A more serious letter to Santa Claus

Dear Santa,

I hope you’ve had a good year and that you and Mrs. Claus are holding up under the pressure of what will, I’m sure, be a busy season. I’m very grateful for your lovely gifts to all those I love last year. This list will be succinct.

First, I’d like to ask that you give a little special something for all those who champion for and care for those with mental health challenges. Many families have watched a loved one struggle with the weight of stress or anxiety or depression or any other mental health issue, and felt helpless.

This year I lost a good, strong, educated and successful colleague to his battle with mental illness.  It has changed me. As someone who works daily with people who face challenges, to lose this man, who had taught me about compassion for those with mental health challenges, and taught me my very profession, showed me how powerful an enemy mental illness can be. Santa, help those with mental health challenges and all of us to support them in the face of them.

I’d also like to ask for some special consideration for those who have been victims of terrorist violence this year. This list of names is, dear Santa, too long to itemize here, because the list of places attacked is also too long. I think of our family and friends in Paris who coped with the attacks on Charlie Hebdo’s offices this spring. As someone who has enjoyed the right to express my views fulsomely and frequently in this and other media, “Je suis Charlie.”

The second round of attacks on Paris clubs and restaurants this fall came as insult on top of injury. Attacks on places that are our day-to-day destinations is a particular type of wound that does not quickly heal. We felt ourselves the impacts of terrorism in our country in 2015, and the fissure it creates in our sense of safety within our homeland is felt for a long time. Santa, help those people and the surviving families to heal. And if possible, to forgive.

And Santa, if you could bring us some more people to inspire us, that would be great. I lost my high school classmate Barb Turnbull this year. Like many high school friends, our lives had moved on in different directions, but with the advent of social networks we had reconnected in the past few years and rediscovered our mutual love of a good editorial cartoon.

To Torontonians, Barb became the poster child of courage following a senseless act of violence while she worked at our neighbourhood convenience store, an act that left her as a quadriplegic.

To those of us who knew her before her ‘accident,’ we knew this event would never slow the determination that had been in her character for years. She went on to be a journalist, an advocate for the rights of the disabled, a fundraiser, and an incredible inspiration to so many.

I never listen to David Bowie’s Let’s Dance without thinking of her, and wish that we had more people whose indomitable spirit would challenge us to get over our own struggles and connect with our fellow man. Work for a greater good. Volunteer. We need more Barbs.

Santa, I know it’s an old Christmas cliché, but this year I think our world could really use a refresher dose of peace. Every Christmas morning I stand just outside my front door, and listen to the silence. No cars moving, no commuters, no work sounds, just silence with perhaps the sound of church bells in the distance.

That unique sense of peace, translated into an inner peace, is a gift that I’d like to give the entire world this year.

Safe travels, Santa.

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