Dear Santa, this is why I am writing you for the first time

To: Santa

From: Lauren Brill

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Dear Santa,

Even though I was a well-behaved child, you never climbed down my chimney and left me gifts under a tree. Rudolph didn’t misguide you past my house and you didn’t get stuck in my chimney. Instead, you simply respected my wishes.

See, when I was growing up mostly everyone I knew celebrated either Christmas or Hanukkah. At school, kids constantly debated over which holiday was better.

The Jewish kids would reason that Hanukkah was superior by explaining, “We get eight nights.”

The children who celebrated Christmas would argue back by saying, “But Christmas you get more than eight presents.”

My parents, being the cool parents that they are, asked me if I wanted extra presents throughout December.

Lauren was raised Jewish

I told them definitively, “No! I am Jewish.”

At the time, I felt celebrating Christmas in any capacity would be some sort of betrayal to my family and our traditions. After all, Christmas has a religious significance that doesn’t coincide with Judaic beliefs.

Over time my perspective changed. That’s why I am writing you this letter. I am sending you my very first wish list. Thankfully, I was able to get your address from a friend.

I have come to realize that Christmas, Hanukkah along with the other holidays this time of year are more than just religious events. They are part of a societal shift. That shift is often known as the holiday spirit, where people make an effort to be friendlier and more generous.

We have all heard the stories…

People leave behind large tips for those in the service industry.

Sons and daughters surprise their parents with houses and cars.

Celebrities make unexpected visits to children in hospitals.

Even I have witnessed firsthand the magic that the holiday season offers.

Even though I was a well-behaved child, you never climbed down my chimney and left me gifts under a tree.

A few years ago, I was in Cleveland working as a reporter and filming a story about athletes and prominent members of the community providing shopping sprees at Toys-R-Us for children from low-income families.

Most of the kids lit up as they filled their carts with toys and electronics. Some even managed to convince the founder of the non-profit Random Acts of Kindness Everywhere, Ricky Smith, to up the budget on their spree so they could throw in a few extra video games. Ricky didn’t stand a chance against their pleas.

But there was one young boy, probably about 12 years old, who didn’t seem very interested in the toys or electronics. He lacked the excitement that was written all over the other children’s faces.

Christian Kirksey is a linebacker for the Cleveland Browns who regularly gives back.

Browns linebacker Christian Kirksey walked with him around the store, asking about his interests, trying to help him pick out the perfect present. He told Christian that he liked music and revealed that he enjoyed singing.

Suddenly, there was a beautiful Christmas carol being belted out on aisle five.

I made it in time for the tail end of the song and Christian along with a few others were filming the young talent on their phones for social media.

When the child finished singing, Christian told him, “You’re really good. You have some serious talent. You could make it big. Keep working because you’ve got it.”

A little shy, the boy smiled and responded quietly, “Thank you.”

As I began to prepare my story for the 11:00 pm news, I asked the boy, “What was the best gift you received tonight?”

He responded, “The presents weren’t even on my mind at all tonight. Christian made me feel special because he made me feel like I could be someone.”

That was probably the first time my heart melted in the middle of a Cleveland winter. It was probably the first time anything melted during a Cleveland winter. At that moment I recognized that the season is not about what religion you identify with or what holidays you celebrate, it is simply about kindness.

That is why I am writing to you, Santa, hoping you will be able to deliver the only item on my very first wish list.

In a world where we constantly feel pressure to choose sides, I am asking you to  find a way for us all to come together and celebrate love.

I believe in miracles.

Happy Holidays,

Lauren Brill
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