Commentary – Always make time for love

Jeff Burgar

“I’m just not cut out for this” So says a 60-year-old president of a small company in Tennessee.

The fellow, Eric Schmitt-Matzen, often plays the role of Santa Claus. A few weeks ago, he got a call from a local hospital. A five-year-old boy was dying.

His last wish was to see Santa.

One of my favourite topics is what are called The Five Pillars of a Community. These “pillars” are the base upon which so many good things in a village, town, region or city can build. The pillars are as simple as they should be obvious : Quality education.

Good health care. Community safety. Recreation.

Economic opportunity, meaning jobs and opportunties for business.

Most days and weeks of the year, these so-called “big picture” items get lost in the shuffle of daily life.

Inept and unqualified politicians, their sense of importance usually overpowering their brains, get bogged down in gamesmanship and power plays.

Good workers are suffocated by bad bosses. Affairs outside a community create local problems in one community, In another community, local problems dealing with just one of the pillars are so overwhelming, everything else is forgotten. And sometimes, we can be so involved one way or the other, we can miss some of the very most important things in life.

From various news sources, all of which have had trouble verifying the accuracy of these events, Eric as Santa is quoted as he arrived at the hospital: “I sized up the situation and told the family, ‘If you think you’re going to lose it, please leave the room. If I see you crying, I’ll break down and can’t do my job,’” he said.

He walked into the ICU and found the boy “laying there, so weak it looked like he was ready to fall asleep.”

“You know, kids look at things completely different,” Eric recalled to WBIR in a video. “He was more concerned with missing Christmas than he was of dying.”

“What’s this I hear you’re gonna be missing Christmas this year?” he asked the boy.

“They tell me I’m dying,” he responded.

“Really?” Eric asked. “Well, you’re not going to miss Christmas. The elves already had your present made.We knew you wanted this for a long period, for a long time.”

The boy could “barely unwrap it,” so Eric helped.

When he saw the toy, he smiled.

Then, Eric told CNN, “he just kind of put his hands down and laid back into the pillow and looked at me.

He said, ‘They say I’m dying.’” Eric asked the boy to do him a favor.

“When you get to those pearly gates, you just tell them you’re Santa’s No. 1 Elf. I guarantee you, it’ll open the gates for you.”

The boy smiled and said, “I am?”

Then, Eric told the Knoxville News Sentinel, “He kinda sat up and gave me a big hug and asked one more question: ‘Santa, can you help me?’” Eric wrapped him in a warm, tight embrace.

“Before I could say anything, he died right there,” he said. “I let him stay, just kept hugging and holding on to him.”

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