Robert Kirby: The best Christmas is a selfless Christmas

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Robert Kirby

Let’s skip the debate about whether Santa is real. It’s pointless. Some people (mostly jaded adults) insist he’s entirely fake, and others proclaim that he’s completely real because they have seen and even touched him.

I’m in the latter camp. Not only have I seen Santa, but I have been Santa — several times at Christmas parties, malls and once ringing a bell downtown in the freezing cold.

It’s not a huge transition. My facial hair is white, I’m fat, and I like kids, especially if I can wind them up to the point of driving their parents crazy.

My most memorable gig as Santa occurred several years ago when I was Kris Kringle in a mall.

I sat in a fake sleigh, loaded with phony presents, while a tall elf steered a line of real children up the stairs and onto my lap. Most of the kids just sat still while their parents took pictures. The bolder ones told me everything they wanted for Christmas.

They muttered about dolls and Legos and skateboards and real cars. One enterprising youngster had a computer-generated list.

Kid • “And if I don’t get all of this, I’ll know you’re totally made up. I’ll tell all my friends.”

That’s great. Christmas extortion. It’s almost like the real Christmas — worship this baby or you’ll go to hell.

My most memorable event occurred one holiday season when someone blew my cover. A woman holding the hand of her young son kept staring intently at me. Abruptly, she pulled her 4-year-old kid out of line and told the “elf” there was no way she was letting her kid sit in my lap.

Elf • “Santa? Why not?”

Her • “Because I know who that really is. What’s the matter with you people? The costume didn’t fit Satan?”

Meh. Not everyone is a happy Christmas person.

The woman dragged away her kid as he wailed his disappointment. It’s hard to tell who visited more Christmas trauma on him — her because she wouldn’t let him sit on Santa’s lap or me because the following Sunday in church I handed him a loaded Nerf gun.

Note: In the middle of sacrament meeting, the dart went all the way across the chapel and almost hit the clock. Even the bishop tried not to smile.

Back to the reality of Santa. He’s real, people. You just have to work him into your lives. You do that by being Santa. Give people not just what they say they want but what they’re truly in want of.

Doesn’t have to cost a lot of money. Doesn’t even have to cost any money. It’s surprising how often what they truly want is acceptance — simple human contact. A friendly smile, a wave, or maybe a few minutes of listening to them vent.

It’s astonishing how many emotionally empty stockings get hung up every Christmas that fail to get filled with genuine concern.

Giving of yourself is cheap, easy and often takes almost no effort. The cool part about giving human kindness for Christmas is that it takes up zero room in a sleigh.

Robert Kirby is The Salt Lake Tribune’s humor columnist. Follow Kirby on Facebook.