Maren Schmidt: Making the invisible visible

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"I've never gotten a present from Santa Claus," said Iliana, my 12-year-old seatmate on an east coast flight. "My parents thought I should only be given verifiable facts. They told me there is no veracity in Santa Claus."

"It's too bad that no one ever told your parents about the Secret of Santa Claus. When you know the Secret, you believe in Santa Claus all your life, even if you can't verify facts," I said.

"You believe in Santa Claus? What secret?"

"It's simple, but:"

"Please, tell me," Iliana said.

"We're flying on a plane right now. Who built this plane? Who designed it? Who got it ready to fly? Who trained our pilots? We know that someone had to do it, and with some research, we could find those people. We won't, though. We'll never meet those people. I'll call them invisible workers since they work to give us something we couldn't do alone."

I took a sip of coffee. "There are thousands of invisible workers for almost everything we use. I have no idea who planted the beans for this cup of coffee, or who picked them, roasted them and packaged them. I can only thank our flight attendant, the last person in this invisible line of people."

"I have faith," I continued, "that when I wish to fly on an airplane, or have a cup of coffee, these unknown people will have done their jobs, and my desires will come true. I don't have to grow my own coffee beans, build my own airplane, because of all these wonderful people."

"So you're saying that Santa Claus is an invisible worker?" said Iliana.

"I see Santa Claus being all these people in the world, who strive to serve humankind, to make life more enjoyable, more comfortable, more magical. I will never see these people who do so many things for me, but they are most assuredly real. When I understood this, and I was older than 12, I wanted to be that helpful kind of person. In the first stage of believing in Santa Claus, when we're little, we're on the receiving end. When we live the secret, we are on the giving side, which is fun. Being like Santa, which is doing our jobs with cheerful intention to help others, makes amazing things happen, such as flying at 30,000 feet at 500 miles an hour, while sipping coffee, and talking to you about Santa Claus."

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