Sunday, December 29, 2013

It Ain't Easy Being Grinchy

"Bah humbug" used to come more easily.

For several years, I "celebrated" the holiday season by defending the rights of those people who didn't  celebrate Christmas and were otherwise unamused by the seemingly obligatory ho-ho-ho-dum foisted upon us by retail giants of the universe. I wrote annual missives about drunk elves crashing stolen sleighs, SPCA sanctions against reindeer breeders, and other snark. 

You still won't catch me caroling in my living room, unless it's in attempt to drown out the Duck Dynasty holiday CD that X "hilariously" sent home with @. I don't flinch (much) when @ puts a Santa hat on my head. My holiday letters have undergone significant snark removal. And although @ is far past believing in Santa, you won't hear him admit it. 

Earlier this month, I had an assignment: Write about the Connected Santa program. I found it an amusing request, despite my gradual but significant holiday-letter snark reduction.

Connected Santa is a pretty cool deal. Santa has 1:1 visits with children who can't leave the hospital to visit him, many of them critically ill. He has a great technology setup in his North Pole workshop that my company happens to supply. And his elves visit the hospitals to help make the connection.

The media alert talks about how many hospitals the program reaches, the employees who volunteer their time, and the technology. Add in smiles on faces, donated gifts, and all those good things. And those are all good things, great things. But they're only one side of the story.

I know another side.

Ten years ago I spent Christmas in the neonatal intensive care unit with my tiny son. And on Christmas morning, we arrived to find a photo of @ in Santa's arms -- IVs, oxygen tubes, and a handmade Christmas blanket. Until that photo, I barely knew it was December. It was just another day after months of days visiting the hospital. I didn't have time or energy for trees and shopping. There was only one thing on my mind -- my son. 

That one photo made Christmas real. The people who made the photo brought magic into the hospital. They brought magic to me. @ is now ten and I remember little about that day. But every time I see that photo, Christmas is real. Bells jingle, elves sing, and reindeer fly.

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