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Advice from an elf

| Thursday, January 18, 2018

Spring semester is here and as we all start our classes and re-acquaint ourselves with our friends and roommates, the inevitable question arises: “What did you do over winter break?” Some people went on vacation to a sunny beach or took time to visit distant relatives. Me? I was an elf.

Yes, I was a professional Christmas elf for two long weeks and it was the best and worst experience of my life. Many parents forcefully took pictures of me with their children, which begs the question: How many suburban, middle class homes am I now featured in?

It was intimidating to listen to all the different things kids wanted. I had no concept of most of the popular toys, and frankly, that made me feel very old and sad. Many children wanted iPhones and one child had the audacity to ask for a trip to Paris –– you and me both, kid.

I was tasked with the difficult job of taking the ‘official’ Santa picture and my biggest problem was A) getting the child to stop crying long enough to look like they won’t be emotionally scarred by this interaction in the future and B) actually look at me and at the camera. I found most of the children who cried when tasked with meeting the Santa Clause were older children. Most babies did not cry because they really had no idea what was even happening.

Here’s a tip, if you want a baby to look at you, just magically produce a “Polar Expres’’ style silver bell from your pocket and ring it over and over and over. Those babies will look at you and the bell like it’s the second coming of Christ. Their eyes would get wide, a little drool would seep out of their mouths and, although they wouldn’t smile, their faces would look fairly neutral and then I would snap the picture. It was the best I could do under the circumstances.

There is no better feeling, though, than being the only person to get a child to stop crying. The biggest compliment I received was from a man who called my boss and said that his daughter had never before smiled in a picture with Santa and that the elf –– with all her bell ringing, funny faces and jumping jacks –– had gotten his daughter to smile. I, being that elf, was very flattered to hear this.

The most significant part of my experience was getting to meet the man who was playing Santa. He had recently been diagnosed with lung cancer and had decided to become Santa in order to spread joy and make children smile before his time was up.

It was such a selfless thing to do and has really inspired me to do better in 2018. As we begin the new year, let’s all try to spread joy and put ourselves out there. Even if it means we have to don obnoxious red and green Christmas tights, it costs us nothing and to some, it means everything.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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