GETTING IT RIGHT
If you choose to take the approach I use as inspired by my experience, the following items will help you succeed. These considerations will help you no matter what approach you take in your mission to surprise a child or family.
The single most important principle to guard is the privacy of your guests. The family
must know with certainty that the event and their participation remains completely private.
Even participants such as drivers need not know the identities of your sponsored family. The hosting house or shelter staff
members are the only people who need to know ... keep it that way. Whether by name or by sight,
there is no reason for the family's privacy to be compromised.
Do not let your ego tempt you into divulging your identity to anyone involved. The family,
support staff at the hosting facility, theatre personnel, etc., DO NOT need to know who you are by
name or by appearance. When you first approach a housing facility, be sure to identify a contact
with the type of sensitivity required.
For example, counseling staff members are already in a
position to understand privacy and anonymity concerns. A representative such as this is the only
person to whom you should feel obligated to provide identity information if requested. By offering
to identify yourself under strict confidentiality in advance, the staff member will likely not require it.
By all means, avoid contact with your sponsored family at all times—especially, at the event. Any interaction could lead
to a humiliating experience for them and a miserable sense of failure on your part. Stay away from the
family and let them enjoy their private moment of joy! If you must see them as an assurance
of their enjoyment, make sure to arrange seating at a discreet distance behind them.
Do not forget those who help you help the family! A healthy tip for the driver in advance
and/or a token gift for support staff at the housing facility will make it easier every year,
and it just might add to your joy too.
Not all people celebrate Christmas. You may wish to inquire with the housing facility
support staff to confirm the status of your sponsored family. Well wishing and greetings can
be presented in a generic fashion that would be appropriate for all cultural or religious
backgrounds. Dicken's "A Christmas Carol" is a ghost story. It is not about religion; it is
about redemption, kindness, charity and humanity. Your gift should not be contingent on a family's faith.
Do not stress out over the details! If you provide a simple event for their enjoyment,
let the rest take care of itself. The key is to find a good partner in your car/cab service
and the housing facility.
To make sure that the benefit to the family goes on, I have made arrangements for
Christmas greeting cards to be delivered to the family in subsequent years by the housing facility
support staff. Generally speaking, the support staff keeps track of their guests for follow-up
services and will be glad to pass along your anonymous greetings. This simple gesture can
insure that the individuals have a trigger to remind them of the presence of human kindness
represented by The Spirit of St. Nicholas.