My mother used to love telling the story of the first time I went to sit on Santa’s lap. I was maybe 3 or 4 and we were at the mall, I saw all these other kids walking around with crayons; precious, precious crayons. I wanted some, but my mom said I had to go sit on some fat guys thunder thighs in order to get them. It made no sense to me at the time, but these were crayons we were talking about, and well worth a little effort. Or so I thought.
We stood in the line for donkeys yonks, watching child after child mount the man’s furry, red chesterfield lap and receive their waxen treasures. I was standing there thinking about how much better the living room walls would look with big red and yellow scribbles when a zit faced elf unhooked the velvet rope and told me I was next. Suddenly the reality of the situation hit me. This had to be some grown up conspiracy. Nothing in life is that easy and I had been tricked before. The doctor said I was going to get a lollipop and all I had to do was sit still for a second. Then the needles came. This was going to be like that. I bet that big brown sack is just full of needles. My feet melted to the floor as my mom gently nudged me closer to the (for all intents and purposes) evil fat man. Everything after that is a blur. There was screaming, scrambling and somehow I broke away and ran full tilt, blinded by tears, directly into a glass door.
I like to think that that was my first step toward skepticism. And even if I didn’t have all the facts straight and I did ended up with a goose egg on my forehead, it was worth it for a lifetime of questioning authority and thinking for myself. So this holiday season if you really want to make a difference in a child’s life try scaring the crap out of them. It’s fun and it just might make the world a better place.