Green River Star -

By Misty Brodiaea Springer
Public Affairs and Grants Administrator 

Notes from Town Square: There is a Santa Claus

 


“Virginia, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age,” wrote Francis P. Church, in an editorial to a worried little girl the autumn of 1897. At the time of Virginia’s letter asking to be told the truth of whether there is a Santa Claus, Francis Church, a former Civil War correspondent, was an aging, sardonic editorial writer for the New York Sun. Reportedly, Mr. Church bristled and “pooh-poohed” the idea when his boss suggested he pen a response to eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon. But then as the story goes, under a deadline, Church set off for a nearby Irish pub where he drank a lager and wrote one of the most eloquent and enduring editorials in the annuls of journalism.

From a dim, gas-lit pub in the heart of turn of the century New York City, Francis Church saw past the cynicism of the times and the skeptical perspective of a journalist who covered a war that fractured the nation, to send a message of hope. Church wrote, “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! 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.”

“Yes Virginia,” is not as much about faith in Santa Claus as it is about faith in the human capacity for wonder and for goodness. Former journalism professor at Arkansas University, David Sloan, explains, “What Church did was sustain a child’s hope while giving her a statement of ideals that are worthwhile for the adult. He did not simply continue a myth. He gave a reason for believing.”

We inhabit an isolated little town far from tragedy in San Bernardino and the rhetoric of Washington, and even farther from the devastation in Paris and a refugee crisis in Europe, and yet we are not inured and ignorant of the world beyond our hills. We too, are affected by the skepticism of our skeptical age, when evidence of man’s cruelty to man is common place. Like the people of Church’s times, the shadow of war still hangs heavily over the nation. Some say the recession is over, but families still suffer. It is sometimes difficult to believe that there is still goodness in the world and to have faith that life will get better.

Nearly 120 years ago cynical old Francis said to Virginia, “No Santa Claus! Thank God! He lives and lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.”

Are we in this digital age too cynical for Virginia. Have we lost our capacity for generosity, poetry and faith? I don’t think so.

Not yet. Not here. For as long as there are children in this world there is hope and as long as we hold on to our sense of community and continue to come together in support of one another hope endures in of all of us.

In Church’s letter to Virginia he subtly explains Santa Claus as a symbol of all that is good and noble and true in this life. There are examples all around us of people in this community generously helping those in need, or just being kind to a neighbor.

The ideals of Santa Claus and the faith that life is beautiful, still resides here and may it long live on in our children.

Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and happy holiday season.

 

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