6: Secret Santa

6: Secret Santa

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Christmas in Canada

Secret Santa

Sometimes beautiful things come into our lives out of nowhere. We can’t always understand them, but we have to trust in them. I know you want to question everything, but sometimes it pays to just have a little faith.

~Lauren Kate

I was scrambling again. It was Sunday, December 10th, my brother’s fortieth birthday party, and I was struggling, as usual. The kids and I were trying to get out the door and on our way to this family celebration, but my mind was spinning a bit. Okay a lot. It was overflowing with worries and concerns about the upcoming holidays, and just how I was going to guide us through them.

Freelance employment sounds very appealing in theory, but the financial reality can frequently be daunting. I’d had very little work in the previous few months. We’d been on our own for about two years, having finally managed to escape a life filled with controlling abuse and violence. I had expected — or at least hoped for — life to be less challenging by now, but in fact, it had become overwhelming. I had been running on pure adrenaline for the last few years, keeping myself incredibly busy with family court, criminal court, lawyers and custody assessors. That was in addition to being busy with work, raising two beautiful children, maintaining a house and focusing on everyone else’s struggles. I would find myself counselling friends, nursing sick or injured neighbours, finding employment for my peers and coming to the rescue of just about anyone I came in contact with. For some reason I felt a responsibility to help solve problems and ease the struggles of others. This made me feel good of course, but it also allowed me to avoid focussing on my own problems. Tending to others left me no time to think about myself, and that’s the way I liked it.

This was an unusual day because my own challenges were finally consuming me. Work had slowed down and I wasn’t even sure how I would pay the mortgage, let alone create a Christmas. As I was preparing to visit my family my thoughts were full of kids’ Christmas lists, Santa visits, how I would pay my bills and even just buy groceries this month. Successfully leaving a destructive family situation with my kids intact had made me realize that I am much stronger than I’d ever realized, but on this day I was not feeling strong at all; I was worn down and very worried.

As the kids slipped on their boots and coats I opened the door to go start the car. And that’s when I saw it. Stuck between my old wooden door and the storm door was a cardboard FedEx envelope. I hadn’t heard anyone come to the door, so I peeked my head outside hoping the driver might still be out front. The street was quiet. I was not expecting anything, and I was trying to recall if FedEx even delivered on Sunday. I turned the envelope over to examine the packing slip. The sender had addressed it to my married last name (and misspelled it) but it was clearly meant for me. I noticed the sender’s name listed as “Saint Nick from ‘Northern Products.’ ” The return address was latitude 0.00 longitude 180.00, Baffin Island Post. Obviously this was a gag gift. The contents description read “Christmas making products.”

I zipped it open and found two smaller envelopes inside. One, a small manila bubble wrap envelope, and the other a crisp white letter sized envelope that read “Merry Christmas Suzanne.” The script was large, flowing and artistically beautiful. I didn’t recognize the handwriting, but marvelled at the penmanship. I opened this envelope first and found a typewritten note signed “The Spirit of Christmas.”

My Dear Suzanne,

Well, over the last year you have truly captured the market on giving to others, almost to a point that I did not have a job. Well, enough giving, it is now time to receive.

Your kindness and caring of this world around you and your family are exemplary. You need to know it does not go unobserved or unappreciated by those who receive your kindness but also by those who observe your unconditional giving.

In your heart and in your soul there exists such a priceless love for all, even though life’s trials and tribulations sometimes can wear one down. The fact that you could stay true to your heart and do the best you could is an example of how special you truly are.

I hope you do not mind me dropping off your gift now, in order to help you do, what comes so natural to you — GIVING.

I know that with this gift, your first thoughts will be what you can do for those you love. Please, do what comes naturally and I hope you will.

However, there is one stipulation that goes with this Christmas gift and it is not negotiable! I know it may be hard for you to do, I know it will go against your natural spirit, but this Christmas, just this Christmas, I also want you to give to the most difficult person for you to give to, YOU!!

Wishing you, family, friends and all dear to you the very best and God’s blessings in the year to come.

From The Spirit of Christmas

I was overwhelmed by these words. The writer was correct in knowing I was much more comfortable as a giver, and found receiving very difficult. I quickly opened the bubble wrap envelope and found a fistful of cash — much more than I had seen for some time. I did a quick count. Two thousand dollars. My mortgage payment. The kids had been standing with me through this entire experience. It felt like a long time, when in fact it had been only a few moments. The kids were confused. Santa had been here? My mind was racing. Who was this Spirit of Christmas? My family lived in another city and as we were on our way to see them, I knew it couldn’t be from them. I have some beautiful friends, but none were in a financial position to be so generous. I do have a couple of people in my life in a position to do such a thing, but not only is it not in their character, I doubt them capable of writing from the heart the way this writer had done.

After the excitement of that day had passed, I spent many days trying to track down my Secret Santa to no avail. I was baffled. My family was baffled. My friends were baffled. Finally my mother’s wise words made me stop searching. She pointed out how the sender had obviously gone to a great deal of trouble to remain anonymous, and it was not my place to take away his/her pleasure in giving by exposing them.

Realizing she was right, I put a public “thank you” status on my Facebook page. No explanation. Just thank you. If my Secret Santa happened to be a Facebook friend I hoped he recognized the message as being for him. I desperately wanted to thank my benefactor, for this person had truly made a difference in my life. Not only was I able to provide Christmas for my children without worrying about the immediate bills being paid, I managed to honour the condition to give to myself by — for the first time in my life — turning down work during the holidays so I could actually enjoy some family time. That was the best Christmas gift ever.

But in addition to those immediate and intended gifts I now carry this incredibly renewed faith in my fellow man. I have literally carried this symbol of faith with me now for six years. Both the handwritten envelope containing the heartfelt letter and FedEx packing slip go with me everywhere. If at any point I’m having an overwhelming day, I have only to look at the envelope or slip my hand in my bag to touch it and I feel better. It makes me smile. It reminds me to have faith. It reminds me to believe in the Spirit of Christmas, and of course to continue to share, with gratitude, my blessings with others.

~Suzanne Lindsay

Toronto, Ontario

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