Monthly Archives: January 2019
How do you encourage compassion for others?
As Santa Claus, I needed a way to remember special children I met during my yearly travels. Over the years I have met many children that I have seen do special acts of kindness: being kind to those in need or to animals in distress or just being kind to and respectful of others. I needed something for those children that stood out among all the others that I would see. Something needed to be done right then and there to say how nice it was to see children behaving in a way that brought positive attention to them. I would always tell them how wonderful it was to see them doing positive things and going above and beyond the norm.
What would be a way for me to remember them at Christmas when I was delivering their presents? The idea of a coin popped into my head. What kind of a coin should I create? Should it be made of metal or wood? I decided on wood. A wooden coin! What a perfect idea for a toy maker who makes wooden toys. A Wooden Coin from Santa it shall be.
I gave out my first Wooden Coin in 2013, and this is what I told the child:
“Mrs. Claus and I want you to know that this coin is special. We want you to place this coin under your Christmas tree on Christmas Eve. It will remind me that you and I have met; therefore I will be able to leave you a special gift. It may be anything from your favorite candy bar to the gift you really want. You will know this is from us because the coin will be either in your stocking with the candy or on the gift that you wanted. The coin will remain with you as a gift from us. Also if you continue to be good and a true believer in me, you can place the coin under your tree every year, and you will continue to receive something special from us. Mrs. Claus and I also want to wish you and your family a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year.”
That was how my tradition of handing out wooden coins was born. From that day forward, whenever Mrs. Claus and I see a child being kind or they ask us, “Are you Santa and Mrs. Claus?” we stop to talk. We ask if they have been good and are true believers in us. If so, we give them a coin and tell them the story of the Wooden Coin. This brings a smile to their face and to their parents’ faces knowing that their child has been caught being good and is a true believer in Santa and Mrs. Claus.
One encounter stands out as being very special. Last December, Mrs. Claus and I met “Amy”, a smiling nine year-old patient, at Shriner’s Children’s Hospital in Oak Park, IL. Amy has been a patient at Shriner’s for eight of her nine years of life. We first met Amy in the dining area with her parents and sister. We asked her what she wanted for Christmas. She smiled broadly and told us that she really, really wanted glitter slime, a dolly and anything else that I would like to leave for her.
Amy and the other children who were there for the Christmas party at the hospital went into the auditorium to pick out any presents they wanted. We continued visiting with other families and then went into the auditorium to see the children selecting their gifts. The auditorium was lined with hundreds of toys as families helped their children find the ones that they wanted. Mrs. Claus and I were talking to staff and families when a nurse at the hospital came up to us and told us of a young girl that did something extraordinary.
This young girl gave up the present she really wanted to a younger child who was crying because there was no more glitter slime. The nurse told us that this girl saw the crying child and said, “Here, you can have my glitter slime.” She did this without prompting from any adult.
When the nurse pointed out the very kind child, I immediately recognized Amy, the nine year-old I met in the dining area who really, really wanted glitter slime. I walked over to her, knelt down, took her hand, and told her that what she had done was what Christmas is all about. Her act of kindness was so wonderful and special that Mrs. Claus and I wanted to do something special for her.
We asked the parents to come over because we wanted to give their daughter something special. We told the story about my tradition of handing out wooden coins and how special it was. Because she was so kind, she was getting one from us. The auditorium fell totally silent as I told her the story. The parents were in tears and the staff and the families in the auditorium cheered and cried all at the same time. This was a very special delivery to a very special and beautiful young girl.
Mrs. Claus and I would like to say, “Be kind to each other, respect each other and always help each other, for this is the real reason for the season.”
Remember, it is how we treat each other every day that makes us who we are for the rest of our lives. Try to make cultivating kindness an important part of your daily life.
©2019 Robert W. Hildreth and Carol L. Hildreth
It is with great pleasure I recommend Bob and Carol Hildreth as Mr. and Mrs. Claus. They are wonderful people to work with! I first met Bob and Carol at the charity event, Pet Photos with Santa, for the Elgin Police Department. We worked together at this event for the past three years. They were cordial and professional as they interacted with each family who brought their pets in to be photographed. They also worked calmly and lovingly with the animals placed on or near their laps. I enjoyed working with Bob and Carol at this charity event so much, I hired them for my own Christmas mini sessions and have used them for the past two years.
When it came to my own mini sessions, I found that Bob and Carol work just as well with people as they do with the animals. My clients absolutely rave about them. Not only do they look authentic, but they are extremely good with children. The married duo are retired educators and know how to work with children who have special needs and/or who might be afraid to meet them. They are able to quickly “size up” a situation and approach my young clients in a way that makes getting those cute shots achievable. They know when not to force things, which could make matters worse and possibly more stressful. In addition, when things weren’t going as smoothly, they offered some suggestions of things we could try so that we could still get a shot with Santa in the picture without traumatizing the child.
Another thing I really enjoy when working with Bob and Carol is that they help me to feel at ease when I am photographing my minis. Oftentimes, mini sessions are scheduled back to back so the photographer can photograph as many families as possible in a short time. When you add in the factor that a child might be hesitant to take a picture with Santa, the pressure can be great when trying to stay on schedule. Together, Bob, Carol and I work as a team to get each session accomplished. Their flexibility and intuitiveness is always appreciated. They know when to step aside and let me get holiday pictures without them and when to jump in. What I really love is that when they are not needed, they interact and talk with clients who are early and waiting for their session. I have noticed that when they do this, it often “warms up” my clients so that they aren’t scared and they are ready to go when the time comes.
Perhaps my most favorite thing about working with Bob and Carol is the little bit of magic they give at the close of each session. Upon saying goodbye to my young clients, Santa pulls out a special wooden coin for each child to take and tells them to put it under the tree on Christmas Eve. He explains to the children that the coin will remind him they met and he will leave them something a little extra special that year. That look of anticipation on the children’s faces, wondering what Santa will leave them for Christmas, is priceless and takes me back to when I was a kid. Not to mention, it’s a special added touch that my little clients’ parents remember and love.
It is for all these reasons that Bob and Carol Hildreth will always be my Santa and Mrs. Claus. I couldn’t imagine anyone else playing such an important role in my Christmas mini sessions.
Lens 2 Life Photography
For the past 3 years, we have had the pleasure of having Santa Bob and Mrs. Clause (Carol) assist us in our Santa Connection. This is not a normal Santa gig. Santa brings his experience virtually to children in some Chicagoland and Wisconsin hospitals. Using video conferencing and telehealth solutions, Santa delivers his message and joy to these children. The smiles on their faces are inspiring to all of us on the technology end of the call.
Since we are using technology, there are challenges and obstacles, but Santa Bob and Mrs. Carol are professionals and bring smiles to the children every time.
We are so fortunate to have met this awesome couple. We get to spend 2 whole days with them every year and at the end of these 2 emotionally draining days, we make sure to schedule our dates for the next year.
Highly recommended, just don’t try to take our dates!
Sr Analyst, Information Services
1400 Kensington Rd
Oak Brook, IL 60523