What I Learned From My Kid's Letter to Santa

Courtesy of Yvette Manes
Courtesy of Yvette Manes

We had just come out of the toughest year of our lives. A move out of state to pursue a business venture hadn’t gone as planned, and we found ourselves with mounting debt and no job prospects in sight. My husband and I held out as long as we could, but as parents of two young children, we knew this couldn’t go on. We made the difficult decision to sell much of our furniture and use the money to rent a moving truck. During Thanksgiving break, we made the 15-hour drive back home to stay with relatives while we got back on our feet.

At a Christmas-tree lighting a couple of weeks later, I looked longingly at the coffee cart, bitter that I couldn’t splurge on a chai latte or a cookie for my kid. In a year of sacrifices, my children had become accustomed to hearing the words “maybe next time” and “that’s not quite in the budget right now.” It killed me when they eventually stopped asking.

There was a mailbox set up where kids could send letters to Santa. I asked my 9-year-old daughter if she wanted to mail Santa her list, even though I knew it was another way she’d be let down. She filled out a postcard, and before I dropped it into the mailbox, I looked at what she’d written: “Dear Santa, I don’t want anything this year for Christmas. I have gotten so many things. All I want is for kids who don’t have anything to get a toy.”

All year long I’d believed I was depriving my kids, sure that they felt cheated by our financial hardship. What a surprise to learn that this difficult experience had actually taught them to appreciate all they already had and to think about those who were truly in need.

This story originally appeared in Parents magazine as "Her Santa Note Gave Me Hope"