DEAR ABBY: While my daughter and I were at the supermarket, we ran into Santa at the deli! You can't imagine my daughter's surprise -- not to mention my own.
There he was, with his perfect bowling ball head and full white beard. He had a jolly big belly, rosy cheeks, even small square wire-framed glasses. He wasn't dressed in his traditional holiday outfit; he was casually dressed.
My daughter, who is 9, had started having serious doubts about Santa last year, but she sure does believe now. She ran up to him and said, "I knew it! I knew you were real! Where's your sleigh? Where's your reindeer?"
The man winked at me, looked down at my daughter and said, "Sweetheart, they're at the North Pole. I'm in the area checking things out before Christmas." Then he asked her if she had been a good girl. When she said yes, he advised her to write him a letter. It was wonderful.
I know some people don't believe, and I know some feel it is technically lying to children, and not everyone shares the same religious beliefs. I respect their right to celebrate the holidays in their own way.
I grew up poor. I knew when Christmas morning came it would be no different than the year before on Christmas Day -- there would be nothing. I missed out on so many wonderful things in my childhood.
Like many parents, I want my kids to have the childhood I didn't have. I studied hard, got a good education, met a wonderful man and married. We have two beautiful daughters, 9 and 11. We're not rich, but we're comfortable and don't want for much.
Every Christmas, my children and I go to the local mall and visit the Orphan Tree. Each of them chooses an orphan and buys him or her whatever is on his/her list. I explained when they were younger that sometimes even Santa needs a helping hand. I also point out how fortunate they are -- and when you are fortunate, you must give something back.
To you and your readers: Whether you choose to believe or not -- I wish you happy holidays. -- STILL A BELIEVER IN OHIO
DEAR STILL A BELIEVER: It is a wise parent who not only enjoys the holiday season, but also uses it as a teachable moment to show children the true spirit of giving to others. Happy holidays to you, too -- and to my readers as well.