Is there anything more delightful than the look of a small child at Christmas? The anticipation, the excitement… the existential dread.

Wait… what? Indeed dear reader, many years ago I was faced with a heartbreaking scene: A three-year old girl who had somehow convinced herself that Santa was not coming.

At the time I was seeing a woman who had a three-year old daughter, a beautiful young lady who’s name, it seems even now, prudent to omit.

This little angel had fallen into a paroxysm of melancholy worthy of a Russian play… and I had no idea why. Perhaps another child had told her that Santa wasn’t coming, or perhaps she thought she had been naughty and been spotted by one of the Big Guy’s surveillance operatives.

I was at a loss as to how I could help her. I had already been in contact with Winslow Q. Pointdexter, Elf Director of Shipping and Logistics at the North Pole Distribution Center, so I knew Christmas morning she would be delightfully surprised, but it broke my heart to see her so upset just 15 sleeps from the big day.

It was then that I realized what needed to be done. I sat her down and said, “Honey, do you know what Santa brings to boys and girls?”

She thought for a moment and shrugged in that exaggerated way only small children can. “Toys?”

“Well yes,” I conceded. “He does bring those, but he also brings happiness and kindness and joy doesn’t he?”

A definitive nod.

“You know, Santa’s job is really hard. There are so many boys and girls all over the world, he needs help at Christmas, so he has helpers. You could be a helper too.”

Now I had her full attention, Eyes went wide for a moment. “I help Santa?” she asked, clearly skeptical, as if at any moment she might demand a statistical analysis and a signed affidavit.

“It’s true,” I replied. “If you’re kind to other people, you’re helping Santa… You’d be one of his helpers! He’d really like that.”

In that moment, her little face lit up, and I would dare anyone to look at that face and not have their heart melt. “I be Santa’s helper! I be kind to everyone!” At that she ran off to inform Mommy of her new vocation in life.

The rest of Christmas passed as it always does, with joy, anticipation and excitement… but also with an extra degree of kindness and love from a certain little girl. And of course, when the final sleep was slept, she woke to find that Santa had not forgotten her after all. Santa had indeed appreciated her kindness, and her help in the huge job of spreading joy around the world.

He told her so in a special handwritten note, left on the now-empty cookie tray.

I’d thought she’d never stop grinning.

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