Through the Eyes of Santa

“Through the Eyes of Santa” 

I have been a Santa’s helper for a dozen years or so, wearing the red suit and sitting in the big chair for local attractions, corporate events, family gatherings and church events. 

I have met all sorts of children (and families) and have heard the usual and unusual requests or wishes for Christmas.  I have also had glimpses into the heart of many different family stories or experiences. 

One of my most favorite gatherings of all is the annual GiGi’s Playhouse Lancaster Pancakes and Pajamas event.  This is where I see the heart and soul of love. 

During this celebration, I am able to physically and emotionally connect with the joy of Christmas through the presence of my friends with Down syndrome, young and older. 

Their delight and joy brings me great joy as well. 

From holding the infant who will be a part of their family’s Christmas for the first time, to sitting next to (or being sat on) by a young adult, there is something magical for me as I reflect on their lives and experiences, past, present and future. 

More often than not, I am deeply moved as I watch the families (parents, siblings and grandparents) of the child interact with the Santa moment. 

I see their joy, their support, their love reflected in the ‘ooh’s and aah’s’ – the smiles and the laughter. 

I also know that they may have experienced difficulties as they have welcomed their family member. 

Maybe some have experienced grief, anguish, fear or questioning. 

Some have walked through or will walk through ongoing medical challenges.  Most will live with the question of what life will be like for their child with Down syndrome. 

Yet they show up. 

And they need to be thanked. 

Thanked for committing to love, nurturing and celebrating a life that will change their lives. 

I am especially mindful to thank the other siblings for being supportive and present, even as some of them have given up some of the attention they deserve. 

And I also experience an internal journey as I reflect on my personal experience of having two older sisters who had intellectual disabilities, one having Down syndrome. 

My sisters lived at a time when these opportunities of community inclusion and support were not available – I don’t recall that they ever sat on Santa’s lap. 

And I think how life could have been so different for our family if we would have had these wonderful opportunities of joy and belonging – and my eyes begin to water a bit. 

So, I enjoy seeing my friends each year, watching them grow, knowing that each year will bring a new challenge for them, and also new opportunities. 

And I know that they will continue to experience the joy of seasonal celebration, of gathering with their friends, of the support of their families and most of all, they will continue to experience love offered by a very special community of folks. 

And Santa’s eyes have begun to water again… 

Milt Stoltzfus 

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