Modesty demands that we truly generous individuals refrain from bragging about our good works. So I’ve never written about founding the Chicago Sun-Times Charity Trust’s “Letters to Santa” program, nor about my purchasing countless presents for Chicago children, nor about prodding my reluctant colleagues to get off their kiesters and pitch in which, to their credit, they generally do, eventually.
But it’s a big city, and we need help. Last year the program gave more than 10,000 children Christmas presents. I can’t buy them all. So while I’m gathering gifts for the, let’s see, one, two, three, four, five, six . . . 27 needy kids I’ve taken under my wing this year, I’m hoping that you’ll pause from staring, stupefied with distress, at the day’s political headlines and make Christmas brighter for just one child who, believe it or not, has it tougher than you do.
Oh, that isn’t true. Well, the getting gifts for 10,000 kids part is, as well as the hoping you’ll join part.
Otherwise, for the record, a) I did not start the Letters to Santa Program. b) My colleagues leap to help, far quicker than I do. And c) it’s a big deal for me to buy a few gifts for one child, never mind tackle 27.
But I figured blatant lies are in vogue. If Donald Trump can hold a gala promising veterans millions of dollars, ballyhooing his supposed generosity, then fail to cough up a dime of his own until the lying media points out the lapse, and almost half the country votes for him anyway, then why not puff myself up as a philanthropist? Worrying about the actual truth has become an antique pastime, like churning butter.
Kidding aside. With the country tipping over a cliff, it’s tempting to decide that nothing matters. Which is easy to do when you can buy your kids gifts. Imagine if you couldn’t do that, and had to hope some stranger came through with something. Then it would matter a lot. So yes, kids get toys — and often, heartbreakingly, coats and shoes they request instead. But strapped, parents are also being helped, hardworking people perhaps scrubbing your floor or mowing your lawn while being damned by a potty-mouthed yam. Wish there were something significant you could do right now to help our flailing nation? Buy some toys.
It isn’t hard. Saturday morning I headed off to Target with the letter from Xavier, 7, a student at a Brighton Park school. Not because he begins, “I Hope you rest,” which is what I’d want were I Santa, adding, “So you can get all the presents redy.” Then he inquires about Rudolph’s health before asking, very nicely, “Can I please Have a Lego Bat man Set? Also may I Have a Spider Man chapter Book?” What sold me on Xavier was the end when, giddy with possibility, he closes, “Now may I have a night light?”
God yes. We all need night lights about now, little pools of illumination to ward off the gathering dark.
Target was not mobbed. The “DC Comics Super Heroes” sets were like chairs in the Story of the Three Bears: too little, a $12.99 set slightly bigger than a paperback book; too big, a huge $59.99 Batmobile set that I did consider, but the program recommends a $30 limit and there were two gifts to go; and my pick, a $19.99 “Batman’s Gotham City Cycle Chase” that contained two way-cool motorcycle racers. Target has books, speaking of antique pastimes, but no Spider-Man (I ordered “Spider-Man: Attack of the Heroes A Marvel Chapter Book” at the Book Bin later, $5.95). And not only night lights, but one that projects Spider-Man on the ceiling, a true comfort and only $9.39.
The book doesn’t arrive at the Book Bin until midweek, but that’s the beauty of doing this early. Less stress. So don’t delay. I’ve never celebrated Christmas in my life, and am a far worse person than the average reader. Yet I’ve managed to do this. So can you. Go online, right now, www.suntimes.com/santa or call the paper at (312) 321-3114 to request a child’s letter. You’ll be happy you did — well, maybe not happy, but as happy as is possible under the current political circumstances.Tweets by @neilsteinberg