With December and the advent calendar comes another sign of the season—my nine-year-old presenting me with his list for Santa.
This year's list includes (in order of desire) an Xbox 360, Guitar Hero, an electric guitar, Star Wars Battlefront for Nintendo DS, a Nerf Dart Tag set, and a Dinosaur Bio-Byte.
My usual buying strategy for Christmas is to decide what I can afford and multiply by three. I pare down the existing list to an only slightly less extravagant level, and with a few key strokes I order everything online (gift wrapping included). With the Internet and a charge card, Christmas is in the bag.
This year I am hesitating to hit the "send" key. Not only is money tight, I'm looking at rooms already overflowing with toys and wondering how I get sucked into this buying frenzy every year.
The Santa list came coincidentally on the same day that two powerful e-mails arrived in my inbox.
The first was from my good friend Rabbi Shmuley, who was in Zimbabwe with a Christian group called Rock of Africa. They were there to deliver mosquito nets and to serve a hot Thanksgiving meal of goat meat and cabbage to people who live in mud huts in a nation that has become one of the most impoverished in the world at the hands of President Robert Mugabe's authoritarian regime.
Shmuley wrote, "the most moving part of the day was when we distributed corn seeds to the families... the people were glowing." He said that some recipients even kissed the bags of seed, which would feed an entire family for a year. If some of the seeds spilled from a bag, he wrote, "the people picked up every last seed as if each were a diamond".
The second e-mail came from a pilot friend who had just flown a charter of National Guard troops off to assignment in Iraq. Amid the tearful farewells, he observed a boy--the same age as my son--running down the jetway in an attempt to board as a stowaway. The youngster was dragged away by his crying mother, while my friend tried to remain impassive.
I know that the little boy on the jetway wants his daddy more than anything this Christmas. The children of Zimbabwe--many whom have lost both parents to AIDS--show infinite gratitude to a stranger who provides a warm meal and seeds to sustain them.
These are the wishes that should be shared with children who dream of sugar plums and Guitar Hero.
Laurie Cantillo's columns about New Canaan life appear each Sunday in New Canaan Patch.