa told her, "We are all tougher than we know. God made us that way. We endure because that's what we do. What helps us endure and prevail is knowing that we're loved. Yes, just as you are loved by more than just those who are here tonight. And remember this, through hard times and sorrow, love gives us hope. Since we are loved, there's always hope. There is always hope."

She nodded yes, smiled, and said, "Merry Christmas, Santa." 

He nodded and said, "Merry Christmas to you too. You are loved."

As for me, while I watched this unfold, I thought about what I had seen. So now, believing that he is right, I wish for all of you, my readers, "A very Merry Christmas! May God Bless you and yours. May God grant you a Merry Christmas filled with love  ... and hope." 

Tom Correa