It doesn’t seem that long ago that I was lying in bed with the covers pulled up to my nose, eyes wide, listening for Santa. As I lay there, I was sure I heard him land on the roof with his sleigh, rustle the branches of the Christmas tree, and clink the cookie plate as he set down the milk glass. I never actually saw Santa in my house, but every Christmas morning, I woke up filled with joy that once again, he had been there.
I’ll never forget the day Sam, my so called friend who lived down the street, told me that Santa didn’t exist. I was devastated. I ran home crying and told my mom what Sam said. My mom sat me down at the kitchen table and used a warm washcloth to clean my tear streaked face. She asked me why I was so upset. Really? Couldn’t she understand why I was upset?
“Because Sam said that Santa wasn’t real.” I said, fresh tears rolling down my face.
My mom asked me why I believed Santa was real. I told her because I wrote to him; I sat on his lap; I read about him; I knew about all the good things he did. I just knew in my heart he was real.
“Well then, what does it matter what Sam said? It’s what you believe that matters. Sam can believe what he wants to believe, and you can believe what you want to believe. As long as you believe in something, that’s what really matters. Do you understand?”
I can’t say that at the time I really understood the depth of the advice she was offering, but it gave me enough courage to continue believing in Santa – at least for a while.
I lost my mom to cancer when we were both too young. She was 44 and I was 24. That talk we had about Santa on that cold, Ohio day is one of my most beautiful memories of her. The house smelled of pierogies with lots of butter and onions. (My mom was half Ukranian, so we had pierogies every Friday night for dinner.) I could see our fake, well-decorated Christmas tree in my peripheral vision. My mom was kneeling in front of me, smiling, as she offered her advice. And after a tweak of my nose, she was once again at the stove, tending to the pierogies.
As I got older, I appreciated her wisdom even more. What I grew to realize is that she never told me what to believe. Instead, she instilled in me the importance of believing, in myself and in the impossible, which on more than a few occasions, was one in the same.
After all these years of the good and the bad, the inexplicable, and the unbelievable, I still believe in quite a few things.
I believe people are good.
Well, most of them anyway. There are always going to be those people who are negative, jealous, ruthless, or downright evil. That’s not everybody, and the truly bad ones are few and far between. Most of the people I’ve been fortunate enough to know are selfless, interesting, kind, forgiving, and generous of time and spirit.
I believe something good comes from everything.
I’m not sure that I believe that everything happens for a reason, but I do believe that something good comes from everything. I may never understand the reason that my mom died when she was 44 years young. But, I can say that something good did come of it – I adopted Brandon, my then nine year old brother and raised him. At the time, no one believed that a 24 year old should raise a boy who lost his mom, but I believed I could and would have it no other way. We were always like peas and carrots, Brandon and me. We were both too young to lose our mom, and I knew together we could do anything.
I believe there are heroes among us.
In New York City about 15 years ago, I was standing on a corner, waiting to cross the street. When I thought it was safe to cross, I put my right foot forward, and just then a taxi, without stopping, made a right hand turn in front of me. In a flash, someone pulled me backward and the bottom of my right shoe grazed the taxi. Adrenaline coursed through my body, and I felt as though my heart was in my throat. That, my friends, was my first near death experience. I turned around to thank whoever saved my life, but no one acknowledged me or their act of heroism. Everyone continued going about their business as if nothing had happened.
Maybe it was my guardian angel who saved my life. Maybe it was someone who did a good deed and didn’t ask for credit. Maybe it was both. Regardless, my point is, there are a heroes walking among us every day. They don’t wear capes. They tend to wear some type of uniform – military, police, firefighter, or nurse. There are also the heroes who work without a uniform, such as teachers, foster parents, and shelter workers. You’ll know them because they do extraordinary, heroic acts every day, and never take credit.
I believe in agreeing to disagree.
I don’t always agree with my friends or family about politics, religion, gun control, or who still believes in Santa. Instead, I agree with giving each other enough space to believe what we believe. I’ve actually come to enjoy disagreeing with my friends on hot button topics. It’s a wonderful way to educate yourself on different perspectives, and it’s a great way to evolve into a wise, mature soul. If I would have known this back in the day, Sam and I might still be friends.
I believe you can’t be someone’s everything until you’re your own everything.
Whether you want to be in a a relationship, get married, or have a baby, you won’t be able to give the best of yourself unless you know what the best (and worst) of you really is. To do that, I believe that you have to enjoy your own company and be your own best friend. Being alone is when you learn what you’re made of and what you’re really willing to give.
I believe it’s better to have a few close friends than a lot of acquaintances.
It’s easy to know a lot of people and fill up your social calendar. What’s not so easy is to nurture close friendships. We get busy. We get tired. We show up physically, but not emotionally, for dinner. I believe in cherishing those handful of friends who push you out of your comfort zone and make you want to be a better person.
I believe it’s not your time until it’s time.
We’re all on our own journey, and only when we’re meant to be whatever it is we’re meant to be, will we be it. Whether that means being employed, successful, wealthy, married, a parent, a grandparent, wise, or in our very last act – dead. When it’s your time, it’s your time. And maybe more importantly, when it’s not your time, it’s not your time. I’ve have two near death experiences; and all I can tell you is, I beat the odds and survived, so I must still have work to do here on earth. If you’re still here, so do you.
Which brings me back to my mom. (I still marvel at how things come full circle.) Her time was up. She gave her gift to the world, and she had to go. What she left me with were good Midwestern values, a big heart, and a strong belief system.
I may not lie in bed anymore believing that Santa will come down my chimney and leave me presents, but I do lie in bed believing that the world is good. And on any given night, I may be dreaming about my mom and her pierogies.