“Can you dress up as an elf?”
A simple request from my coworker last week.
“Sure, why not!”
What did I get myself into?
Let me regress.
My company, DRMP, is a proud sponsor and supporter of the Central Florida Children’s Home, an organization that cares for children of all ages whose parents cannot or will not provide for them due to certain circumstances with the child or difficulties in the parents’ life. The home treats every child as if they are their own, providing a stable, familiar environment, educating them, and helping them grow emotionally and spiritually.
Since the parents cannot provide enough to keep the children in their own homes, they also cannot give them a Christmas that most of us are used to: cookie baking days with your mom, bouncing up and down on your parents’ bed to wake them Christmas morning, a tree overflowing with gifts of all shapes, sizes, and colors.
My company tries to remedy that. Right after Thanksgiving, the ceiling-tall forest-green tree towers in the entrance of the lobby; on the tree sit ornaments, not in the form of bells, balls, or stars, but tags with every child’s name and their wish-list for Santa. Employees are encouraged to take a tag (or three or four in my case) and brave the holiday madness to provide one simple wish for a child who doesn’t ask for much. All the gifts are brought back to the office, wrapped, and held until the culmination of one special, sparkling Christmas Day for the boys and girls of the home.
Enter “Elf Allison” stage left.
Christmas: December 21, 2016. We decorated our downstairs boardroom to resemble a winter wonderland, bought a bunch of pizza and snacks, and gathered all of the wrapped gifts underneath the tree. And then, of course, there was a North Pole elf running around (me) to make it even more special.
“Welcome to the North Pole boys and girls.”
Bulging eyes, wide smiles. The sound of my bell-adorned, pointed elf shoes drowned out by the squeals pitched so high I thought the windows might break.
I have been an actress for a good portion of my life so pretending to be Santa’s helper from the North Pole was just another time to put on a costume and play the part. I was ready to put Will Ferral to shame. Buddy the Elf move aside; Allison the Elf is ready for her Academy Award. However, by the end of the day, it dawned on me that my Elf performance was no performance at all. Sure, I will never be a real elf (spoiler alert: elves aren’t real. Gasp!) But in my heart, I can say that yesterday, I truly experienced the spirit of Christmas.
I wish I could recreate it: the room so quiet I could hear a snowflake drop when I announced the entrance of our special North Pole guest (hint: he is extra round in the belly, grows a big white beard, and wears a red suit and hat); the speed and gusto with which each child opened presents to discover Santa got them exactly what they asked for. I will never forget the way they came up to Elf Allison and gave her the biggest, bear hug ever. (Those children must eat more Spinach than Popeye to have that kind of strength). I spent an hour playing hangman with a few of them and it felt like five minutes. They were all so excited when it was their turn to get me to guess their phrase (Who knew kids could school a 24 year old on such a simple game). I was being pulled in a million directions to watch this or play with that. I helped them open presents, marveling over the new shoes or giant noise making dinosaurs that would have given 5 year old Allison nightmares. Frosting moustache entered our vocabulary as we chowed down on cupcakes together and laughed and talked with each and every one of them.
As I left, I kept the magic alive for them all with promises, upon my return to the North Pole, to work hard on creating their toys for next year. I hugged them, not wanting to let go, feeling the love radiate from them and course through my veins like a drug I want to be addicted to. Though I had only met them that morning, you would have thought I was the most important person in the world; they loved me with more energy and enthusiasm than some people love in a lifetime.
And that, my friends, is how I felt the true spirit of Christmas. Christmas is not about the presents, the cookies, the giant blow-up tacky front yard decorations (sorry if that’s you), or endless holiday parties. Christmas is the heart of a child. It is the love felt from someone who doesn’t know those secular things, who only knows innocence and joy from a plastic penguin ring on top of a store bought cupcake and the idea that Santa and Elves really exist. Christmas is giving more than receiving. It is sharing what you are blessed to have with others who are not as fortunate. It is hugging a child, or even telling your own child or family member you love them one more time.
Don’t let moments like this pass you by. Open your eyes and heart to the joy that surrounds you and emulate these kids to experience true joy in life, during this holiday season and always.
Find out more about the Central Florida Children’s Home or donate to the below: