For a short time in college, I had a job as a mall security cop. This was a long time before mall cops rode Segways, so my job required a lot of walking in and out of corridors and was, essentially, pretty dull. I was a small guy and security cop uniforms only came in double extra large sizes, so I wasn’t only bored, I also looked like an idiot The boredom all disappeared, however, when Santa and the Care Bears came for Christmas time. Their arrival impacted me because it was my job to escort them away from Gum Drop Village to the mall office for their scheduled coffee breaks. I just knew I was going to to spend quality time with the Big Guy and we were destined to become BFFs.
The first coffee break escort was very exciting, of course. So much so, that I had difficulty thinking of what to say to Santa as we walked together toward the office. The best I could get out was, “Now you know I’ve moved, right?” (Awkward. As if the only thing he was interested in was where to deliver my presents to.)
So there the four of us quietly walked: the bearded man and I side-by-side, and the two over-stuffed bears sauntering closely behind. Occasionally a wonder-eyed child would amble up and I’d have to use my big voice. “SORRY, KID. GOTTA BACK OFF. SANTA NEEDS HIS COCOA BREAK.” Out of the corner of my drooping over-sized security cap, I saw a tear well up in the poor child’s eye. Oh well — the law’s the law.
When we stepped into the break room, my paradigm was forever changed. Santa and the bears didn’t sit down for a cup of hot chocolate, or even coffee. Instead, the three of them pulled out their cigarettes and proceeded to chain smoke for the next 30 minutes!!!! This isn’t at all how imagined Santa to act during his down time!!!! This couldn’t be true! After all, what kind of role model was he? (For reasons I’d rather not discuss, I didn’t have a lot of emotional investment in the Care Bears. I was hardly even concerned when Santa’s ashes fell dangerously close to their highly flammable fur.)
Since that time, I have had other more serious experiences in life that have brought disillusionment and tempted me to become cynical about Christmas, Church, God, or even life itself. I’m sure anyone reading this could come up with a lengthy list of valid hurts and reasons to lose hope. C. S. Lewis said our deepest desires unfulfilled tell us that there is something — some One — beyond this world who can fulfill. The empty pain inside me reminds me I was created for some One more. The next time my dreams and expectations are popped by a fat man in a red suit with a nicotine habit, I won’t stop believing.
Calvin G. Roso © December 2013