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All Minds Are Little
Written November 25, 2012


In 1896, a survey found the mean age of loss of belief in Santa was 6.35 years.  By 1897 most (not some) of 8-year-old Virginia’s little friends had seen the light.  She began to suspect that Mama and Papa had been lying to her.

Partly fictionalized:

I don’t know much for sure, and Mama won’t answer this question I have about Christmas.  Papa won’t answer either.  But Papa says the newspaper prints the facts.  So I think I shall write to the newspaper.

“Dear Editor:  I am 8 years old.  Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.  Papa says ‘If you see it in The Sun it’s so.’  Please tell me the truth: Is there a Santa Claus?  Virginia O’Hanlon.”

Photo from 1890s, colorized by TBT

Did you see this little girl’s letter to the editor?  It is charming, but I fear we must file it away unanswered.  Surely we can’t publish an honest reply.  We would be destroying the faith of a little child.

“What’s wrong with that, Frank?  Doesn’t she deserve to know the truth?”

No!  Of course not!  Not until she’s older.  It is one of the pleasures of childhood to think that Santa will come to your very own home, carrying with him presents that he’s chosen especially for you.  Not believe in Santa Claus?  You might as well not believe in fairies!

“I don’t believe in fairies.  When I became a man, I put away childish things.”

All minds, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little.  We must affirm to this little girl that Santa exists.

“Well, perhaps, but we cannot lie about it.  We are journalists, after all.  Maybe we could tell her Santa is a concept instead of a real person.  He’s an abstract representation of the joy of giving.”

That’s it!  But we mustn't say that in so many words.  How about this?  ‘Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.  He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist.’

By the time I was eight years old, I knew the truth.  And in a much later letter to the editor, this one to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in 2016, an adult named Lewis Nettrour wrote:  "Every time a person puts on that red suit and wears that white beard, he suddenly becomes Santa Claus!  In front of children, he cannot say mean things or swear.  He is joyful and loving to all, especially very little children.  It’s a miracle.  I’ve seen it countless times.  Check it out yourself, young lady.  Santa Claus does exist, and he is everywhere."

Mostly fictionalized:

I don’t know much for sure, but dear old Papa used to say “Nothing bad will happen to you, because God watches over each and every person.”  So I think I shall write a note to my minister.

“Dear Pastor:  I am 48 years old, and I’m sad to say my life is falling apart.  My husband left me, and my daughter has disappointed me recently, and I have these terrible headaches and these pains in my legs.  I think I’m losing my faith.  I’m not even sure any more that there is a God, because He never answers my prayers.  Life hardly seems worth living.  Can you help?  Mrs. Virginia Douglas.”

Did you see this note that Miz Douglas left in the offering plate?  What shall I tell her?

“She’s certainly had a hard time.  But you can’t tell her the truth.  It would be a cruel sin to cause her to lose her faith.  Some people find life bearable only because they believe Jesus cares about them as individuals and, if they keep believing, at the end of this life He’ll personally welcome them into heaven.”

You are correct.  Faith is a great comfort to many folks.  It keeps them from thinking.  Without it, they might spend a lot of time thinking and worrying about the future.  But God hasn’t done much lately to justify the faith that Virginia has in him.

“No, but you have to tell her that God is indeed watching over her, personally.  Maybe her life isn’t perfect now, but one day she’ll discover everlasting joy.”

Very well.  ‘Yes, Virginia, there is a God.  It’s possible that He may be testing your faith.  Therefore, redouble your faith!  Never allow yourself to doubt that one day you’ll be with Him in paradise.’

Fully fictionalized:

I don’t know much for sure, but the one question I can’t stop wondering about is whether I’m about to go to hell.  This man on TV keeps threatening that unless I’m born again, I will go there.  And he’s telling me that the Bible has all the answers.  So I’ve been reading my Bible.  Here in the last book, the prophecy about the End Times, it says only 144,000 will be saved.  The rest of us will be cast into the lake of fire.  I don’t want to go there, but I know I have wavered in my belief.  I have doubted sometimes.  I must write to the address on the TV.

“Dear Evangelist Phrodd:  I am 88 years old and have been a faithful Christian all my life.  But we’re taught that not everyone who says, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven.  Many are called, but few are chosen.  Now the doctors say I only have a few months left to live.   I’m worried that I will not be among the chosen, because I haven’t always been perfect.  I’m very frightened about this.  Every night when I try to sleep, I have visions of fire and brimstone and everlasting torment and the Devil claiming my soul.  How can I be reassured that my sins have truly been forgiven?  Mrs. Virginia O’Hanlon Douglas.”

Is this little old lady going to heaven?  How should I know?  That’s between her and St. Peter.

“She does seem genuinely troubled by the question, though.  I suppose that’s what you can expect at the end of a lifetime of Bible-believing.  Sometimes God is merciful, sometimes He’s vengeful.  Those who truly believe can become truly scared.  Should we tell her not to worry, because there is no hell?”

Certainly not!  We mustn’t destroy her faith.

“Maybe we can sell her one of your pamphlets.”

Of course!  ‘Yes, Virginia, of course your sins are forgiven.  From what you've confided in me, I am sure of this.  I am sure by this time next year, you will be with our blessed Savior in Paradise!  How can I know this?  How can you know this?  I explain it all in Chapter 7 of my book, Believing Will Carry You Through.  I’d be glad to send you your very own copy in the mail.  And I’ll even include a special prayer cloth that I brought back from my visit to the Holy Land.  I ask only that you first send my evangelical association a free-will offering of $20 or more, so our world-wide ministry can continue to spread our wonderful faith — that all may believe.’ 



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