When I was thirteen or fourteen, my little brother and sisters would watch certain movies on our VHS player over and over and over again. One month, they would watch Mary Poppins repeatedly. The next month, it might be The Last Unicorn (an exceedingly strange bit of anime from the 80s) on continuous loop. Around Christmas time, the holiday videos would come out. Those, I loved (still do), and I would usually get pulled in to whatever was on. One of the videos was a stop-motion production that I’ve never seen on TV since it was played back in the 80s – The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus. It gives The Last Unicorn a run for its money on the strangeness meter, basing the Santa Claus origin in a surreal, pagan world of woodland spirits, nymphs, and monsters. Part of the story has an adolescent Santa Claus being mentored by the Great Ak (great name, right?), a character that reminded me a lot of Gandalf from Lord of the Rings, except that he had a hat with antlers. Yes, a hat with antlers. The reason that all of this sticks in my head is that on one of the dozens of occasions that I was walking by while one of my siblings was watching the video, I decided to sit down during the scene in which the Great Ak takes Santa all over the earth to see how his fellow humans live. After witnessing man’s cruelty, the young Santa wonders why man is here at all (pretty heavy stuff for a Christmas special). The Great Ak replies, “To leave the world in some way better than he found it.” I had watched the video and that particular scene so many times, but something about that particular day and that particular time...I heard those words and I felt something drop into place. It hit me hard; how true the words were – how true that simple statement had to be – and what the world could be like if everyone tried to live their life that way. Since then, I’ve tried to live up to the sentiment (tried is the operative word), and I’ve shared it with my second grade students, too. It’s a straightforward statement that they can refer to whenever they’re faced with a social dilemma (e.g., “Should I shoot my BB gun at Jimmy’s calf? Hmmm..would that make the world a better place?”). Sometime before my son/daughter turns five or six, I need to get my hands on that video and play it for them. Maybe they’ll watch it a hundred times or so. I found the meaning of life in a Christmas special and maybe they will, too.
78 days until baby.
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