Here it comes. I am about to let loose on one of those big family secrets. It’s one of those things that unknowingly helped shape my life. Listen closely because I am only going to tell the story this one time, just for you, for Thanksgiving.
Back in my younger days, when I remember being just old enough to make my own Christmas list, I was making a long list. Not to be greedy, but to give Santa lots of options when it came to bringing me gifts. After lots of work, I was informed that my parents would personally handle my list. Concerned and alarmed at this turn of events — and wishing I had used a sheet of carbon paper under the list so I could personally send a copy to Santa — I started asking about addressing a letter to Santa and where it would it go. I wondered what happens to letters that didn’t have postage or weren’t able to make it in time.
I will never forget my dad getting a smile on his face after telling me there are Santa’s helpers everywhere who would ensure every letter got read. He also said that he was privileged to be one of those helpers. I was shocked. My own daddy was close to the big guy and had not shared the news before this.
Back in the day — mind you we are talking more than 40 years ago — it was possible to go to the post office and obtain letters to Santa. All it took was a legible return address to make Christmas dreams come true. My father picked two families and based on the child’s letter went shopping, buying an item on their list, as well as all the fixings for the family to have Christmas dinner. He would leave everything on the doorstep, ring the bell, and leave.
Along with the gifts, he would include a note from Santa explaining the delivery. The family never knew who left it, because it was a true gift. To this day no one else has known about this other than my father and myself.
That story always impressed me for a variety of reasons. It reminded me that I did not really need to ask for anything for Christmas because I was blessed to have all of my needs taken care of when others were not as fortunate. It also made me realize that small gestures can leave a lasting impact on another person’s life.
These are daily lessons we model and try to instill with our youth in 4-H. Much like Santa’s helpers, our volunteers are making a difference by sharing their wisdom, experiences and skills with our members. Also, like Santa’s helpers, our youth are making a year round difference through community service projects improving our community and our lives.
I am thankful to my father for helping others. I am thankful for our 4-H volunteers and youth who are Santa’s helpers year round. Wouldn’t you like to join our 4-H ranks and model the way for generations to come?
For more information, call Shea Ann DeJarnette, Extension 4-H youth development agent with North Carolina Cooperative Extension, Robeson County Center, at 910-671-3276, or by email at Shea_Ann_DeJarnette@ncsu.edu, or visit /robeson.ces.ncsu.edu.