Santa from a School’s Perspective

Evergreen School SantaThe best holidays give grown ups permission to feel young and see the world with child-like wonder.  Lourdes Barden-Sims forwarded this poignant story about her daughter written by the writer and motivational speaker Robert Rabbin. We are a school community of many religious traditions. Rabbin’s message seems just right for our students.

Believing in Santa, by Robert Rabbin

I recently received a phone call from one of my friends, Nourah, who wanted my advice on a matter of some importance and urgency. Nourah lives in Maryland with her mom, stepdad, dog, and chickens. Nourah has a burgeoning eggs-for-sale business, and she is an avid bowler and chef, as well as being an incredibly gifted public speaker. Nourah is seven years old.

The issue she wanted to discuss was this: she believes in Santa Claus, but some of her friends at school do not. What to do?

Hmmmmm, this was a tough one, to be sure. I asked Nourah if she liked these other kids, and she said yes. I asked her if she wanted to keep them as her friends, so as to continue to enjoy playing together. She said yes.

I asked her if she thought she could change the minds of her friends; that is, did Nourah think she could get her friends to believe in Santa. She said no.

I asked Nourah if her friends could change her mind; that is, could her friends get her to stop believing in Santa. She said no.

So far, so good.

I then asked Nourah if their respective beliefs got in the way of their friendship. She said no. I then proposed that there was no issue to be resolved, as long as no one tried to change the mind of those who held different beliefs. That, it seems to me, is key. If none of the kids tried to change the beliefs of the other kids, or used their beliefs to discriminate against or hurt others who held different beliefs — then all is well. Everyone could believe in what they wanted, and they could all continue to be friends and play together.

I suggested to Nourah that believing in Santa and not believing in Santa were really the same thing, with the “belief” being the unifying factor. That is, we find common ground in the fact that we each “believe.” As long as we don’t use our beliefs to separate us from others, or to hurt or harm others, or to shame or embarrass others — then all is well. With this perspective, our beliefs become our own mental toys: we can play with them or discard them at will. They are for our own amusement. We can hold these beliefs lightly. We don’t need to be right, and make others wrong. We can just believe in what we believe in, and let others do the same. Then, without needing to be right and holding our beliefs lightly, we can stay connected with our friends.

I confided in her that not only do I believe in Santa, but I believe in his wife, Mrs. Santa Claus. I also believe in the Easter Bunny. I also believe in Paul Bunyon, a very huge and tall mountain man who rides on a bull as big as Kentucky. I told her that I believe redwood trees sing and dance when no one is watching, and that whales can walk on land. Finally, and this almost put us both over the edge, I told her I believe I am a world-famous ballroom dancing champion. I told her none of my friends believe in any of these things but we are still friends and I sometimes play with them.

Nourah seemed quite happy and content with our conversation. She even told her mom that I was funny. I can’t think of a better endorsement from a seven-year-old.

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