THOUGHT PROVOKER 37
Blind Santa and Hate
Last Updated January 14, 2001
To Provoke Thought Is The First Step To Beyond
“…..RING RING RING RING-DING, TINK, CLANK CLANK CLANK…..” Sam rang bells for one of those recognizable community charities that we all know. He was blind, standing at the front entrance of a Wal-Mart, dressed like Santa and soliciting charitable donations from customers as they came and went. He put on a lively act, telling jokes, singing and dancing. Just his bell work alone was a marvel; he used four bells of different pitch. People lingered to watch and enjoy the show, for an act it was. Sam’s charitable earning rate was the highest for his employer; where others averaged $1.00 per minute, his was $10.00.
It was Christmas Eve, night was falling. A small crowd stood near Sam, he was playing “…Over the hills and through the woods, to Grandmother’s house we go…” He did a jazzy two step sort of dance as he rang the bells; you couldn’t help but know he was playing for your attention.
“I don’t think a blind man should be a Santa.” A male voice said into a pause between phrases of the song. It was said very loud and plane. The tone was unmistakeablely derisive.
Could this happen? How? Why?
**1. “Sure it could, if anyone in the crowd is brave enough to be caught saying
what many people secretly think. It seems that those who think such things
are either to tactful to say it or ashamed to say it because they know it
isn't right. Some people see individuals with a disability as an unpleasant
reminder of how things might be. As blind people, we are one of the few
minorities which one of the majority might be forced to join. A member of
the Ku Klux Klan isn't likely to wake up some morning with the dreadful
discovery that he is going Black. The anti-Semite isn't going to visit his
doctor and be given the news that in a short time, he will become totally
and irrevocably Jewish. Those who think of disabled people as their
inferiors are in a unique and frightening position. The blind Santa and the
rest of us on the street reminds them that we are here. If he were in any
danger of joining the hated group, the anti-Semite would rip the yellow
stars from the pre W.W.II Jews and find them an institution. Airline
personnel have tried to take away our canes for one reason or another and
even some rehabilitation professionals want to minimize it. But people who
understand blindness as only a characteristic requiring certain alternative
methods for certain daily acts are not afraid. Their sensibilities aren't
offended by the white cane or the blind Santa. While the yellow star was
meant to degrade and humiliate the intrepid Jew, the white cane has become a
symbol of freedom as well as a practical device. They don't hate Santa,
with his snowy white cane, they are afraid they may become like him. They
don't know that, like the Jew and the African American, Santa belongs to a
respectable minority with as much to offer the world as anyone else.
Jane Lansaw (Lincoln, Nebraska USA)
**2. “Could this kind of reaction occur for a blind Santa? Absolutely, but I think it could also occur to almost anyone. Believe it or not, I have actually witnessed a couple of people who attempted to heckle a couple of different Santas who were stationed outside stores -- one Santa who was the target of
hecklers was an African American male; the other was a petite woman. In each instance, the individual who was heckling the blameless Santa thought that the person shouldn't be dressed up as Santa. Unfortunately, there are some individuals out there who derive satisfaction from belittling other people
and perhaps making them fearful. Often, the person committing these acts is intoxicated, or close to it. As a blind guide dog user, minding my own business going back and forth to work and social engagements, I occasionally encounter negative comments from time to time. From time to time, people tell me, "You shouldn't have that dog!" and once or twice someone has threatened, "I'm going to take that dog away from you." One of the facts of blindness is that we typically use symbols -- canes or guide dogs -- that identify us to members of the public, including those who do not have good intentions. Some
people see us as defenseless or more vulnerable than others. As a result, some people consider us to be safe targets for verbal abuse (or crime) who are unable, unwilling, or afraid to respond (or retaliate) when faced with a threatening situation. Luckily, the negative conduct directed toward us is normally
limited to oral abuse.
As a final comment, let me turn the story around a little bit to mention an occurrence that happens much more frequently. I work in Washington, D.C., and
there is a large population of street people here who subside by begging. For many years, as a legally blind person who used neither a cane nor a guide dog, I was routinely solicited by beggars for donations, and sometimes these encounters were, and were intended to be, very threatening. Now that I use
a guide dog, I am rarely approached for money. On the one hand, it's nice to no longer be faced with people constantly begging money from me. On the other hand, it's quite a commentary on blindness when you are one of a small number of people who is not constantly hit up for cash whenever you walk down
the street. Believe it or not, I am much more inclined to give money to equal opportunity beggars who approach me these days, guide dog notwithstanding, than I was in the past.”
