In 1897, 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to the New York Sun. “Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?” she asked.
“Virginia, your little friends are wrong,” wrote veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church. “They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds.”
“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus,” Church writes. He spoke to O’Hanlon’s belief in a Santa who traverses the globe on Christmas Eve, delivering gifts to good children. But, he also spoke to adults longing for something to believe in and wanting somehow to recapture the innocence of youth.
That was 115 years ago and Church refers to the “skepticism of a skeptical age.” Funny, not much has changed in the intervening decades since a hard-bitten journalist assured a little girl that Jolly old St. Nick was real.
We again, perhaps still, live in a cynical time. With Christmas advertisements pelting us from all directions starting before Halloween and some many advertisers liking the joy of the season with how much we spend.
In light of the horrific shootings in Newtown, Conn., the on-going political drama in Washington, D.C., of the “fiscal cliff,” and more and more Americans struggling against a moribund economy, it is no wonder why we’ve lost our faith in the concept of “peace on earth and good will towards men.”
But, just for the next two days, let’s try to look at the world through Virginia’s childlike eyes. Let’s see a world that is full of wonder and potential instead of pain and despair. Who knows, after a day or two, this attitude may be habit forming.