in its existence, Chillicothe based Horizon PCS sent one of
Bill McKell's stories as a Christmas card every year to each
of its Sprint PCS customers. As the customer base grew
and the cost of printing and mailing books to each subscriber
became financially difficult, the company decided to distribute
the final story in their series on the web. Since it
is a popular one with parents who struggle to balance the
magic of Santa with a desire to be honest with their children,
we have decided to keep it online for awhile. Please
remember that this story is copyrighted material. Website
visitors are hereby granted permission to print only one copy
by using the Flashpaper print button below. Printed
copies of this story in book form, including the cover illustration,
can be ordered online by clicking the "Books" link
best viewing, use your browser scroll bar--the one at the
right edge of your screen--to slide the page so the Flashpaper
toolbar below is at the top of the window and then use the
icons on the Flashpaper bar to find the best settings for
your computer. The icon with 4 arrows pointing inward
will allow one full page to fit in the window. Use the
arrow buttons to page forward or backward or use the Flashpaper
scroll bar--the one closest to the story--and not your browser
scroll bar, to scroll through the story. If your browswer
does not support Flashpaper, I have included the story in
text (without formatting) below. I hope you have a good
time Searching for Santa Claus.
wish to dedicate this story to Jonathon and Karen Stout,
Letter to the Editor affirmed a community,
foster parenting and inspired this story.
2002 by Bill McKell
rights reserved. Printed in the United
States of America .
No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval
system, or transmitted by any method without the prior permission
of the author.
st Printing December 2002 600 Copies
2002 by David Rogers
copies of Searching for Santa Claus and other stories
in print and on CD can be ordered from Praises Bookstore at 740-772-4737
or online at www.billmckell.com.
for Santa Claus
my nine-year-old daughter, Alice, asked as she walked into my study
and closed the door.
I responded, looking up from my computer.
I ask you a question?”
was right in the middle of a project, but I could tell by the look
on her face that there was something serious on her mind.
I replied. I saved my work and walked around to sit in one of the
overstuffed armchairs positioned between my desk and the door. Alice
closed the door and
sat down in the other. “What's your question?”
hesitated a moment before speaking.
there a Santa Claus?”
question didn't catch me completely off guard. I had been expecting
it. In fact, the topic had come up last year as we walked our lane
after school. Some of the sixth grade girls had been making fun
of the little girls on the bus. Alice
, upset by the teasing,
just blurted it out in front of her younger sisters. Fortunately,
her question practically answered itself: “Santa is real, isn't
this time was different. This wasn't a quick question on the way
home from school—it was almost bedtime. And she had closed the door
behind her as if she knew the answer was something the other girls
weren't supposed to hear.
brought this up?” I asked.
was just wondering.”
you hear someone talking at school?”
do you mean, ‘sort of'?”
today. But I do hear it at school all the time. None of my friends
believe in Santa Claus. They all say he's make-believe. They say
that your mom and dad are the ones who leave the presents on Christmas
do you think?” I asked.
was the key question. When I asked this question last year, she
answered with a convincing “yes” and the conversation was over.
But I sensed that it was going to be different this time.
don't know.” I waited for a moment to see if she'd go on. She did.
“How could he get everywhere in the world in just one night?” I
waited again, but this time she didn't continue.
I asked hopefully.
she said with a condescending tone and an exasperated look. “Magic
is just in books.” But then her tone turned hopeful. “Isn't it?”
a lot of things happen in this world that are pretty hard to explain.
Some might call them magic. I prefer to call them miracles.”
Santa's real?” she asked. “I want him to be real. But every time
I say he is, my friends make fun of me. That's why I wanted to ask
you. I know you'll tell me the truth.”
As she looked up at me with those innocent eyes, I recalled a conversation
I once had with a friend of mine who serves as the youth director
at a local church. He's not a big fan of Santa Claus. He sees promotion
of the “Santa myth” as lying to children. He believes our children,
once they realize Santa isn't real, will doubt the truth we share
about God. They will see God as just another myth parents use to
coax good behavior.
I've tried not to “lie” to my kids about Santa. When they talk about
sleighs and reindeer and sliding down chimneys, I support it as
a story but not necessarily as reality. I say things like “legend
has it…” or “that's how they say he gets from place to place.”
a storyteller I'm often asked, “Is that story true?” The answer
is, “Yes.” My non-fiction stories are true because they are factual.
