Photo captured in Garberville, CA, July 21, 2012

What a privilege sharing life with hundreds of children!  One boy stands out – Elianes, who I met during my school bus driving days.  Elianes and Alejandro, fraternal twins, rode with me every afternoon.   When Elianes spoke to me, he’d tip and lower his head slightly, and present his softest mature voice.

We waited for the signal to leave, all students aboard, I noticed a man with a long white beard and hair standing outside.  I saw Santa Claus, so I called attention to him by telling each child who boarded, “Hey, look, there’s Santa Claus!”  Was Santa real or imaginary?  Elianes looked me in the eye and with a secretive, serious tone said, “Santa doesn’t come to my house.”   No resentment, no sadness or anger.  Matter-of-fact.

I invited him into my “office,”  and asked, “Does Santa ever come to your house?”

“No, but sometimes my Dad’s boss gives us a present.”

Sometimes. Dad works at a ranch, Mom’s unemployed, and there’s no money for gifts.

“May I be your Santa Claus?” I asked.

Elianes seemed confused – we agreed to talk again the following day.
Elianes parents had five children: a young man in High School, a son and daughter in Middle School, and twins in grade school. I asked Elianes if he’d like a gift other than the one from Dad’s boss.  He said, “I’m okay with getting just one.”

What gift does Elianes get?  “He (his father’s employer) usually gives us a gift certificate to K-Mart or Target and we buy clothes,” Elianes told me. Usually… Yes, it’s okay with Elianes to get “just one.”  Sometimes.  Or not.
As California law required, I’d count the children as they boarded the bus, with what they’d call the “clicker.”  One child clicked.  It stopped working and I didn’t replace it.  Elianes acquired one, and offered it to me.  This child, with little, gave something to me.  A generous, thoughtful act.  I’m certain that Elianes will grow into a good, honest, kind and loving man.

I became Elianes’ Santa Claus and asked many elves for donations to make that Christmas memorable. My goal – a  gift card for the five children.  There were two weeks until Christmas and 100% of funds went to the Elianes Santa Fund. I wanted to help just ONE person, ONE family, ONE, just ONE, one animal, one, one – the world would change.  And if we all helped ONE…

Elianes was happy for his siblings and more, than for himself. Through small donations from people across the country, each sibling got a $50.00 gift card, and Elianes’ parents received a $50.00 gift card for groceries, as well as a check for $25.00, for Christmas Cheer.
From the family, a small gift to me, a cross of foam, and a letter printed in pencil on lined composition paper.  The simple words expressed joy and blessings.
It wasn’t goodness from my heart that provided for Elianes’ for Christmas of 2010 – it was the goodness of the child, the willingness of the people across the country, to come together, for a child and his family. The gift I received was greater than the foam cross, the thank you note.    We made a difference in a child’s life.