Christmas Loaves and Fishes
by Ranier Maharaj
On a Christmas Eve in homes everywhere there is a quiet excitement. The festive feeling and the warmth of having family members near brings to mind a Christmas tale I love to relate each year. It’s a true story, even though it might sound unbelievable. And it’s proof that miracles do happen.
A long time ago there was a group of young people who decided to spread some Christmas cheer. They had discovered that there were several children who would be spending the festive holiday in a community hospital nearby. So one of the friends dressed as Santa Claus, they bought nice presents, wrapped them, and armed with guitars and sweet voices, they dropped in unexpectedly at the hospital on Christmas Eve.
The children were overjoyed at seeing Santa, and by the time the group was finished handing out presents and singing Christmas carols, there were tears in everyone’s eyes. From then on, it was decided they would play Santa every year.
The following Christmas Eve, other patients were included in the rounds, and by the third year the celebration was expanded to embrace some of the poor children in the neighborhood.
On the fourth Christmas Eve, however, after all the rounds were made, Santa Claus looked into his bag and discovered there were a few extra toys left. So the friends mulled it over, trying to figure out what to do with them. Somebody mentioned that there were a few squatters’ shacks nearby in which a couple of desperately poor families lived.
So the group decided to go there, thinking that there were perhaps three families at most. But as they drove over the crest of the hill into this lonely area—it was around midnight now—the shocked group saw a large number of people standing at the side of the street.
Much to their surprise, they were children—more than 30 of them. Behind them were not three shacks but rows and rows of shabby squatters’ dwellings. As the cars drew to a stop, the children came running up, shouting with joy. It turned out they had been waiting patiently all night for Santa Claus. Somebody—no one could remember who—had told them he was coming, although our Santa had decided to go there only moments before.
Everyone was stunned, except Santa. He was in a panic. He knew he didn’t have enough toys for all these kids. Eventually, however, not wanting to disappoint the children, he decided to give whatever toys he had only to the youngest, smallest children. When the presents ran out, he’d just have to explain to the bigger kids what had happened.
So moments later he found himself perched on top of a car’s hood as these 30 or more sparkling clean children, dressed in their best clothes, lined up in order of height, with the smallest first, for their moment with him. As each anxious child approached, Santa dipped into his bag, his heart heavy with dread, hoping to find at least one more toy. And by some miracle, he found one each time he dipped. And as the last of the children received a present, Santa looked into the now deflated bag. It was empty—empty as it should have been 24 children ago.
With a sigh of relief, he let out a hearty “ho-ho-ho” and bade the kids farewell. But as he was about to enter one of the cars (the reindeer, apparently, had the day off), he heard a child scream: “Santa! Santa! Wait!” And out of the bushes rushed two little children, a boy and a girl. They had been asleep.
Santa’s heart sank. This time he knew for sure he had no more toys. The bag was empty. He had seen it himself. But as the out-of-breath kids approached, he summoned up some extra courage and dipped into the bag one more time. And—lo and behold—there were indeed two more presents in the bag.
That group of friends, now all grown adults, still talk about this miracle on Christmas morning. They still have no explanation for it, other than the fact that it happened. How do I know so much about this? Well, I was the one playing Santa.