They describe life as it really is. But my fiction stories are also
true—in the same way a faithful friend is true. They are reliable
and trustworthy. Just as a true friend brings out the best in a
person, these stories portray life as it ought to be. They take
something that could be and make it real.
spend a lot of time with stories in our house. As I've watched my
children grow, I've come to realize that the ability to differentiate
between stories and reality evolves over time. When Alice
was little, all stories
were real—the Hundred Acre Wood was a real place. Over time, however,
she came to realize that stuffed animals don't walk and talk. But
that doesn't keep her from playing with them and giving them human
characteristics. In the end, she makes Winnie the Pooh real.
is real, Alice ,”
I answered her, “but he may not be what you've always imagined him
you willing to stay up late on Christmas Eve?” I asked.
she said, excitedly.
you'll stay up late with me on Christmas Eve, I'll let you see for
there are three things I need you to do between now and then.”
you can't tell the other girls anything about this. On Christmas
Eve, I want you to get ready for bed along with everyone else and
I'll get you back up once your sisters have fallen asleep.”
second, no more Santa Claus questions until the girls have gone
to sleep on Christmas Eve.”
can do that. What else?”
third thing is a writing assignment.”
I'd like you to pick out one kid at school who you think may not
have a very good Christmas and tell me why.”
does that have to do with Santa Claus?”
hold on,” I said with a smile. “You're not allowed to ask any Santa
Claus questions until Christmas Eve.”
do the assignment. It may not have anything to do with Santa Claus.
It may just be to keep you from bugging me.”
it may have lots to do with Santa Claus. You'll just have to wait
and see. But you have to keep this just between the two of us. Don't
tell your teacher about it and definitely don't mention it to the
kid you choose. Take a look around your class and bring it to me
as soon as you get it done.”
loves to write so I expected to receive her paper the very next
day. I was surprised and perhaps a little bit disappointed when
several days passed and she hadn't even mentioned it. But it hadn't
slipped her mind. In fact, she had taken her time because she wanted
to pick just the right person.
usually wares the same clothes all the time. I don't think her family
will have a good Christmas this year. I do think that they're poor.
She get's in troble at school sometimes. She isn't that good at
reading yet. She dosen't look like her family has much money. That's
why I think she will not have a good Christmas.
the bottom of the page Alice
drew a picture of
Jacinda's family around a Christmas tree with only a few presents.
was impressed with Alice
's choice. My wife,
Maggie, and I first learned about Jacinda when we went to school
for our parent-teacher conference. Mrs. Jacobs mentioned that Alice
had taken Jacinda
under her wing—something kind-hearted Alice
does every year. Jacinda
is a foster child. Her foster family had moved into a tiny house
near the school just a few weeks before and they were struggling.
They had been living on unemployment and the stipend they received
for fostering Jacinda and her little brother. In fact, they took
a job here because they were about to lose the children and they
couldn't bear to see that happen.
volunteers in Alice
's classroom and she
had noticed Jacinda as well. Jacinda's clothes were always clean,
but they were well-worn and a bit too small. Maggie told Mrs. Jacobs
to be sure to let her know if there was any way we could help. Jacinda
was quite a bit smaller than Alice
and could easily fit
into some clothes Alice
had outgrown during
one of her growth spurts.
the weeks passed, Alice
invited Jacinda to
her Christmas party, Maggie encouraged Jacinda's family to join
us at church, and I prepared to introduce Alice
had an enjoyable Christmas Eve. We shared an early supper and then
baked homemade cinnamon rolls—a family tradition—before heading
off to church. There's nothing like a late Christmas Eve service
to put everyone in a subdued mood before bedtime. When we arrived
home, the girls insisted on leaving out some cinnamon rolls and
a glass of milk for Santa and, of course, a handful of carrots for
the reindeer. Once that important task was complete, we sat down
together and read the Christmas Story. We took the opportunity to
carefully explain that the celebration and the presents are intended
to be reminders of the joy we experience because of the wonderful
gift God gave us that first Christmas.
we were done, Alice
slipped into bed with
her clothes on while her sisters were finishing up in the bathroom.
It was quite late, so it didn't take long for everyone, including
to fall asleep. But she woke up right away when I went to get her.
anticipated that we were going to hide in the family room and try
to catch Santa as he came down the chimney. She was understandably
surprised when I asked her to put on her boots and coat.
are we going?” she asked.
find Santa, of course.”
eyes widened but she asked no more questions as we walked out and
climbed into the car.
refusing to tell her exactly where we were going, I offered to tell
her a story to keep her from falling asleep. I was glad she accepted.
very long time ago—just a few hundred years after Jesus died—there
lived a very kind priest named Nicholas. Father Nicholas was very
well known for his love for children, for his compassion and for
doing good deeds.
when Father Nicholas lived, girls, when they were about to get married,
gave their husbands a gift of money called a dowry, which was used
to help start their new family. Of course, not all families could
afford a dowry. While Father Nicholas was serving the members of
his church, he heard about three young sisters who all had suitors—serious
boyfriends were called suitors in those days—but had no dowries
because their family was poor and did not have enough money. So
the sisters were unable to marry.
