Wednesday, October 8, 2008
"Santa's Secret" Stole My Heart
by Shirley Bahlmann
After reading this book, I no longer feel the need to make excuses for signing “Shirley Claus” on Christmas cards because “Santa’s Secret” tastefully binds the kindness of Santa Claus with the teachings of the Savior to align the two caring men on the same side of goodness and love.
I was crying by page 16. They were happy tears.
This book is so full of delightful passages that pop up like toffee in a candy bar that the whole thing is a delight to read. Well, okay, if you want to get picky, there are a half a dozen grammar challenged sentences, such as “I knew right away I’d forgot my glasses.” (It should be …forgotten my glasses…) but Christy told me this is to keep it true to the voice of the man who inspired this book.
Yes, this book is an even greater Christmas treasure because it’s based on true experiences of long-time Santa’s helper Phil Porter. It covers the reasons we shouldn’t judge another’s circumstance by what we see, and it aptly demonstrates how giving of yourself without asking for anything in return can be magical. I dare you to read it without needing a tissue. This book comes alive with instances of faith where tough, next-to-impossible situations work themselves out in realistic ways that still come across as blessings from heaven. It’s positively heart-warming to see how the spirit and love of Christmas flowed through so many hands, showing how we can all be part of the magic, even by small means. It’s amazing how little things can end up counting for so very much.
This book is a gift you can hold in your hands as well as your heart. My copy is bristling with notes for passages I wanted to share with you, but on second thought, you’ll like them better when you read this enchanting book yourself.
Shirley: Hey, Christy, it’s a little hard to tell by starlight, but those look like nice sandals you’re wearing.
Christy: Sh! Somebody might hear you.
Shirley: (looking around, then whispers) Who?
Christy: A highway robber.
Shirley: I don't see anyone. All I see is a wall.
Christy: Ancient Bethlehem’s city wall, to be exact.
Shirley: What are we doing outside? How do we get in?
Christy: Through the eye of a needle.
Shirley: Come again?
Christy: It’s a little opening by the city gate. Camels have to crawl through, but I can make it standing up. (Looks me up and down) You, oh freakishly tall one, might have to duck.
Shirley: So, we couldn’t have met here during daylight?
Christy: No. Tonight’s a special night. (Christy grins, her teeth shining white in the subdued light.)
Shirley: Okay, lead the way. Ooo, low ceiling, you weren’t kidding. Hey, I notice your book, “Santa’s Secret,” was written with Phil Porter. Who is he?
Christy: Phil is just a bus driver from Salem, Utah. But he has a special connection to this place.
Shirley: How did you meet him?
Christy: I work for a newspaper, the Spanish Fork News, and a few years ago I was assigned to interview him for a story in the Christmas Special Section. You see, Phil has been Santa Claus for 27 years now, and he has a unique perspective on the Christmas holiday.
Shirley: Ah, we’ve reached the city. Argh! A spotlight!
Christy: No, Shirley, that’s an exceedingly bright star.
Shirley: Oh. Now what do we do?
Christy: Come this way.
Shirley: Okay, I’ll follow along. What made you think of writing this book?
Christy: When I interviewed Phil, I was so touched and overwhelmed by the spirit of his stories, I approached him about coming together to write a novel. He said he'd been approached several times before--his stories are that good--but this time, the pieces just fell right. He is not a writer, but he is a story-teller, so he came to my house several times and I recorded his stories as he told them. I took those, and wove them together with a fictional "season" of Christmastime, to create a setting where his stories can take place. Some of what happens between him and his family in the book is fictional, and though he wanted to keep the names of his immediate family the same, all of the other names are changed. Almost everything else in the book is based on actual events. You really feel that when you read it, too. The stories ring with truth, and go right to the heart because they really happened.
Phil believes in Santa Claus in a different way than I've ever seen before. When he dresses in his Santa suit, he really "becomes" Santa. And because he takes his role so seriously, he has had many opportunities to offer help, comfort and love to people who are struggling during the holiday season. He's a true giver of real gifts.
Shirley: Oh, I must agree, I sensed that when I read it. Hey, what’s that up ahead?
Christy: A stable. I told you tonight was special. I wanted to meet you here on this night to see the real reason for Christmas.
Shirley: You don’t mean…
Christy: Yes. In that stable is born the Savior of the world.
Shirley: Wow. (Looking up) What’s that? I hear bells.
Christy: (Smiling) It’s Santa Claus.
Shirley: Here? Now? (Christy and Shirley watch as Santa lands his sleigh, takes off his hat, then walks into the stable and kneels beside the manger.) That is so awesome. Hey, doesn’t Santa Claus look a little like…?
Shirley: Yeah. I love how they’re both on the same team. Thanks so much for bringing me here. You and Phil… and the Savior.
Christy: You’re welcome.
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