INKLINGS: Yes, Virginia, there (still) is . . .
Prologue: After extensive searching, I finally found what I hoped was a good gift for two of my favorite people. I bought it, had it gift wrapped and with a pile of other packages took them all home. When I arrived, that special gift was missing. After what happened next I didn’t have to ask if Santa Claus was real!
It was 114 years ago that eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon asked that question in a letter to the editor of The New York Sun. Journalist Francis Pharcellus Church replied to Virginia – and the rest of us – in part that “He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy.” That is one of the most quoted newspaper articles in history and certainly fits what happened to me after loosing that package.
I know someone who works at the Summerville Belk where I had shopped. When I got in touch with him he said he would certainly check, but there was little chance a dropped and wrapped gift would be returned. I thought the same thing. Within a half hour we were both proved wrong. “We found it!” he enthused over the phone, “but you have to identify the contents and we have to unwrap it and confirm that.” I described what was in the box. For reasons explained later, I hesitated, but then had to comply if I wanted the gift. I gave the right answer. They rewrapped the gift and I got it back.
In the interests of full disclosure, I must tell you that my Belk contact is my brother-in-law, Jon Troneck. You may think this is why he took such an interest in my predicament. But I’ve known Jon for 23 years and he’s worked for Belk for 40 years. I know his work ethic and have heard his dedication and professionalism praised. Knowing Jon, if my name were Jan Doe, my treatment would have been just the same – except for the fact that he probably wouldn’t have called Jane “honey.” There were lots of Santas that day. Jon spent time checking all over the store with no luck. Then Linda Doyle, area sales manager for cosmetics, shoes and ladies accessories, came to the rescue. She said the package had just been turned in by Sandra Bennett, sales associate for Clinique, who got it from a customer, who found it in a shopping cart! My thanks go to Jon, Linda, Sandra, and to that anonymous selfless customer. They all proved once again not only that there is a Santa Claus, but that the Spirit of Christmas lives beyond the season and sets the tone for a bright New Year.
Epilogue: Ironically that missing gift was actually one I planned to give Jon and Cynthia for their 22nd wedding anniversary, which is today. And which is also why I was hesitant to describe what was in that box, but amazingly I managed to keep it secret. Jim and I presented the gift yesterday, so they wouldn’t see it in today’s paper before we all go out tonight to celebrate their more than two decades of marriage.
That, and the love and generosity of others.