Nicholas came from a wealthy family, so he knew he could help them.
But, because he was a man of God, he wanted to help them anonymously.”
does that mean?” Alice
means he didn't want anyone to know that he was the one doing it.
I continued, “when the first daughter was ready to get married,
Father Nicholas tossed a bag of gold coins into the house while
everyone was asleep. And a few months later, when the second daughter
was getting ready to marry, Father Nicholas tossed another bag of
gold coins into the house.
it came time for the third daughter to get married, her father was
determined to find out which of his neighbors had been so generous.
But Nicholas knew the man was watching, so he climbed up on the
roof and dropped the third bag of coins down the chimney. It just
so happened, however, that the girl's stockings had been hanging
next to the fireplace to dry and the bag of coins fell right into
one of them, knocking it to the floor. When the father saw what
had happened, he ran outside and caught Father Nicholas before he
could climb off the roof. The priest begged the man to keep his
secret but, of course, the news got out. From then on, whenever
something good happened to someone and no one knew who did it ,
they thanked Nicholas.”
sounds sort of like Santa Claus,” Alice
it was Santa Claus,” I explained. “Father Nicholas became Bishop
Nicholas. And after he died, the
church eventually declared him a saint and his name became Saint
what some people call Santa Claus!”
Saint Nicholas became a legend. He got the credit every time someone
did something good anonymously. Even after he died, whenever
anyone received an unexpected gift,
they'd say, ‘It must have been Saint Nicholas.'
the centuries passed, it became a tradition to give gifts at Christmastime
to celebrate the gift God gave us when He sent His son. Many people,
following the teachings of Jesus, began to give gifts anonymously,
so the person receiving the gift wouldn't know who gave it. And,
of course, Saint Nicholas continued to get the credit.
the gift-giving tradition spread around the world, Saint Nicholas's
name was translated into many different languages. In Dutch, his
name was Sinterklaas.
Dutch were the people
who first settled in New
York and they brought
the tradition of Sinterklaas with them. But as English became the
dominant language in New
York , Sinterklaas
became Santa Claus.”
sat in silence as the car wound its way around the hills just outside
of town. I looked back at her in the mirror, fearing that she had
fallen asleep. But she was wide-awake, staring out the window.
are you thinking about?” I asked.
voice was a bit tearful as she replied. “You called Saint Nicholas
a legend. Do you mean he's just a story?”
a story,” I said as we pulled up in front of a small house near
the school. “But he's a real story.”
do you mean?”
show you,” I said, as I climbed out of the car and opened her door.
“But you have to be quiet.”
walked around to the back of the car and opened the trunk. Alice
's eyes widened when
she saw that the trunk was filled with presents.
did those come from?”
guess some little elf must have left them there,” I suggested.
she said in an aggravated tone. But I could see the hope rise in
came from you.”
she said with complete surprise.
when we were doing Project Angel Tree with the high school
kids from church, and you asked if you could help?”
I took the allowance money you gave me and I bought these presents.”
I only gave you twenty dollars.”
Santa sprinkled some magic dust and multiplied it.”
maybe I added a little bit to it.”
are you going to do with the presents?” she asked.
not going to do anything with them. You are.”
that little house over there? I want you to quietly take these presents
and leave them on the front porch. Be sure to put them on the side
with the bushes so no one can see them from the street.”
did exactly as she was directed. It took her four trips to get all
of the packages on the front porch. And it was so cute watching
her tiptoe up the steps.
closed the trunk and climbed in the car so we were able to pull
away as soon as she returned from her last trip.
how do you feel?” I asked her.
do you think the kids in that house will feel when they find those
presents in the morning?”
who will they think left those presents?”
thought about it for a moment.
won't know. It'll be someone anonymous,” she said, proudly testing
her new vocabulary.
who gets the credit when someone anonymous gives a gift at Christmas?”
right. The real Saint Nicholas died centuries ago. But his God-given
spirit of unselfish giving lives on in those who live like he did.”
mean I'm Santa Claus?” Alice
made Santa real to that family, didn't you?”
And they'll never know it was me.”
the way God wants it to be,” I reminded.
do you mean?”
think about that family. Imagine that the little girl who lives
there is one of your classmates. If she knew it was you who gave
her the gifts, how would she respond?”
be happy and I'd become her best friend.”
But it wouldn't be a real friendship, would it? You would have ‘bought'
her friendship with some gifts. Of course, she might not ever be
your friend if she misinterprets your compassion and just thinks
you feel sorry for her. You see, if she doesn't know who gave her
the gifts, she's more likely to just accept them.”
I won't have to worry what she thinks.”
It means you have no expectations, so you can't be disappointed.
If you left your name on those presents, you'd expect that little
girl to thank you. You might expect her to become your best friend.
