Here Comes Santa

The social-studies teacher was supposed to play Saint Nick, but he came down with bronchitis. I suspect foul play.

They asked me to play Santa at a school for children with disabilities. And I’ll be honest, I didn’t want to do it. But the woman was adamant.

The social-studies teacher was supposed to play Saint Nick, but he came down with bronchitis.

I suspect foul play.

So, I wore the fake beard. They stuffed pillows in my shirt. I wore a red jacket that smelled like Santa’s Coat of Many Onions. I was meant to look like Kris Kringle, but I resembled an Oakridge Boy.

So this marks the beginning of old age. Once you play Santa, it’s over. You might as well start drinking prune juice and use the hydraulic lift-chair at the YMCA swimming pool.

The kids lined up.

“Be enthusiastic,” the teacher reminded me.

“HO, HO, HO,” was my enthusiastic phrase. “HAVE YOU BEEN A GOOD LITTLE BOY THIS YEAR?”

Sue me.

The first kid nearly tore my meniscus. He wore thick glasses and hearing aids. It was hard for him to speak. He made up for this with a snappy attitude.

“I KNOW you’re not Santa,” he said. “Santa is WAY handsomer than YOU.”

I ask how he’d like a nice box of red dirt under the tree this year.

The next child spoke in sign language. Her teacher translated.

“She wants a four-wheeler,” says the teacher. “And a horse.”

I’ll get right on it.

Another boy sits on my lap. His mother says he has motor-skill issues which happened after an accident—they don’t say anything more about this. He has dreadlocks and two black eyes.

He asks if I like cheese.

I remind him that Santa is a lover of all things high in cholesterol. This makes him happy.

“Good,” he said. “I’d rather have spray cheese INSTEAD of cookies and milk if it were me.”

I make a joke, but he doesn’t laugh. He doesn’t smile like the others. He’s sad, I can tell it. I pat his back and ask if he wants anything special for Christmas.

“Not really,” he goes on. “Maybe some candy or something.”

I’ll see what I can do, son.

There’s a girl with a service dog—a brown Lab. The dog is new. She’s holding the short leash. She wears pink sunglasses. They tell me she can see shapes, but nothing else.

“Can I touch your beard?” she says.

Knock yourself out.

“Oh, wow,” she says. “That’s pretty awesome.”

I ask what she wants for Christmas. “A guitar,” she answers. “I’m a good guitar player on my dad’s guitar, but it’s a piece of junk.”

Her dog sits still, watching me. He’s all business. No tail-wagging, no panting. She keeps both palms on my phony beard. She seems to like the feel.

“Can you do magic?” she asks.

“Darling, if I could, I’d use it all up on you.”

Her teacher lifts her from my knee. She walks away, and there’s a line of magnificent children. Too many to mention. They’re happy kids. Even though most have to try a little harder than I do at life.

When it’s all over, they form a line and leave the room. All of a sudden, I’m feeling less like Santa, and more like a man who has a lot to learn about life.

The kids yell in unison. “WE LOVE YOU SANTA!”


Santa didn’t mean to cry.


  1. Sandi in FL - December 8, 2017 10:23 am

    Imagining all this, I’m sure you made a splendid Santa, covering your red beard with a white one! Children can teach us older folks a lot if we just listen with our heart.

  2. Marty from Alabama - December 8, 2017 1:02 pm

    Sean, you hit it out of the park on this one. When you make children with special abilities (yes, abilities) believe that life is good and make them happy, you have done a wonderful job. And this Santa knows what it means to cry. Write, our friend, write until there are no more wonderful people to visit.

  3. Katherine - December 8, 2017 1:24 pm

    I’ve only recently discovered your writing but have already listened to several of your podcasts. I read this one hearing your voice in my head and when I reached the part about using all your magic on the little blind girl the tears started falling. Your gentle heart and love of people shows in the way you describe each one. Please keep the stories coming; we need your reminders to look for the beauty, kindness and love that surrounds us.

  4. Braxton - December 8, 2017 1:39 pm

    I am with you on this one. I played Santa for the mall once. Everyone was waiting as I rode in on a fire truck. I remember walking in ho ho-ing and all the excitement it created, and I all but lost it. Very emotional for me.

  5. jim f weaver - December 8, 2017 2:29 pm

    Thanks friend Sean…even we most fervent of X-mas believers sometimes need a simple reminder of the JOY in the season…Merry Christmas..!!!.

  6. Ann - December 8, 2017 2:51 pm

    I so enjoy reading you every day. This one really meant a lot to me. I have a cousin who has a disability. Hey! It is okay for Santa to cry.

  7. Jack Darnell - December 8, 2017 3:10 pm

    For us who know children with special needs, this is definitely sweet. BUT the ‘Coat of many Onions’ did crack me up. I gotta work on my imagination.
    Very good entry….

  8. Helene Mewborn - December 8, 2017 3:12 pm

    You’re truly a special Santa! And I appreciate all your heart-warming stories!

  9. Brian Heinz - December 8, 2017 3:15 pm

    Nothing like the innocents of a child to tug on the heart strings once done there will be no dry eye in the house. Thank you for my daily up lifting. Merry Christmas Sean

  10. Ava - December 8, 2017 4:55 pm

    About thirty years ago my husband was asked to play Santa. All of the little kids were finished when a girl about 13 years old came up to him. “What would you like?”, he asked. She said she wanted her step-dad to stop molesting her. We didn’t know her name, but did some searching and found out. Santa made good on his promise.

    • Pat Byers - December 8, 2017 5:51 pm

      and the child who asked Santa to stop being molested? I didn’t even get through this one.

  11. Pat Byers - December 8, 2017 5:49 pm

    Santa’s coat of many onions and the prune juice comment almost made a laugh spit mark on my screen to wipe off. Then… the children. And your thoughts. Then, my inevitable tears. Yup. You are a GREAT Santa, one who cries. The Santa who DOES know children.

  12. Debra Gamble - December 8, 2017 6:32 pm

    You always leave a touching tear in my eye. Thanks for writing everyday!

  13. William Hubbard - December 8, 2017 6:52 pm

    Dammit Sean, I’m an old man and have been everywhere and seen everything – so I thought. Will you please not write something EVERY DAY that makes me cry? Well, just maybe a small tear or two………

    Bob the Bear

  14. gingembre - December 8, 2017 6:58 pm

    A magical post. Your humor and sensitivity made me laugh and cry. Thank you.

  15. Wendy - December 8, 2017 8:24 pm

    Oh, my! Beautiful, Sean. Simply beautiful.

  16. Linda Lou - December 8, 2017 9:49 pm

    Wow, a Santa with a truly loving heart! ❤️

  17. Elaine McNabb - December 9, 2017 3:36 am

    Aww, I didn’t mean to cry either. Such a sweet, touching story.

  18. Cindy - December 9, 2017 2:24 pm

    You have the greatest adventures!

  19. Pamela McEachern - December 12, 2017 6:26 am

    I Believe?, and you are always giving to us with your humble lessons of life.
    Peace and Love from Birmingham

  20. Jo - December 19, 2017 12:45 am

    Nothing like kids who are making the best of life in spite of difficulties to make you appreciate what you have. Thanks!


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