“Here comes Santa Claus, here comes Santa Claus right down Santa Claus Lane,” I sang loudly. Santa and the elves would arrive any minute. MaryEllen and Kevin were nestled in their comfortable chairs in front of the beautifully decorated tree.
MaryEllen could not contain her excitement while Kevin played it cool. (Secretly, he loves Santa too!)
I scurried about, making sure everything was just so.
And then, there it was; A school bus pulled up to our house and inside were Santa, Mrs Claus and a crowd of elves!
As they entered our home, their joy and exuberance were palpable; Ours, all the more so.
“Ho, Ho. Ho, Merry Christmas!” Santa exclaimed.
Two years ago, we were blessed to meet two kindhearted teachers. We were invited guests to the Festival of Trees, a Sachem North High School student-run day of fun that culminated with a visit with Santa inside the school. That day, MaryEllen and Kevin were surrounded by a chorus of Christmas carols sung by student volunteers. As we were guided through the school’s hallways, I was overcome with a profound sense of gratitude as the high schoolers sang with love in their hearts. My tears flowed knowing that these young people took time out of their busy Saturday to welcome MaryEllen and Kevin to their school. MaryEllen and Kevin were given the royal treatment that day, even though they were never students there and it is not even a school in our district. It is something I will never, ever forget. On that day, the two teachers, Grace and Mary, pledged that MaryEllen and Kevin would always be a part of the Sachem North family.
Now, there was flurry of green and red as Santa, Mrs. Claus and the elves surrounded MaryEllen and Kevin in our home. My heart beamed as I witnessed these young adults, who we never met, sit amongst my children, laughing and smiling. Their warmth and compassion were extraordinary.
“Please, don’t let this day end,” I thought to myself.
As the merriment subsided, one of the students, Ariana, began to sing.
“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire.” Her velvety voice filled the room. MaryEllen smiled. Kevin licked his lips, indicating his pleasure.
As Ariana finished her Christmas tune, I heard something familiar. It was “Blank Space” by Taylor Swift! Kevin licked his lips and I felt his joy! Kevin loves Taylor Swift more than anything and Ariana came to our home to serenade us with her gift of song. My heart was full. As the song ended, we all joined in together to sing “Jingle Bells.”
And that wasn’t it!
Santa and Mrs. Claus had gifts for the kids and the playful elves joined in on the fun!
As their time with us drew to a close, I thanked them all from the bottom of my heart. Their gift of selflessness was awe-inspiring.
To you, Grace and Mary, thank you for allowing us to be a part of your Sachem family. I will always feel honored that you welcomed us with open arms and continue to do so. We are richer for knowing you. Truly.
And to you, the students of Sachem North who gave your all when you came into our home, thank you. I know it wasn’t easy. I know that when you hear about people needing ventilators to breathe, you think it must be a very sad situation. You still came though. You donned all that fun Christmas attire and put a smile on your face and jingled your way into our hearts. Do you know how much that means to us? Everything. Your giving hearts overflowed into mine.
And to you, Ariana, wow. You sang your heart out! You gave Kevin Taylor Swift. Even though Kevin didn’t smile for you, I know his heart was smiling.
How can I put into words what you have all done for us? There is nothing in the world like the feeling of acceptance in a world that sees and defines MaryEllen and Kevin as different. I feel blessed to know you, Santa, Mrs. Claus, Ariana and all of you merry elves. You will always be a part of our family. Thank you for sharing your kindness, your joy, but most of all yourselves. May your giving spirits shine for all to see because it truly is a gift worth sharing.
The Burke family