And you'd be disappointed if she didn't.
see, God wants our reasons for giving to others to be pure. He wants
us to give out of compassion—because we truly care about others
and want things to be better for them. We should give for the pleasure
of giving. Sharing our abundance should be our natural response
to God's gift of love. He doesn't want us to give only when we get
something back. If we do our
deeds in secret—with no thought of getting anything in return—we
can be confident that our motives aren't selfish. That way, our
giving will be God-centered instead of self-centered.”
does that mean?”
means you don't do it so you'll look good. You do it because it
you think God was pleased tonight?” Alice
looked back and smiled, “I think He is very pleased.”
morning was fun. While I enjoyed watching the younger girls open
their presents from Santa, I enjoyed watching Alice
even more. Every time
one of the girls mentioned Santa, Alice
looked over at me
and smiled. And every time she opened a present from Santa, she
gave her mom an extra little hug. But, perhaps, best of all, Alice
seemed less in a hurry
to open her own presents and more interested in watching the little
girls open theirs. This year, for Alice
, the giving had become
more important than the receiving.
a week after Christmas, I called Alice
into my study. And
this time I was the one who closed the door. I sat down in the chair
next to her and handed her a copy of the Daily Recorder
. The front page was folded back so the opinion section was
was just reading today's paper and thought you might want to read
this letter,” I said, pointing to a letter to the editor.
the Daily Recorder:
family just recently moved to Hillsdale when we were able to find
work after being unemployed for almost a year. It is always a challenge
to move into a new community, but it was particularly tough for
us. You see, for the last two years, we have had two foster children
living with us: Jacinda, 9, and Jonathon, 5. Not only did we have
to get accustomed to new surroundings, we had to do so on a limited
have been so impressed with this community—the schools, our church,
the soccer league. In each case our children, despite some learning
challenges and some underdevelopment, have been welcomed warmly
and have been made to feel at home. We have been wonderfully surprised
at the hospitality we've been shown.
nothing prepared us for what we experienced this Christmas. It was
a difficult Christmas and we were in need of a miracle. Having been
unemployed so long, we barely had money for food and clothes, let
alone gifts for the kids. Before all of this happened, we had hopes
of adopting our children. Now we began to believe they'd be better
off with someone else.
as Christmas approached, our children were befriended at school
and were invited to holiday parties. Several of the parents we met
through school and soccer provided us with some clothes their children
had outgrown. And to top it off, our church provided us with a complete
generosity was over-whelming. Our needs were met and we were able
to use our limited paycheck to buy a couple of small presents for
each of the children. Since we couldn't afford much, we told the
children on Christmas Eve not to expect a visit from Santa this
year. We explained that we hadn't had time to get our new address
to him. We assured them that he would make up for it next year.
We suspected that Jacinda understood what was really going on, but
Jonathon broke our hearts when he boldly proclaimed that Santa's
magic would find us anyway. Nothing would change his mind.
our surprise the next morning when we found that Jonathon was right
and we were wrong. Before waking the children, my husband ran to
the car to get a present he had hidden there. But he didn't make
it to the car. Instead he walked back into the house with his arms
filled with beautifully wrapped presents. He made several trips
to the front porch and, by the time he was finished, the Christmas
tree was surrounded by presents each addressed to one of the two
children and each one signed, “From St. Nicholas, with God's blessings.”
Evidently, sometime in the night, Santa had managed to find our
little house after all.
just wanted to take this opportunity to let you know how impressed
we are with the caring and giving of this community. To be on the
receiving end of kindness like this was beyond any prior experience.
Our entire family would like to thank everyone—especially Santa—who
helped make Christmas 1997 one that none of us will ever forget.
Thank you for being our miracle. May God bless you.
and Mary Strong
Buckeye St .
why you told me to write that story,” Alice
said as the pieces
fell into place. I had not explained to her that it was Jacinda's
family she had helped on Christmas Eve. I was concerned that she
might accidentally let it slip.
I said. “How does it feel to be someone's miracle?”
we didn't do any miracles. We just delivered some gifts.”
that's all it takes. But notice that it wasn't just the gifts from
Santa that made the miracle. It was the nice things you did for
Jacinda at school and the nice things the community did as well.
All of those things worked together to make a miracle. It wasn't
magic, but it certainly was a miracle.”
I was just being kind.”
right,” I replied and then added after a brief pause, “And isn't
it wonderful the miracles God can create with a little bit of kindness?”
left the room with a smile on her face and a bounce in her step.
And I sat back down to finish the paper. It was only then that another
short letter to the editor caught my eye.
the Daily Recorder:
just wanted to take a moment to extend my thanks and God's
blessings to those who served as elves during our Christmas
foster family benefit. Great is your Reward.