Now what happened next is something no one is really certain about. Was it a dream or was it real? Santa claims that it was so real, he’ll never forget it. Martha says it’s a miracle. Sam simply says it just doesn’t matter. So I’ll let you decide.
As it turned out, Santa was asleep when Mrs. Claus came to bed that night. The tension and pressure of his big decision had totally worn him out. In most cases when stress hits, a person lies awake counting sheep, but when Santa gets uptight, he can fall asleep at the drop of a hat.
Well, just about five minutes after Martha finished her prayers, Santa awoke suddenly from his slumber. He rubbed his eyes, sat up in bed, and as he leaned over to pick up his glasses from the bedstand, he suddenly realized he was no longer in his bedroom. He slipped on his glasses, and as he took a look around him, he saw that he was sitting on a long wooden bench, leaning over an even longer wooden table. At first, he thought he might be back at the Christmas dinner over at the North Pole Civic Auditorium.
“Maybe I just dozed off a bit during one of Sam’s long-winded toasts to Christmas past.” Santa thought to himself.
But no. This wasn’t the civic auditorium. And the voices he heard were not the voices of elves. The room was much smaller, with much less light. And wait! The people seated at the table were not elves. To his left sat a middle-aged lady wearing a yellow sweater with a few buttons missing off the sleeves. Across from her was an older gentleman with a scruffy set of grey and white whiskers that definitely needed a Christmas trimming. Before Santa could give the whole thing another thought, he was suddenly interrupted by a set of very small hands placing a very large dinner plate right in front of him.
“Here you go, sir. Enjoy your Christmas dinner.”
A small boy, no more than seven or eight, smiled as he pushed a white china plate in front of Santa. It was piled high with turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and gravy, and of course, Santa’s personal favorite, cranberry preserves.
“Would you like a corn muffin with that?” the young man asked.
“Yes, my dear boy.” Santa replied. “That sounds delicious.” Santa hadn’t eaten anything since breakfast, so he found himself saying yes to the young man before he actually had time to think much about what he was saying.
“Butter with that?”
“Why yes, thank you, son.” Santa said politely.
“How ‘bout a cup of coffee?” another voice asked.
Santa looked behind him and saw a middle-aged man who appeared to be helping to serve drinks to all of those people seated at his table. He had his hands full, balancing a stack of coffee cups, a coffee carafe, and a big handful of napkins. Before he could answer, the man had poured a steaming cup of coffee in a bright shiny mug that had ‘Merry Christmas’ running up one side and down the other.
“Joy, can you give that gentleman a packet of sugar and creamer to go with his coffee?” the man asked, motioning to an even smaller child standing directly behind him. “Thanks, Joy, for helping.”
“Well, sir,” the man with the coffee carafe continued. “I don’t believe I’ve seen you here at the shelter before. What’s your name?”
Santa took a big gulp of the coffee, smiled, and said, “My name is San…” He suddenly stopped. “I mean…ah…Nick.”
Joy, the little six-year-old girl with the sugar and creamer, giggled and said, “You almost said Santa! Are you really Santa?”
Santa, still a bit stunned at this unusual situation he found himself in, paused and said, “Well no, dear. My name is actually Nick. At Christmas time.” he continued. “I work a bit on the side being Santa in the mall. I’m so used to saying, ‘I’m Santa’ to people, I forgot where I was.”
“Well, Santa,” laughed the man with the coffee carafe, “Or should I say, Nick. I’m Pastor Bruce. This is my daughter, Joy. And over there is my son, Edward. We’re glad we could serve you Christmas dinner tonight. It’s a cold Christmas Eve out there, and we’re certainly happy you came down to the shelter to enjoy a meal with us tonight.”
Now Santa had no idea what was going on around him. All the while, he was wondering what in the world had happened to him. Despite his inner confusion, he was still very cordial and friendly to his new friends. Santa is like that, you know. Even when he has his mind on a million and one details, he can always enjoy the moment. Some folks call it being a good people person. Others call it the gift of blarney. But regardless of what you call it, Santa is the best at making a person he is talking with feel like he is the most important person in the world.
Joy was mesmerized by Nick’s appearance. From everything she could tell, this must be the real Santa. Edward was more realistic however, shrugging his shoulders as Nick began to ask more questions about the work they were doing at the shelter. Pastor Bruce had taught his children well to watch themselves around strangers and right now, Pastor Bruce was keeping a good eye on Nick, just to make certain his kids were not getting too enthralled with this old bearded man, dressed in red pants and suspenders.