Monday, December 11, 2006

Think of the Children

Although the title of the post is often said in jest, I want you to seriously consider children at this time of year. I was moved by this article about Santa in the Globe and Mail. The next time you find yourself being overwhelmed with the hussle and bussle of the holidays, take a moment to consider how blessed you really are.

WINNIPEG — You'd expect Santa's workshop to be one of the happiest places on earth.

But among the thousands of letters asking Santa for favourite toys, some of the missives tucked away on the third floor of the Canada Post office in Winnipeg can break your heart.

Head elf Clare Mills, a letter carrier during the rest of the year, helps answer the 60,000 letters that are received each year.

He says many come with personal information, pictures carefully cut out of magazines, requests for baby sisters or wobbly drawings of reindeer.

“Dear Santa,” starts one letter Mr. Mills recently opened.

“Hi! I'm nine years old. I have two brothers. And my mom. My dad is far away. He's in heaven, he has been there since March last year . . . I have been taking care of my mom and I have been a good boy.

“We are going to leave you some goodies! How are your reindeer? How are you? Thanks, Santa.

“P.S. If I leave out a present for my daddy, will you take it to him in your sleigh? If you can't, that's O.K. I love you, Santa, and your reindeer!”

Another child wrote: “I want a family again. I want the family to be together, like with my dad and a new house.”

While Mr. Mills says there are two standard letters used to answer most children's requests, some he handles personally.

Like the letter written in a shaky handwriting that pleaded: “I would like a new friend.”

Mr. Mills says if the topic of the letter is too daunting, he can call on help from Canada Post's Employee Assistance Program. If the situation appears dire, an agency might be contacted to do an intervention.

There are even standardized letters for children reporting sexual or physical abuse, those who are severely ill, those who say they want to end their lives, and even for grandparents who are concerned because their grandchildren are divided between warring parents.

“At least they've got it out,” says Mr. Mills of the difficult letters. “Santa can't promise to fix anything but he can offer love and encouragement. Sometimes that's all a little heart needs.”

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