Yes Virginia

By Ken Bradbury

The year was 1897, and an eight-year-old girl in New York asked her father if there was really a Santa Claus. Her father suggested she write a letter to New York’s biggest newspaper, the Sun. The letter landed on the desk of Francis Church, a writer who’d seen the suffering in the Civil War. He saw people seem to lose their hope. They felt helpless. So he wrote an answer, “Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus and it’s still the most reprinted editorial ever to appear in a newspaper.

Our nation has been hit with a series of senseless tragedies where unstable people have brought much suffering to others. Perhaps Virginia needs another letter.

Dear Virginia,

…even though your name may be Jayson or Jenny or Brittany. You once asked if there was a Santa Claus and someone gave you an answer. But this time you may have another question: Why do people do bad things?

Something really bad happened in several schools and other places around our country, and if you were like me, you’ve been very sad even though we didn’t know any of the kids or teachers involved.

Some people think that we need to do something about guns. I don’t know much about that. Maybe we do and maybe we don’t. But whether we should make new laws or not, this will take a very long time to decide. We’ve been talking about this for a long time and we will probably keep talking. No matter what, you and I can’t do much about that.

Some people think that we should talk more about God in schools. Maybe we should, but I don’t know about that either. And again, changing laws take a long, long time and changing people’s minds takes even longer. You and I can’t do much about that.

But there is one thing that that you and I can do something about. In fact, whether you are 10 years old or 17, you can probably do something. When you go back to school, there will be a little boy who usually eats lunch alone. Sometimes he will stand a minute looking for a place to sit and no one will ever ask him to join a group of friends. He is often at the back of the lunch line. He knows that the longer he stands in line, the less time he’ll have to spend eating by himself. Sometimes he brings a book and pretends to read. You may know his name, but you probably aren’t good friends. In fact, you may think he’s sort of a nerd. Maybe you’ve even tried to talk to him and he talked too much or perhaps he didn’t say much at all.

You’ve heard some of your friends say that he wants to be left alone, but there’s something down in your gut that tells you this isn’t so. No one wants to be alone all the time. You don’t hate him or anything like that, but maybe you’re afraid that people would think you were strange if you talked to him.

Don’t feel bad. Grownups do this to each other, too, but this little boy really wants to be important to someone. He wants to be noticed. Some day he may do something that will make him important and will get him noticed, but it might be a bad thing. It will be one of the bravest things you’ve ever done, but think about asking him to join you.

And somewhere in your school there is a girl who most others avoid. She may dress a little weird and she may even scare you a little, but inside she’s just a little kid like you. Maybe you’ve never spoken a word to her. She hangs around by herself before school and sometimes gets to school just in time to go to class so she won’t have to spend so much time by herself. Some of your friends may talk about her behind her back because she hangs around with older boys. Did you know that she’d really rather be around kids her own age? There’s sort of a rule…a law that says if we don’t find friends in one place then we’ll look someplace else. That’s all she’s done.

Some of your friends say that it’s her fault because of the way she acts, but there’s something inside you that tells you it’s not all her fault. She’s just trying to survive.

Don’t feel bad. Grownups do this to each other too, but this little girl wants to be important to someone, too. That’s all. If someone doesn’t take in interest in her right now, she may make some very bad decisions when she gets older. Your mom and dad can’t help her much, but you can.

And this little guy might be really hard to notice because he just seems like a regular kid. Maybe he’s too regular since no one really pays much attention to him. His grades are average and maybe just a little bit below, but when the school gives out awards for making good grades he’s not on the list. At the sports banquet he’ll be sitting in the audience and not up at the winner’s table. He’s also in the audience at the school plays and concerts. You may think, “What’s the big deal? He’s just an average kid.” Let me ask you a question: Do you remember the last time somebody patted you on the back and said, “Nice job!”? I’ll bet you do. Do you remember what it felt like when you won a game or an award or played your instrument and people told you how good you were? I’ll bet you do. We all like to feel as if we’re good at something. We all like to be important to others.

School is usually a good place, but most schools don’t give awards for just being average and not bothering anyone. Teachers are busy and coaches are busy and parents are busy and it’s very easy to not notice someone like this boy. But he notices. He notices that he’s not noticed.

Don’t feel bad. Grownups ignore people like this, too, but sometimes you can be better than grownups. If we don’t make him feel important today, then someday he may get himself noticed in a way that will hurt somebody.

So Virginia…..or Jayson or Jenny or Brittany ……I don’t know if there is a Santa Claus, but I’m sure there is a YOU. There’s a you who can be really brave and do something that your friends are not willing to do. There is a you who can notice these kids and that’ll help you perform a miracle that would even make Santa Claus smile.

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