One Christmas morning I awoke to a miracle. There before my 9-year-old eyes were the ashen footprints of Santa Claus himself. I followed them with my eyes from the fireplace to the Christmas tree and vividly imagined that vibrant red suit shuffling around our tree, neatly placing each present in its place. “How did he fit through our chimney?” I thought as I waddled back to my parents room to wake them for the festivities, “Gosh… I hope he got me the Power Ranger Megazord toy I wanted…” On that morning, I believed in magic.
Now here I am in Korea, long after the beans have been properly spilled, remembering the magical feeling of that morning. Of course, eventually I noticed the striking resemblance some old boots in our closet had to the footprints I saw that day. And then, the very next Christmas I walked into my parents room, demanding answers, and a small piece of my innocence withered away. But today I am reminded of that magic, because I find myself in a very similar situation to the one my parents must have faced all those years ago.
My parents knew that as I got older, eventually, the magic of Christmas would die, and they would no longer be able to see that look of amazement on my face. So, they went to the trouble of staging a visit by Santa, even going so far as to take a bite out of one of the cookies left for him. And it worked! That is, until I later found out he wasn’t real. But if they were willing to go to all that trouble in the first place, maybe there was something deeper to believe in.
You see, I know as these students get older, eventually, they will lose their youthful optimism, and I will probably never see their faces again. So, while I am here I am going to do everything I can to make them believe in something… even if it means making a fool of myself in the process. In these three short months I have seen a change in many of them; Changes in the form of notes on my desks in English from students I’ve never heard speak and smiles on the faces of students who once gave me scowls. Even the teachers I work with seem happier, and I don’t really know why.
THE TAKEAWAY: Santa may not be real, but what he represents certainly is. He represents the human ability to believe in something greater than themselves. And so now, in this lonely December of mine, I am reminded that I am blessed with the ability to represent something to these students. Whether it be the hope that one day they can travel, live in another country, or be whatever it is their heart desires, really does not matter. I just hope one day they realize, that the ash footprints I am putting in front of them now, while they sleep, someday may lead them somewhere great.