This letter to Santa Claus was different. Instead of asking for a scooter or a doll, the little boy who wrote it just wanted to be sure he was loved.
“Do you support the LGBTQ community and if you speak to God can you tell him that I love him,” the boy wrote. “[And] if he loves me for being gay?”
It was one of the hundreds of thousands of letters fielded by the U.S. Postal Service as part of its Operation Santa. Founded a century ago, the program allows public access to letters like the little boy’s, so volunteers — make that “elves” — across the country can fulfill some of those Christmas wishes. The program’s story is chronicled in a new IFC documentary, Dear Santa, out Dec. 4.
Director Dana Nachman tells Yahoo Entertainment that the missive, which went viral in November, immediately stood out. The crew had set out to make the film as diverse as possible, and that contribution was especially heartfelt.
“It just slays you,” Nachman says. “I mean, it is just the saddest, most poignant letter you’ve ever read.”
She wonders what messages the boy was hearing at home to make him feel that way.
“We just hope that that showcasing this letter shows all kids that, you know, Santa and God love them,” Nachman says. “And it was, it was something I couldn’t believe when that crossed our desk.”
Happily, two different elves responded to the heartfelt letter, although the story went unresolved in the movie. (One of the volunteers, Michael Muñoz, told The Advocate last month that he’s never heard back from the boy.)
Nachman explains that, while the filmmakers reached out to all of the families featured in the doc because they wanted to get all sides of the letter, they were particularly careful about that case.
“With most of the letters, we wrote to the parents about the film, we attached the letter. So with this boy’s letter, we did not attach [it], because we weren’t sure what his home life was like,” says Nachman, who also helmed Batkid Begins: The Wish Heard Around the World. “It might be fine, but he alluded to being concerned that... people or entities, like God or Santa, might not love him because he was gay. And so we didn’t want to make it a precarious situation.”
Nachman had planned to assess whether to share the child’s poignant words with his parents if and when she talked to them over the phone, but they were part of the roughly 50 percent of those who didn’t respond.
“We wanted the letter writer, we wanted a donor elf, and that was kind of our rule of whether we were going to use them. But with this letter being as poignant and important as it was, we decided, OK, forget it,” Nachman says. “We’re going to put it in any way, even though it was unresolved. And we were bummed about that, but we thought it was, it made enough sense and was so important that we needed to include it anyway.”
The film, which profiles last year’s edition of the program, features many other moving missives to Kris Kringle. Some of the children just want practical things, such as food or a gift for a parent.
“There is so much power in these letters and I think it is because of the handwriting and the little drawings that kids write,” Nachman says.
The heart-melting messages are really what makes the movie, which is now available on streaming platforms and in select theaters. You can adopt your own letter through Operation Santa.
Video produced by Jon San and edited by Jimmie Rhee.
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