I’m pretty sure that I met Santa Claus last week, or at least I thought it was him. He was out of uniform, but there was something about his character that made me think he might be Mr. C. He fit the body type, and had a kind and jolly disposition. I instantly liked him and wanted to get to know him better. He told me his name was Mark Brady and that he was a Rotarian. That made sense because I met him at the Rotary Club of Simsbury-Granby in Connecticut where I was giving a speech about the need to stop global boring by reducing our PowerPoint emissions in our presentations. Mark approached me after my speech and asked me what I wanted for Christmas.
Mark began to tell me a remarkable story about dressing up as Santa Claus at the annual Christmas party for special needs adults from a variety of group homes in the area. This is an annual Rotary club service project that’s been going on for more than 20 years. Local grocery Fitzgerald’s catered the dinner and the United Methodist Church hosted the venue. Rotary Club members purchased and wrapped gifts on the wish list for adults who attended this cherished event. It was a magical evening. Mark said that Santa is not just for kids. Adults need Santa Claus, too.
As this is Christmas week – and also the start of the Hanukkah and Kwanzaa celebrations- I invited Mark to share his uplifting story on my blog. I hope you enjoy reading about Mark’s experience dressing up as Santa Claus. It made me wonder whether or not I have what it takes to serve such an important role in people’s lives. It’s been years since I sat in Santa’s lap, or brought my children to see Santa, but Mark’s story made me remember the joy and wonder of it all. It feels good to believe that we still live in a world filled with the spirit of goodness, the soul of service, and the kindness of strangers. Thanks Santa Mark for helping me to believe again.
I AM NOT Santa Claus…..or am I?
by Mark Brady
ome local organization asks you, because you have a big belly and a jolly disposition, to be “Santa” for their Christmas festivities. So what do you do for a costume? Well, sometimes they have a Santa suit you can use if it fits, or they know somebody who will lend the outfit. Or in my case, you drive 200 miles and pay $500.00 for a really nice Santa suit that fits like a glove. I learned with my first suit that you sweat to death inside it, and breathe through the beard for an hour or so. I also learned that if you lend it out to another “Santa”, the suit needs to be dry cleaned between users. Unfortunately, the Santa beard comes back smelling like cigars or whatever, and you can’t clean that. Now I treat my Santa suit like most people would treat their toothbrush, it’s mine, and I won’t lend it out ever again.
ow, you need a sturdy chair to sit in, for when you get “landed on” by a large and or charging enthusiast. Also, you need elves. Three is a good crew. One is your personal assistant. When “Vinnie” crashes into you and malls you, this elf puts you back together and makes sure belt, beard, wig, hat, glasses etc. are straightened out before and after every encounter. You’re helpless to do that for yourself. The other two elves handle the line, and presents if any. Some people want to sit on your lap, some on your knee, and some don’t want to be touched at all. You need to adjust at each encounter to what they expect, or are comfortable with, for most of the time pictures are taken. A disheveled Santa makes a poor impression. Your elves are to you what offensive lineman are to a quarterback, you take good care of them because without them…..you’re dead, LOL!
nly the heart matters when people approach Santa. My first gig back in the 1980’s was for a large real estate company’s “Christmas party”. I did not know what to expect. Actually by the time it came for “Santa not only had everyone had a few drinks, but they were very anxious to tell “Santa” what they REALLY wanted for Christmas. Oh, man! Use your imagination. I ended the night helping a gentleman carry his wife out to their car, as she had consumed a bit too much liquid merriment.
hy do people come to Santa is what you’re wondering when you’re sitting there. This is the most fascinating thing in this experience of playing Santa. On the whole, whether the person’s heart believes or not, they make requests for themselves or others that they hope might be answered. A bit like praying I guess. You realize, I hope, that they are talking to Santa, not you. You can feel the burden of knowing that, in your words and demeanor, you represent the entity…the myth… the reality. It’s a bit like the burden of jury duty, in that you hold someone else’s impression in your hands. Their dreams of being loved unconditionally by Santa may be their only refuge in a hailstorm of a life. You want to make sure you reinforce that fact. And yah know, for just a few seconds, you sometimes feel the love connection flowing back and forth, and the whole world goes away. It’s a special moment in time, for both of us. I am moved sometimes to say, “I love you” mixed in with the Merry Christmases… I hope you get some gifts that you’ll like and are really able to use and have fun with.
That lovely little moment, with someone’s innocent heart, is what keeps me coming back down the chimney year after year.
So who’s giving or getting gifts here? Both are.
I love you.
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About Mark Brady: Mark is a man of many talents and passion for serving others. When he’s not dressed up as Santa Claus, Mark is designing and remodeling kitchens for clients in Connecticut. Since 1966 he has owned and operated Mark Brady Kitchens. He is an active member of the Rotary Club of Simsbury-Granby. A man of faith, Mark is a certified lay speaker at the United Methodist Church in Simsbury, and is an unofficial EST-emergency sermon technician-offering his services to other churches that need a substitute speaker in a pinch. Mark is also a Justice of the Peace and enjoys officiating at weddings and other celebrations of life. A Disney enthusiast, Mark graduated from Disney University in hopes of making his customer service experience one of the happiest on earth. To book Mark as Santa Claus or to have your kitchen remodeled, contact Mark at (860) 306-5867 or email: MarkBradyKitchens@yahoo.com