Friday, December 16, 2011

Secret Santa: Finding My Hallmark Moment

Every year I struggle with whether or not to write a holiday newsletter. I want to fill the page with happy thoughts thinking it’s up to me to spread cheer, but I don’t always feel great about the year. I don’t want my letter to sound like the family version of the “Stepford Wives.” I try not to use too many sappy lines like “We are truly blessed.” Some years those lines just don’t seem to ring true. Maybe I'm still searching for my Hallmark moment.

Jacque and Jim Adamson
For the past couple years during the holidays I have volunteered to help Jacqueline Eigen, a local teacher and minister, with a Secret Santa project. I joined six fellow elves, and many more behind-the-scenes, to organize a Christmas party for 40 seniors at Creative Living at the Calistoga Community Center. We passed out cards and gifts and joined Santa for a lunch catered by the Rotary Club of Calistoga.  
Stuffed moose
Jim Adamson, also an elf,  guitarist and singer from the band, “TheRythym Cats”, entertained everyone by singing Christmas Carols and everyone joined in. Top Santa, Jacque and her senior friend, Joe Bob, called out numbers for donated raffle prizes. I watched as one darling elder opened her gift, a stuffed moose. She was so delighted she hugged her prize tightly and let it sit on her lap for a long while. It was the sort of thing you might see a little girl do. 
Elf team

Soon it was time for our elf team to pass out gifts bags. As the seniors accepted their presents they responded with lovely smiles. They were so appreciative of inexpensive items like gloves and scarves, shampoos and soaps, candles and candy. I was enchanted by how little it took to brighten their day.

My job had been to write notes inside the Christmas cards that we delivered. I had a list of 36 names and I wanted to write something personal in each, but after a while I started to run out of cheery things to say so I borrowed phrases from Hallmark like, “Keep the season’s cheer throughout the new year," and "May the joy of the season warm your heart.” Maybe no one would notice, after all there are only so many sweet and sappy things to say about the holidays. Is it really cheating if it's for a good cause?
Rotary Club Elves

When it came time to say our goodbyes a little lady smiled at me broadly and asked if I was “Secret Santa Barbara,” the one who signed the Christmas cards. Oh no, was this gal working undercover for Hallmark cards? 

Thankfully she wasn't. She wanted to personally thank me for my beautiful handwriting and the kind words I had written to her. These seniors really appreciated everything we did for them.

Now as I sit down to write my holiday newsletter, and I borrow a closing line from Hallmark, there’s a little warm spot glowing inside me, a reminder that this season is truly about sharing. I don’t think Hallmark would mind a bit.
Elf Sharon
Santa and friends

Santa, Jacque, Joe Bob, Jim