By JOHNSON CITY PRESS
Santa stopped by our offices last week with some of the many letters he received from the recent Johnson City Christmas Parade. Most letter writers asked him to deliver what you might expect—hoverboards, action figures, bicycles, toy dump trucks and such.
A handful of letters, though, reminded us of just how difficult life can be for all too many children—children searching for someone, not something, of meaning in their lives.
Two children asked for their dads to come home. Another wrote, “All I want for Christmas is a great father,” before scratching through the word “great.” Still another wrote, “I would like one thing for Christmas. That is for my mom and dad to get along.”
One letter in particular struck an immediate, heart-tugging chord throughout our offices:
All I want for Christmas is friends so I won’t be a loner no more.
We’ve opted not to include the writer’s real name here, as its uncommon nature would make it too easy to identify her. Drawing attention to her feelings of isolation could make things worse, especially if her loneliness results from being bullied.
For these purposes, we will call her “Virginia” in homage to 8-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon, whose legendary 1897 letter to the editor of New York’s Sun about the existence of Santa Claus inspired a poignant response from veteran newsman Francis Pharcellus Church. The words “Yes, Virg inia, there is a Santa Claus” are ingrained in American culture.
We understand how hard it must be at times to feel like a loner. All of us do at times. Childhood is hard for girls—and boys too—who do not fit in with the popular kids, but believe us when we say, it will get better.
You may not know them now, but your life will be filled with friends. As you grow up, you will meet people who understand and appreciate you for who you are.
You will have fun times and sad times together. You will share laughs and tears. You will count on them when times are tough, and they will expect the same in return. Together you will build lasting memories.
Friends will come and go. You will feel really close to some friends at times in your life. You won’t be able to imagine life without them. As time goes by, though, you may drift apart. New friends will show up, and they will introduce you to even more friends.
A precious few will be your lifelong friends. They will be there for all the important moments in your life—through thick and through thin.
So for now, be patient. Ignore the bullies as best you can. Talk with a teacher, a school counselor or your parents about feeling like a loner. There might be another little girl out there feeling exactly the same way. She might be the friend you need.
Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
The Johnson City Press in Tennessee published a longer version of this editorial on Dec. 15.