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Does Santa Come to Africa?

Children of Tsogang Sechaba, Soweto, enter the Infinite Family computer lab for the first time

The kids of Infinite Family have lots of exposure to western culture. They LOVE Beyonce and Alicia Keyes. They are gaga over Zac Efron and Miley Cyrus. They can belt out their tunes and mimic their dances moves.

One young girl via email, insisted I introduce her to Halle Berry so that Halle could help her with her dream of becoming an actress. When I explained that wasn't possible because someone like me would never know someone like the academy award winning Ms. Berry...she couldn't accept that. In email after email, she expressed her surprise and disappointment that I would hold out on her like this.

In light of this misapprehension of American culture, I use some of my time during computer training to encourage questions from the Infinite Family kids about anything "American".

No longer focused on their computer screens, the children turn to me as the fount of all wisdom. The questions come at lightening speed:

"Why are your taxis in America all yellow?"

"Why do Americans ask so many questions?"

"How can one person live in an apartment all by themselves?"

And "Is Santa Claus real?"

As the last question was asked, the room, formerly awash with raised hands and eager faces, became solemn and quiet.

This was a serious question. The children wanted a definitive answer.

But what they really were asking was:

If Santa was real & visited the children of the US, then why didn't the jolly old elf come to visit them? Did they not merit a Christmas miracle? Weren't their Christmas wishes important to Saint Nicholas?

Did Santa not visit them because they were bad or undeserving?

Up until that moment, I never imagined that the Santa story could be so hurtful.

The myth and magic that grown-ups weave is never meant to hurt. But sometimes, it does.

Just a few years ago, when my daughter finally decided to stop believing in the magic of Santa, I explained to her that she was now responsible to embody the magic. By embodying the magic through giving exceptionally and selflessly, you become Santa.

I know we all try to do this for those we love. We try to give exceptionally. We try to give without a thought for ourselves. We all try to extend and embody the myth to those outside of our homes, outside of our communities...to extend the myth of magic to those who have so little magic in their lives.

Facing the somber-faced children in the tin-roofed, concrete block computer lab, I still needed to give them an answer.

So I told them, if Santa was real, he would NEVER FORGET them. You, beautiful and beloved, would never be forgotten by a benevolent and bountiful Santa Claus.

How are we embodying the magic, extending the bounty, this season? One option is to extend yourself to the children of Infinite Family. Weekly video conversations with a child longing for adult attention and the opportunity to make their own dreams come true, gives you the opportunity to embody the magic like nothing else.

Thank you for being Santa this season...to those in your home, in your community and those in tin-roofed shacks in Africa!

www.infinitefamily.org

Comments

jadefrank's picture

Santa

Hi Dana,

I cannot imaging facing a room full of sweet young children, asking why Santa didn't care about them. What a difficult situation - which you handled beautifully.

And I love this discussion... the idea that Santa himself is not real, but the spirit of giving to those who are deserving is what this holiday is more about.

Your journal also reminded me of my visit to Siberia when I was only 15. I traveled with 7 other students from my high school to promote goodwill and understanding between cultures and visited many schools in this bleak part of the newly proclaimed Russia. One young boy handed me a letter addressed to Michael Jackson and asked that I please deliver it to him. I didn't have the heart to say that I would never get the chance to personally deliver his letter.

Dana - I suggest that you post again your call for mentors in the Resource ExChange. We have many new members on PulseWire from the global north - many who found us through Half the Sky, and many who are looking to make a difference in what ways they can. I hope that you can find some new mentors for you incredible program!

Happy New Year!

In partnership,
Jade

Dana Gold's picture

Gift Giving vs Gift Being

Often, the US can come across as a kind of benevolent and capricious Santa figure. We ostentatiously dole out the gifts, but you have to be "good" to get them...good as determined by some parental formula of behaving according to "our" standards.

When it comes to children that I've worked with in South Africa, that expectation of generosity from individual US citizens can be the same.

At Infinite Family, we tell the children and their mentors that we believe "The Gift is YOU". The gift of time, attention, shared laughter, insight and experience are the gifts we bring to one another across the thousands of miles that separate us using video technology.

The children understand this. They like the idea of being a gift to someone. As a weekly gift to their mentor, they inspire in surprising ways. They bring delight. They bring their willingness to love and be loved by a stranger so far away.

And so, the children of Infinite Family don't generally ask for anything...except your being...your being with them in their journey of growing up and becoming a gift to the world.

These relationships transform more than individual lives...they change perspective. A perspective change that says soemthing about the US as a nation.

By "being with" someone through the process of mentoring, we make a statement that "we believe in you". We believe that by walking with you, we will witness your success, your blossoming into the best you can be.

Instead of holding up a yardstick by which someone is measured, mentoring holds up a mirror and helps you measure yourself by your own expectations and hopes.

So, during January, National Mentoring Month, we encourage everyone to give a gift, by being a gift. We hope you will consider giving your gift through Infinite Family.

Visit our website at www.infinitefamily.org to be a gift or give a gift.

Infinite Family. Infinite Possibilities.

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