Guest Post by Kelly Silay
Each of us has something we admire about the holiday season – the lights, the carols, or even the snow. For me, I have always admired the “little” things about the season, literally. I have always been drawn to Santa’s elves. Maybe it’s their work ethic to make toys for children all over the world. Maybe it’s their unending happiness and joy. Or maybe it’s their adorable pointy shoes. Whatever the reason, I have always admired Santa’s little helpers and they have become a staple part of my holiday season each year. This admiration led me to a lofty but formidable dream – to become one of Santa’s elves. Thanks to an online job board, my experience and enjoyment in working with small children, and my short stature, this holiday season my dream came true.
After passing the “Elf Test” and getting my “Santa approval,” I began working as one of Santa’s helpers on Chicago’s illustrious Michigan Avenue. Immediately, I realized this job was like no other. During my first shift, I was asked to escort Santa from the break room to his “Winter Wonderland” chair. As we came out of the elevator, the entire fourth floor of the mall stopped and turned to wave and smile in awe at the large man in the red, velvet suit with me. People of all ages and backgrounds greeted Santa like a long lost friend, a wise mystic, and a sweet grandfather all rolled into one. I watched in amazement as Santa greeted each person on his way to his chair. For the rest of the shift and the shifts that followed, my eyes frequently became glossy at the immense spirit that not only poured from this man, but each person that came to visit him.
People of all walks of life came to visit Santa, even those who don’t celebrate Christmas. One little boy in a Yamaka ran to Santa and informed him that even though he doesn’t celebrate Christmas, he believes in Santa. And it wasn’t just children visiting. An elderly couple came and told Santa that they had been visiting him each year, even after their children moved out and started families of their own. Santa meant a great deal not only to this couple, but to all that came to see him. But it wasn’t just the curly beard, the red suit, or the deep chuckle that brought them. Santa meant so much more.
In working for Santa, I realized that he represented something that often dwindles as the rest of the year happens. Between deadlines that have to be met, policies that must be enforced and adhered to, conflicts and obstacles that spring up, and the rest of life’s not-so-pleasurable pleasures, something gets lost. That something is spirit. Luckily, it’s the holiday season’s admirations that awaken this spirit in us, but these awakenings are too precious to only happen once a year. Life should frequently make us stop abruptly in a busy mall. Life should make us flock to it like all the best people we know rolled into one. And life should make our eyes glossy with warmth and cheer as much as possible.
The greatest payment I received in working for Santa wasn’t found in my paychecks. Santa taught me about the need for spirit in all that we do not only during the holiday season, but each day throughout the entire year. Santa also taught me that this spirit should not only exist within us, but it should be spread to everyone we meet in order to help it exist within them as well. In conjuring and upholding our own spirit and spreading it to others each and every day, imagine the spirited world we could live in and all that could be achieved in it.
I hope that you find spirit this holiday season and that it lasts throughout the year and for many years to come. I also hope that if you find your spirit fading, you remember the words of one of Santa’s little helpers and work to bring the spirit in your life alive. In working to maintain and spread spirit, even you can work for Santa and not only during the holiday season, but each and every day of the year.
Aside from being one of Santa’s helpers, Kelly Silay is currently finishing her Master’s degree in Social Work at Loyola University Chicago. Kelly currently works for The Children’s Place Association and A Better Chicago, two organizations doing wonderful work with Chicago’s most underserved residents. Kelly’s experiences and interests involve working with underserved young children and their families in Chicago and she plans to continue working with this group upon graduating in May. To connect with Kelly, please contact her via email or LinkedIn. Happy Holidays and Happy New Year!