Category Archives: Photography

I believe in Santa Claus

“I don’t believe in Santa Claus,” she said in a voice loud enough for every child within 15 feet to hear. “My parents put the presents in the stocking.”

And so I found myself in a parental nightmare scenario: having to explain Santa Claus, or no Santa Claus, to other people’s children.

The girl was in Grade 2 at the time, and she was my daughter’s best friend. It was a minute or two after the final bell rang on the last day of school before Christmas. The children, bursting with excitement, had just charged through the doors to start a two-week break. I don’t remember what prompted my daughter’s friend to make her pronouncement. I just know that when she did, she planted her feet and looked squarely at me, her chin set in challenge, eyes alight, daring me to react.

Every child running past us stopped. They looked at her and then at me to see what I would say. I was in one of those 360º movie pans where the audio dips to a hum while the audience watches to see what the character will do.

I was aware that many of the children around me believed, or wanted to; I was not going to shred their dreams. I also knew that if I didn’t answer truthfully, I would lose all credibility with my daughter’s friend.

Here’s what I said:

I believe in Santa Claus. Santa Claus is the spirit of giving.  If I see someone in need and want to help them out, then I’m the spirit of giving. When you really like someone and want to give them a gift, you’re the spirit of giving. When presents appear in your stocking on Christmas morning, it means that someone loves you enough to be filled with the spirit of giving. That’s Santa Claus.

The spirit of living

Over the years I have read many times the “Santa Claus” argument against a belief in God. Atheists routinely trot that one out. They say that someone’s belief in God is as childish and delusional as a belief in Santa Claus.

I don’t have to believe in a man in a red suit to believe in what is the very best about Christmas—the spirit of giving. I don’t have to believe in a man in the sky to believe in what is the very best about our universe—the spirit of living.

Oh, yes. I believe in Santa Claus. That spirit of giving and living moves and breathes through this holiday season, no matter what faith people have. That is why so many atheists still celebrate Christmas. They feel it, too.

May you find the spirit of giving and living, now and the whole year through.

A cup of hope for world peace

At a meeting of the Canadian Authors Association a few years ago, two guests spoke about their writing projects. Dr. David Makow, a Polish Jew, shared stories from his book Dangerous Luck: Memories of a Hunted Life, and Peter Hessel, a former member of the junior branch of the Hitler Youth, spoke about The Mystery of Frankenberg’s Canadian Airman.

From Dr. Makow we heard how a hunted teenager survived the Holocaust through dangerous luck. From Mr. Hessel we heard how the eyes of a German youth opened to the horrors that the Nazis inflicted. First, we heard about the pain of the loss of homeland and family, and then about the pain of disillusionment with homeland. The two men had grown up in the same Europe, but very different Europes.

At the end of the evening, in a spontaneous and unrehearsed moment, the two men looked each other in the eye and shook hands. Forgiveness met enlightenment and shook hands.

There was a pause, a moment of stillness. A bristling energy passed through the room making the hair on our arms stand up. Tears filled our eyes. Then there was boisterous applause.

Forgiveness meets enlightenment

On Sunday, two men stood at the front of a church sanctuary, one to the left of the aisle and the other to the right. Each held a cup. The people gathered there with them lined up and filed forward. One by one, each person in line took a piece of bread. As they dipped their bread into the cup, these two men looked them in the eye and said, “The cup of hope.” Once all the crowd had filed through, the men then took an offered piece of the bread of life, dipped it into the cup and shared in Worldwide Communion Sunday.

One of these men was Jewish, the other Muslim.

I sat in the sanctuary watching this unfold. The hair on my arms stood up and my eyes filled with tears. I savoured the warm feeling of inclusion, the joy of shared humanity. I felt a renewed glimmer of hope for our world.

I’m not naïve.

I don’t have a vision of a utopian world where we float around in flowing white robes in a permanent state of ecstatic bliss. I have two teenagers—sometimes family peace is too much to hope for, let alone world peace. I don’t expect a world without conflict. The world operates through the dance of opposites. This website is all about the dance of opposites. But I do hope for a world where conflicts resolve without murder, and disagreements dissolve without death. I do hope for a world where administration doesn’t need duress or torture. I do hope for a world that celebrates differences, emphasizes commonalities and negotiates solutions.

If forgiveness supplants resentment, if new insights supersede outdated notions and if inclusion replaces  exclusion, we plant seeds that grow into a world where conflict resolution involves handshakes, not weapons.

It is possible.

A handshake between a Polish Holocaust survivor and a former member of the Jungvolk showed me that it is possibleTwo cups of hope held by a Jewish man and a Muslim man in a Christian church showed me that it is possible.

What is possible on a small scale is possible on a grand scale. Let’s raise the cups of hope. Let’s multiply them.

I’ll drink to that.

Writing as a spiritual pursuit

Writing advice from Richard Wagamese: when you start to think, stop.

As so often happens in life, Wagamese asks us to accept the counterintuitive.  One would assume that the best advice would be, “When you start to think, start.” Certainly, many writers start out that way, but, curiously, when they do, the process is a struggle and the writing comes out forced, drab and lifeless. The writer develops a headache while she strains and sweats over a keyboard, and then she walks away discouraged when she reads strung-together words that don’t live and breathe into story.

For writing to be true, whether it is fiction or non-fiction, it breathes to life from that “something more” part of us, not from formulaic structures and proper grammar. Continue reading