Monday, December 5, 2011

VIRGINIA READ IT RIGHT


     In my part of the believing and non-believing world, in this economy, in this doubt of government, corporations and people, the local paper recently ran a story about a teacher telling her second graders there was no Santa Claus. Hullabaloo ensued.
Yet the rapid and firm push children get into adulthood today already unceremoniously strips them of belief in cartoon characters, super heroes, magic fairies and -- sometimes -- all that seems possible. Maybe that’s why we end up with little faith in government or anything else.
I don’t know enough about the teacher’s words, their context -- perhaps no one does except the students. We weren’t there, and I will not judge her. The report is that when the 7 year olds said they knew about Santa’s North Pole, the teacher responded that the bearded fellow did not exist and that Christmas presents were bought by their parents. Media coverage then exploded, the teacher is said to have issued an apology and the community asked to move on, into the holiday spirit. Yes.
In Virginia O’Hanlon’s 1897, it was her friends who told the 8 year old that Santa Claus was a myth, to which New York Sun Editor Francis Pharcellus Church responded in his now famous and oft-republished editorial, “Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus.” 
He wrote: “Your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except (what) they see ...  All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little ... How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. ...”
The sum of Church’s editorial argument was that  “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist. ...” 
Second grade, in my parts and yours, is a fleeting moment of moving molecules, emotions and whatever is brewing in the individual soul. Its oh, so temporary dwellers have a brief second in which to recognize that all is possible, that good exists, that there is, as Editor Church put it, an "eternal light with which childhood fills the world. ...”
Can you see him now, can you see Santa? 

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