One year led to two and another after that, until it became a regular beat. The ball had bounced my way and I was dribbling with it.
The Santa’s cap eventually led to a full-fledged suit as I appeared at Christmas festivals and parades, soliciting money from donors. I’d make my regular trips to schools, encourage charity and wade through businesses like a prospector mining for gold.
Then one day, I got another urge. How did I know the letters were real? Anybody could sit down and write a letter to the Gazette Santa. How did I know they weren’t preying on the system? Was there any veracity to these messages?
“Go see for yourself,” a colleague suggested. “Visit the homes of these destitute and observe their poverty. Interview the needy folks of our community.”
How did I know they would let me past the door unless I tried? So I began my quest. The whole nature of my terms of endearment began to change. The letters suddenly bore credence.
I’ll never forget my first visit. A woman answered the door. She had been expecting me and was at wit’s end with her life. Two children were playing on the floor where they slept on mattresses. Except for a table and a couple chairs in the kitchen, furnishings were at a premium.
Inside her refrigerator were a few eggs, a carton of milk and some spoiled fruit. Jars of peanut butter and jelly were on the counter, along with cereal boxes. The bare necessaries were growing extinct.
“My husband left me,” she said, wiping away a tear. “All I want is a little food and maybe a gift or two for my children. I don’t have a tree. My welfare check goes for rent and provisions. We don’t have enough for extras.”