My mom taught me to say please, and thank you. And so did yours.
The hallmark of a civilized society is the ability of the citizens to use appropriate, considerate communication. Polite discourse involves some prescribed tokens, including the use of these special words taught to us from the time we are born, and reinforced throughout most of our formative years.
We spend a lot of time as Santas listening to “Please”. It’s the primary purpose of most of our visits with our little friends. We listen to them ask for items on their wish list. I have witnessed countless parents (most, even) coach their children to use the polite word, “Please” when asking for these things. I absolutely appreciate that–as a parent, and as a Santa.
Sometimes we are given the opportunity to hand a child something during our visits. Parents or organizers will plant a small gift, or a candy cane for Santa to hand to the child, so that the child can walk away from the visit having received something from Santa–a sort of whetting the chops or priming the pump for the BIG visit! And, again, the prompts come, to use their words: “Thank You.”
As a witness to this periodic reinforcement of this politesse, I sometimes take a step back to assess what we are really accomplishing. The niceties are important, and children will become proficient at utilizing the proper social graces under the varieties of situations in which they find themselves. But behind the niceties, behind the words, behind the rhetoric lies what we really want them to learn, and to feel.
I see the faces and I feel the intensity of a sincere Ask. Much like the prepossessed Ralphie from A Christmas Story cannot but hyper-focus on his greatest desire: for Santa to bring him an “official Red Ryder carbine action, 200-shot, range model air rifle with a compass in the stock and this thing that tells time”, many children approach the chair with a very specific desire in mind. I can tell at that moment that their hearts are full, and that a genuine “Please” is backed by all the desperate hope in the world.
But how about the “Thank you”? While weeks and months are built into a “Please”, a “Thank you” is often short-lived. So let’s reinforce it! Let’s provide a setting (even one as formal as a child before the regal figure of Father Christmas) to embrace the gratitude.
I submit: The Thank You Visit
Now, I won’t kid myself to think that, somehow, a “Thank You Visit” can even begin to compare to an original Santa Visit Wish List Discussion. But doesn’t it merit at least some reverence, pomp, and circumstance?
“An enlightened society is built upon the unique desire to acquire and to own”, said no wise man ever. However, most will concede that “An enlightened society is perpetually built upon persistent gratitude.”
So, here’s the deal: I’m offering Thank You Visits: five minute virtual visits from Santa at the North Pole as he recovers from his favorite night of the year. During these visits, the child can talk about whatever he or she wants. Many will want to tell Santa all about their experiences with their new toys. Maybe they will recount stories of their Christmas Eve traditions new and old. Perhaps there will be tales of vacations or outings over the Winter Break. But, hopefully, there will be gratitude.
Now, is this just another way for a Santa to make a buck? It may look that way. But I see it more as another chance to touch a child’s life. Another chance to reinforce a core value. Another chance to teach goodness.
Thank you for listening.
(to book a Thank You Visit for your child, please click here)