WHAT DO YOU THINK when someone asks “Do you believe in Santa Claus?” 

That reminds me of the essay written by the late Sam Campbell and sent to me by Doris Goldsworthy of Three Lakes more than a decade ago.

Campbell was a nationally known naturalist, author and photographer who owned a cabin near Three Lakes. There is a trail named after him. He had a radio program in Chicago, Ill., and wrote the popular “Living Forest Series” partly about his love of northern Wisconsin.

Sam and Giny Campbell spent a lot of time in the area and truly loved their time in the North Woods. In the spirit of Christmas, here is the answer Sam Campbell gave Billy, a 9-year-old listener of his radio program, when he asked “Do you believe in Santa Claus?”

Yes, Billy, dear child; yes, I believe in Santa Claus. Perhaps I do not believe him to be the way I pictured him when I was your age, but the way I see him now, I find him to be so much finer.”

There were some things I didn’t like about Santa Claus, as I first thought him to be. I didn’t like the idea of him overlooking many children who seemed to need most what he had to give and I didn’t like the idea of him coming only once a year. It seemed to me there was so much work to be done in the world, of the kind he does, that he should be at it all year-round.

Of course, it is fine to make Christmas a season of giving. There could be no more appropriate way to honor the memory of Jesus, for his sole work was to give the world the most precious things in life.

Yet, he did not limit his giving to one day, but gave all he had every day throughout his entire earthly existence. And Jesus never requested that Christmas be observed in memory of him, but did say “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” He wanted us to learn the lessons he taught and to live by them. And the lessons he taught meet every problem.

It is apparent that if Santa Claus is just a man or a man-like saint, he has been doing about all he can. But this is what I learned about him, Billy. He is not so much a person as he is a glorious spirit that creeps into the hearts of all.

He is the spirit of giving and love; the same love that inspired Jesus to give without restraint and which leads us to do the same occasionally, but not often enough.

When we see Santa Claus in this light, we cannot help but believe in him and furthermore, we see how undesirable conditions are going to be corrected someday. Whereas we now think of giving only occasionally and therefore have this spirit within us only once in a while, someday, we will be wise enough to keep it alive in our hearts at all times.

Then, the little children who now suffer disappointment and neglect at the hands of the old-fashioned Santa Claus will find this spirit in and about them, and their needs readily supplied. Then, we won’t wait for that day to come which is the birthday of Jesus, before being kind and generous to our fellows, but we shall do as he did: give the best there is in us, always.

Billy, I wish that everyone who enters this world could learn at your age the glory of giving. I wish they would take the spirit that is represented in the term Santa Claus and make it a part of themselves. How this would enrich existence and make a heaven on Earth.

Giving is really the only work one has to do here and a great man has said “When we leave this world, the only things we can take along are those we have given away.”

Some people say that the way to get good things in life is to give. I don’t like that very well, for it makes giving selfish. I would rather say that the way to have things is to give, for when we give forth that which is ours to give, we find we bring it into expression and thus, we have the more ourselves.

Of course, I do not mean by this that all anyone can do in life is to give presents to someone else. Giving is much greater than that. I mean this, Billy, that deep in that little heart of yours, God has placed many things that the world needs.

He has placed goodness there, great kindness, much love and service, and grand talents that are yours alone. These are what you must give. And the more you give of them, the more you will have.

Consider for a moment; if you love just one of your playmates, you have some love in your thought and this is good. But if you love two playmates, you have twice as much love yourself. This is true, even though you carry it on to mean the loving of every creature in the world.

Yes, Billy, I believe in Santa Claus. I have seen his spirit in the fine people I meet too often to doubt him. Someway, I think I see him even in the sun, which gives forth its light, never asking for anything in return.

I see him in the birds, which sing out their happiness, without waiting to have listeners or be paid for what they do. I see him in the rose, which shines its beauty into the world and beautifies each breeze with its perfume.

All about us we see the great creator of all things forever giving and this spirit, Billy, I am sure is Santa Claus.