I don’t write about religion.
But I’m going to today.
Not in a preachy way. Not in a argumentative way. No preaching, no prosthelyzing, no snakes. Religion is part of the story but it’s not THE story. So, if you are of a religious conviction different than mine, I respect you. Truly. The Fruit Loop Group is a nondenominational, all inclusive, all are welcome space. I say this because the minute you mention the word “religion”, people get tense. Let’s keep it friendly, okay? I’m not asking you to agree with my thoughts. Just hear me out.
We are a family who goes to church but are by NO MEANS Holy Rollers. Far from it, trust me. I took my birth control on the way to church. I say the F word. A lot. I sin more than I don’t some weeks. But, I have faith that The Man Upstairs sees past my faults and thinks I’m an okay gal most of the time. Both Hubby and I grew up in the same faith and we want our children to learn about our values, traditions and convictions. We send them to faith based religion classes taught by others mostly because I’m not at all qualified to teach them about topics I can barely grasp on a day to day basis.
My point: the story I’m about to tell took place during Fruit Loop #2’s religion class yesterday. So, you see, religion will be a part of the story but not THE story.
When Fruit Loop #2 came out of her religion class yesterday, she looked at me with big brown eyes and said, “Mommy, Santa isn’t real. My teacher told me so.” Because the hallway was crowded and I wasn’t sure I heard her correctly, I pulled her to the wall, squatted down and asked her to repeat what she said.
“Mrs. Scrooge* told us that Santa isn’t real, that parents fill the stockings and that St. Nick was a real person who died and he can’t be Santa,” she said. (*Name changed to protect the guilty.)
Well, okay. I guess I did hear her correctly.
Her teacher is a grown up. Someone who has been teaching classes in our religion for many years. Someone I trusted to help guide my child through the murky waters of intangible topics like faith, hope and charity. And she managed to destroy Christmas for a class full of nine year olds.
A grown up, someone who should have known BETTER, looked at a class full of innocent children and crushed the crap out of the Christmas spirit.
And it broke my heart.
I’d always expected this day to come. I’d envisioned Fruit Loop #1 coming off the bus, bewildered and shocked because some mouthy bully decided to blab The Big Secret. I worried about Fruit Loop #2 playing on the playground and a Mean Girl laughing at her for still believing like a baby.
Never did it occur to me that an adult would ruin Christmas.
What bothers me more, beyond the callousness, poor judgement, and the unbelievable display of Grinchness, is that it happened in the place where I worship. The place where once a week, I sit with the Fruit Loops and hope and pray that I am teaching them well about topics they can’t see. Things they can’t touch but that they should know as good humans. Words and phrases and actions that I want to be a part of their fabric but that are nearly impossible for children to understand.
To a nine year old, faith is intangible, foreign, weird.
But that nine year old KNOWS Santa is real. He makes sense. And he teaches them to believe that there’s someone in the universe who exists to do good works. To spread cheer. To bring love to people all over the world. And reinforces The Golden Rule.
Santa IS faith, if you think about it. Especially if you are nine.
Fortunately, Fruit Loop #2 decided that her teacher is on the Naughty List because she doesn’t believe, doesn’t have faith in Santa. But, for so many other children in that class, their faith was crushed, damaged, altered.
It’s so very sad to me.
As I watched Fruit Loop #2 stand in that hallway and wrestle with her beliefs, struggling to decide what was real, it made me hopeful that I’m doing the right thing by her. She chose to believe in something, something she had faith in, even after being told otherwise. It made me say a silent prayer of thanks, not because she still believed in Santa, but because I got to see the faith of a nine year old in action.
And it was a tiny Christmas miracle before my eyes.
But before you go thinking I’m going Holy Roller, I won’t lie: I’ll be going to Confession for wishing a stocking full of coal on Christmas morning for Mrs. Scrooge.
Because Scrooges SUCK.
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