I’ve been a big guy my entire life, and if the truth is known, most of the time, I wish I were among the regular common-sized guy. It wasn’t always fun being the guy to schlep the books on the book committee or being the guy who seemed always to be called on to take out the trash. However, there were several occasions when being extra large had its benefits and pleasures.
One of these occasions was being drafted to play the part of Santa Claus. I became such a popular Santa that I had purchased two or three elaborate Santa outfits over the years. It was one of those things that were not only expected of me, but I enjoyed to no end. At one time, I came to the rescue of the local Macy’s to play the role when the regular Santa took ill with the Flu. I willingly saved the season for them. It was fun interacting with the kids and their cute young mothers. How many people do you know who had the honor of being a Macy’s Santa?
One year, when Carole and I were living in Atlanta, we decided to take the Santa routine to the local children's hospital. We offered our services to Egleston Children’s Hospital next door to Emory University Hospital. Egleston was huge, and many of the children were terminally ill. This was making it to the big time.
The endeavor wasn’t one of these deals where one volunteers and gets involved with the local firehouse. This was earnest business, and the hospital chose three teams out of several applicants. The process was severe. We went through a series of interviews and a total retail check of our backgrounds. It was as intricate a process I had ever gone through. You would have thought they were hiring a doctor.
Once we were accepted, we were given a training and indoctrination class. Another part of the process was the wrapping of gifts for the hundreds of sick kids in the hospital. The training period was held in the evenings and lasted for over a week. During this time, we were introduced to the other teams and various notables from the hospital staff. It was hard work, but the rewards were well worth it.
Carole and I purchased exquisite Mr. and Mrs. Santa outfits, and I polished up my red Mercedes convertible in anticipation of Christmas Day. We spent Christmas Eve at Egleston finishing off all the wrapping and last-minute details and assignments. Each team had specific floors assigned to them, and all the details and rules were gone over in detail. It is interesting to note that one of the rules was there were to be no cameras for security reasons and the patients’ privacy as ell as their families.
Christmas was here. We dressed early, put the top down in the Mercedes, and headed out for a quick cruise around Atlanta to show our stuff as Mr. and Mrs. Santa before heading over to Egleston. We arrived at the front door and were greeted with lots of love by several visiting families. The feeling was stupendous.
We quickly went to our assigned station, and our team was loaded up with gifts and ready to go. We traveled in a group with Carole and me in the lead. We traveled to one room after the other, and let me tell you, each stop tugged at my heartstrings. As we traveled, our group became larger and larger. We would try to chat with each child, and I would give out a big Ho, Ho, Ho, at each stop while we presented a gift to the ailing children. Now and then, I would take a break to relieve my emotions.
Eventually, we came to a room where the ill child was in a coma. The bed was surrounded by his mother, father, and younger sister. They were of Latin descent and had the appearance of being terribly frightened. I took one look, and I became scared too. A silence came over the area, and you could hear a pin drop. I looked around, and it seemed as if everybody was holding their breath. Suddenly I let out one of my Ho, Ho, Ho’s, and the most amazing thing happened. The little boy in the bed opened his eyes and began smiling. HE HAD COME OUT OF HIS COMA. That was all I had to see. Everybody there had started crying. It was a miracle to think we were there to witness it and be part of it.
Some extraordinary things happen in people's lives. What happened that day at Egleston was one of those golden days in my life. Just being there was one thing, but I received one of the most precious Christmas gifts of all from that little sick boy and his family.