For 67 years, Globe Santa, a program of the Boston Globe Foundation, has provided gifts to children in need at holiday time. Please consider giving by phone, mail, or online at globesanta.org.
Letters to Globe Santa can be heart-stoppingly sad. They can also be funny, especially when they’re written by kids. The letters often tend toward understatement. “Money is tight,” they say, or “times have been hard.” Others are unsparing in their detail of trauma, of sudden falls, perfect storms of heartbreak and loss.
However they may vary in all other respects, in every letter there is a common element. It’s gratitude. For the toys and books and games that Globe Santa delivers; for the even greater miracle of their arrival. Gratitude that someone has really read their letters and responded. Gratitude that attention has been paid. Gratitude, and no small amount of amazement, that Globe Santa exists at all. If the best expression of today’s holiday is its name, letters like these are its heart.
“I think it’s important to start with how grateful I am for what you do, for all who make this possible,” begins a letter in bold black marker, from the mother of a 3-year-old girl in Bridgewater.
“The gratitude I have,” declares the disabled mother of a 5-year-old boy in Randolph, “Is not to be described.”
“Thank you for even considering our family,” writes the mother of an 11-year-old girl, from Whitman. “We will be content with anything that you give us, just because of the simple fact that you will be one of the few people to give us anything this holiday season. Thank you for being part of our journey to a better life.”
For 67 years, Globe Santa, a program of the Boston Globe Foundation, has kept its promise to “deliver joy,” in brown boxes, in time for the holidays to tens of thousands of children in need in Greater Boston. But, as the letters make plain, there is more to the boxes than their contents.
“I hope you all know what a difference you make, when those boxes show up on my doorstep,” writes the mother of a little girl, age 4, in Roxbury Crossing. “Thank you, Globe Santa staff.” She closes her letter with a heart and a peace sign.
“For the last 15 years you did not forget my family,” writes a father in Revere. “Every year you always remember us.” This year’s letter is on behalf of a daughter, who is 11. The father writes proudly of the three sons who were Globe Santa recipients before her: The oldest, now an engineer in Texas, married with a baby girl; the youngest, a UMass student playing soccer for the university. Of the middle son, who had been a police officer, he writes, “He die in line of duty (he was shot during working). I will never be able to forget that. We will never forget our son, like Globe Santa will never forget us.”
There’s a lot of talk these days, in academia and the wellness industry, about gratitude and its health benefits, mental and physical. Articles like “Giving thanks can make you happier,” recently popped up in Harvard Health’s blog, attest that “in positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experience, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”
For parents in poverty, who deal with adversity daily, who face impossible choices, there isn’t a lot of time to “write a few sentences in a gratitude journal or simply take a moment to silently acknowledge all that you have,” as a recent article in Psychology Today recommends. Which is why the thanks they offer, freely and with heart, is all the more powerful, and humbling.
“We just want to thank you guys for helping families that are in need of help in the tuff times. My family is blessed to have Globe Santa for help this holiday season,” a mother of a 7-year-old boy writes from Watertown.
“Firstly, I would like to show appreciation for the Globe Santa Program,” the father of a 5-year-old girl writes from Dorchester. “Secondly, my daughter would like to say thank you.”
“I like to pride myself on how I take care of my daughter, always making sure she has all that she needs,” he continues. “So, it’s hard writing something like this, which in essence is me asking for help, saying I can’t do it myself. I would like to think I’ve grown above petty things like image or self-worth based on a numerical value, and maybe that is also something I can thank this program for, sincerely and forever indebted.”
For a mother of four young children, also from Dorchester, the boxes from Globe Santa are like a message in a bottle, and the message is “that they’re deserving and loved.”
Year after year, Globe Santa is made possible by the generosity of its donors, who gave a whopping $1.7 million last year so that children in poverty in Greater Boston would feel deserving and loved.
“The thought that counts,” writes the mother of four, “is that ‘Santa’ came by and visited them. I cannot afford to buy them toys when we go to the stores, and it breaks my heart to say no, but around Christmastime I know with the help of Globe Santa I can bring joy to their hearts and smiles on their faces.”
Read letters like these on America’s feast day, and somehow it matters a little less that the breast of the turkey’s on the dry side, someone dropped the pumpkin pie, or your brother-in-law just broke the rule about not mentioning politics.
Ellen Bartlett can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.