I am a reader/commenter on a number of social action blogs and other online communities. One of the best parts about blogging IMHO is that you get to really become a member of a community of people. As part of any community, you get to learn of the perspectives, thinking and experiences of other like minded folks. One recent peek into the actions of other Americans yielded a somewhat heart rending sign of the times in our United States. An informal inquiry of mall Santas uncovered the impact the poor economy has been having on children. Follow me over the fold for some of what Santa’s Helpers have been hearing from the tots that cross their laps this year.
Here are some excerpts from interviews with Mall Santas:
As a longtime Santa Claus at a suburban Chicago mall, Rod Riemersma used to jokingly tell children they would get socks for Christmas if they were naughty.
This year, he stopped telling the joke. Too many children were asking for socks. “They’ve probably heard their parents say, ‘Geez, I wish I had some money to get them clothes,’ ” says Mr. Riemersma, 56 years old.
Other things Mall Santas have heard from children across America…
Jim Lewis, a Santa at a Bass Pro Shop outdoor-goods store in Denver blanched when a blond girl in a red plaid dress recently asked for a pair of eyeglasses so she could see the classroom board. He recovered in time to motion over one of his elves, who told the girl’s mother about the local Lions Club, which helps provide needy children with prescription glasses.
Sometimes even the best training can’t keep Santa from being caught off guard. Mike Smith, who works as Santa at the Polaris Fashion Place in Columbus, Ohio, says a 5-year-old girl wearing a Dora the Explorer sweat shirt last month hopped in his lap and asked, “Can you turn my daddy into an elf?” “Why?” he asked.
“Because my daddy’s out of work, and we’re about to lose our house,” she said.
The girl’s mother, standing by her little brother’s stroller, burst into tears.
One 7-year-old boy recently asked for shoes. “Do you want Air Jordans?” Mr. Crais asked.
The boy responded, “No, school shoes. My shoes have holes in them.”
Mr. Crais, a 67-year-old retired commercial artist, called over his photographer, who told the boy’s mother about local charities.
“When we had the housing crunch, we saw, ‘Please help us stay in our house,’ ” Mr. Brown says of the letters, which are forwarded to a nonprofit that works with charities in the children’s hometowns. “This year, it’s more job-related.”
I plan to purchase a few packages of children’s socks to donate to a local church or charity. After all, as tough as things are for so many of us in this dark economic environment, there’s no reason why any little ones in our midsts should be without something as basic as socks. I have also been helping collect new or gently used coats for One Warm Coat to distribute to the less fortunate. Check out their site here for more info on how to donate old coats. Does anyone else have a favorite charity or support group they’d like to share with our little online community during this Holiday season? Share in the comments.