Sometimes in life, something comes along that just stops you in your tracks, and makes you step back, and take a long look at your life. It can be a victory or a tragedy, a triumph or a loss.
And then sometimes, it just comes out of nowhere.
This weekend, I was hired to take Santa Claus pictures, at my company's children's Christmas party. For four hours I sat in front of a wonderful Santa and Mrs. Claus, snapping pictures, as a line of children (some eager, some...not so much) filed past, to tell the Jolly Old Elf how good they've been this year, and to whisper into his ear their greatest hopes and desires.
And then Alicia tapped me on the shoulder.
Alicia was a sixty year old Mexican woman, and an employee of the hotel where our party was being held. She was one of the workers attending to our needs. She told me she had always wanted to get a picture with Santa, and she asked me how much I would charge to take a picture of her with Santa and Mrs. Claus. Not being one of our employees, she wouldn't have access to the photos that I was taking. I asked for an email address, and told her I would just send it to her -- no charge.
Alicia stood quietly to the side, as the rest of the children passed by. And then it was her turn. She climbed up on the stage, and stood next to Santa Claus, pointing to his giant "Santa" belt buckle, and smiling big.
I snapped the picture.
And then things got profound...
She looked at Mr. and Mrs. Claus, and said "Now my dream has finally come true."
And then she began to cry.
And I haven't stopped thinking about that moment since.
The thing about hopes and dreams is that they're a bit different for each of us. Every child that spoke to Santa Claus that day, was full of hope, and each hope was a little different from the child who went before. The other thing about hopes and dreams is that we all have them. Hope is what pushes us forward. Hope changes us. Hope makes us better.
Our hopes and dreams are the things we treasure the most, and sometimes there's no understanding them, but that doesn't make them less real, or less important. Each of the kids, who sat on Santa Claus' lap that afternoon hoped for an abundant reward for a year of good behavior. My greatest hopes are for my family -- that they'll be happy, that they'll be successful, that they will love their life, as I have loved my own.
And Alicia hoped, for sixty years, to take a picture with Santa Claus.
I don't know why that dream went unfulfilled for so long, or why it mattered so much, but I know it did. I saw that in her eyes and her tears, and I was deeply touched to be a part of helping that hope become fulfilled.
Hope is powerful.
And now, twenty-four hours later, as I sit in the darkness of my home, lit only by the soft light of the Christmas tree, with quiet carols playing in the back ground, it occurs to me that Christmas is about a lot of things. It's about joy. It's about peace on earth. It's about new life and it's about redemption. But really, it's about hope for each of those things.
And it was hope -- the greatest hope of all -- that was born, in that stable, under that star in the desert sky, on that silent night, long ago.