David Haney is a member of the St Paul Catholic Church since 1995 and a member of the Pinellas Support Committee since 2003. Maria McCourt is a NFWM Board Member and Coordinator of the Pinellas Support Committee in Florida.
A Santa Story by David Haney
Maria and I, with the help of many wonderful supporters, contributors, and volunteers, visited some twenty migrant farm worker camps in Plant City and Dover each year providing these workers with food, clothing and Christmas gifts during the long winter months when they have little work and meager pay checks. This year we provided Christmas gifts to nearly 770 children.
One of the many generous contributors during the past two years has been Country Park Trailer Park, a 55+ community located in Clearwater, Florida. Most of these volunteers live up north but fly south to Clearwater during the winter months (Snow Geese). Many of the Country Park residents collected money and graciously provided Christmas Gifts to about 14 migrant families, living at a migrant camp outside of Plant City. A dozen of these Country Park residents and I drove in a convoy to a pre-designated migrant camp, our vehicles loaded with Christmas gifts, food, clothing items, and lots of Christmas cheer. As we arrived, we all got out of our vehicles and donned our red & white Santa hats. We knocked on the door of each of the six trailers, one by one. These individual “Santa’s” provided each family with Christmas gifts for each child, an impressive amount of food, a Christmas card, and some clothing. Then the Country Park volunteers sang “We Wish you a Merry Christmas” and “Feliz Navidad” before heading out to the next trailer, until all six trailers were visited.
While we were visiting each family in our Santa hats, singing Christmas songs, and delivering the bundles of toys, food and clothing, a small boy came running over to our group from across the street with a letter in his hand. No one knew who he was, running over by himself from a distant trailer. He wasn’t a resident of the trailer park we were visiting but it was difficult to ignore his enthusiasm. The boy, no older that seven years old, handed one of our volunteers a letter and then quickly disappeared back to his parent’s trailer, across the street. The top of the letter had a drawing of Santa Claus, where the little boy colored in Santa’s rose colored cheeks and large red hat. Underneath the Santa drawing were lines where the elementary grade teacher obviously instructed her little students to write a letter to Santa, using their best writing skills.
“Dear Santa Claus, How are you…would like 1….2….3. I like to hav a meshen tomes and two cars and I like three backogans”, signed Rigoberto.
One of our volunteers was a retired elementary school teacher and promptly interpreted the little boy’s letter.
Rigoberto wanted three things (1….2….3):
1. meshen (pronounced “machine”) tomes (pronounced “Thomas”) = Thomas Train
3. Backogans = Backgammon
How could anyone ignore this precious Santa Letter? I suppose Rigoberto thought we were Santa or at least Santa’s elves. After all, these volunteers with their red Santa hats on top of their heads were delivering food, gifts and song to the neighborhood. Rigoberto must have been watching this Christmas event unfolding in front of his eyes and from his living room window from across the street and thought, “Here’s my chance”.
From Tampa the next day, Maria and I drove to Plant City and located the trailer where we thought Rigoberto lived. Outside the small trailer a man, holding a small baby, was standing in front of his trailer. We approached the man and asked if Rigoberto lived here. With a smile, Rigoberto’s father nodded, “Yes”. I told him that we received a letter addressed to Santa from his son and asked if he was in the trailer, with a chuckle, the man said in Spanish, “Oh yes…he told me he had sent a letter to Santa….sure, I’ll call him out”. A few seconds later, a small little boy, black hair and eyes came running out of the trailer in front of us.
“Is your name Rigoberto?” I asked. He shook his head (Yes). Then I knelt down to his level and said, in Spanish, “Well, I don’t know who you are, I’ve never met you before and I don’t know where I am, but Santa told me to deliver this special bag of goodies to a little boy named Rigoberto”. The little boy replied with a great big grin, while jumping up and down, “I know….I know why you are here….I sent Santa a letter”.
At that moment, I handed the little boy the bag of goodies we had brought and the boy hugged me with a tight and enthusiastic grip. The entire family came out of the trailer; mom and little Rigoberto’s sister. Thank goodness Maria and I had correctly planned out our visit bringing with us extra toys in case Rigoberto had siblings!
After visiting awhile with Rigoberto and his family, Maria and I started our trek back to Tampa, later that afternoon, and we couldn’t stop talking about our visit with Rigoberto and his family. We must have talked about that visit the entire way home, faces gleaming of the true meaning of Christmas. I think I can speak for Maria in this case, this experience was the highlight of our Christmas Season and a true Santa Story that we both will never forget.
Thanks Rigoberto and thanks Santa for a grateful gift!