DEAR ABBY: I am 8 years old, and I have a question that has bothered me for months. Is Santa Claus a real person, and if not, why does everyone say he is? And if Santa Claus ISN'T real, where do all the letters go? -- CONFUSED IN KINGSTON, N.Y.
DEAR CONFUSED: Santa Claus is more than a human being. Santa Claus is the living symbol of selfless giving, handed down from one generation to the next. In 1897, a girl named Virginia asked the same question in a newspaper. A very wise newspaper editor, Frank Church, wrote in reply:
"Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. ... The most real things in the world are those which neither children nor men can see. ... Thank God, he (Santa Claus) lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now -- nay, 10 times 10,000 years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood."
Letters to Santa Claus go where every other letter goes -- directly to the U.S. Postal Service, which makes sure the letters reach their destination regardless of "rain, hail, sleet or snow."
Read on for a testimony from a true believer:
DEAR ABBY: Yesterday afternoon, as I was opening my mail, I came across an envelope with my name and address printed on it, but no return address. I assumed it was junk mail that had been made to look like a Christmas card, but curiosity got the better of me, so I opened it.
Inside was a Christmas card. It was signed "Santa," and inside were five $100 bills!
I checked the postmark. It read, "Grand Rapids, Mich., Dec. 9." Abby, I don't know anyone in Grand Rapids.
I'm divorced. My ex-husband hasn't been helping me to support our children. Times have been hard. Obviously, the card was sent by someone who cares about us very much -- someone who went to great trouble to remain anonymous. The money was a blessing. An equally great blessing is the fact that my children had a chance to witness such an act of generosity and kindness.
I hope that Santa is reading your column today, because I want to say thank you very much from the bottom of my heart. I am grateful. -- STILL BELIEVES IN SANTA, HOUSTON
DEAR STILL BELIEVES: I'm printing your letter with the conviction that some kind of elf will ensure that it is delivered as far north as a reindeer can fly. A perceptive person once said that true generosity is doing something nice for someone without taking credit for it. However, your case is exceptional -- and how fitting of your benefactor, "Santa," to take a bow. I know readers of all ages will be as gratified as I was to read about his act of kindness in this, the season of giving.