Jeanine Worden (Arlington, Massachusetts USA)
**3. “It could happen, though I'm not sure hate has anything to do with it. I
think it's misconception problems again, as we've talked about in
previous Thought Provokers.
The fact that the blind guy was ringing bells for a charity could confuse
some people, like, "It's okay for us (sighted people) to ring bells for
the less fortunate, but not for you, the less fortunate, to be doing it.
It looks out of place." It's related to our having problems paying
someone who has read a lot, driven for us several times, etc, when we
didn't actually hire them. It's okay for them to give to us (in the form
of a service) but they feel uncomfortable being given to by a blind
person because they think it goes the other way around.
Then there's the issue of "imperfection." Some people would feel
uncomfortable having a historical figure like Santa being publicly
portrayed by a disabled person because "Santa isn't disabled." (Actually
we don't know that for sure, but the going thought is probably that he
wasn't except for being unthin.) Some non-disabled people don't like
having "imperfect people" as they see us, "paraded in front of them as
examples." This happened to me at our former church. They didn't want
me up on the platform because 1: They were afraid I'd fall, though I
never did and 2: It was like displaying "imperfection" as okay in a
church that stressed perfection as a goal. Some didn't understand that
the goal was spiritual perfection, not so much physical perfection. Some
didn't understand the concept that "we are all a work in progress," and
that they were not any more perfect than I even if they appeared to be so
from the outside. Various ministers dealt with this differently. Most
of them allowed me to be up there anyway but it made them "unpopular,"
and complaints were sent to the headquarters etc. and it was quite a
problem. Others were disgusted at the whole problem, enjoying the times
I was up front. They thought it showed a person of courage who didn't
let a difference stop her. They admired the Braille and the cane and
didn't worry about imperfect eye-contact. They saw beyond all of that
but they were certainly in the minority.
Then there's the problem of some blind persons not getting enough
attention or having their talents acknowledged enough by their peers or
by the public in general. Sometimes they will show off, bringing more
attention to themselves than to the project at hand. One could wonder if
Sam was getting more contributions because people recognized his talent
and wanted to reward it, felt sorry for him because he was blind and put
more money in, or gave more just because he was more noticeable. We don't
know about the ones who walked by, disgusted, thinking Sam was there just
to show off, not really having the heart of the project in his heart. We can't read peoples' minds, so we don't always know what motivates them.
Hmmmm. If Sam can do so well bringing in money, maybe his organization of
the blind could have him help with fund-raising--they're a charity, too!
(The assumption is that he was ringing for the Salvation Army, but maybe
not.) (Or, if he could do this for the Salvation Army, he could do it
for his blindness organization, too, or something like that.)
Then there are kids' expectations. "I just saw Santa at the mall. How
can he be here, too, and ringing bells, and, Daddy, he's blind! The other
Santa wasn't blind. What's going on?" (Is Sam Santa or one of Santa's
helpers? Would the public allow Sam to pose as one of Santa's helpers,
but not Santa, himself? Things to think about.
Again, I don't think there is hate in this situation as much as strong
disapproval, surprise, differences in expectations, appropriateness of
where, when, how or why one is displaying their rather unusual talent,
etc. I wouldn't find Sam's doings a problem, but I sure know of some who
probably would. And when I dress up in black boots and a red suit, well
hey! I look a lot like Santa, and that's a compliment! What a kind,
giving soul to resemble! Ho, Ho, Ho!!!!!! Merryfield Christmas!!!”
Laurie Merryfield (Washington USA)
**4. “You have two separate issues / questions here. First should a blind person
be a Santa? Then, what kind of Santa should a blind person be? Whereas, it
might be argued, that a blind person should not be certain types of Santas.
On the other hand, a blind person might be entirely appropriate for playing
certain other types of Santas. A blind person should be a Santa Claus, a
giver, a self-sacrificer, a contributor, a supporter, a fund raiser. Never
should a blind person become or allow himself or herself to be made out to
be a Santa Clown, a bungler, a misfit, a refuge, a taker, only for
Michael Floyd (Lincoln, Nebraska USA)
FROM ME: “What do you think would be the reaction by the general public and/or by the blind community if the blind Santa took the part of a beggar Santa? One with a tin cup? I mean, didn’t wear one of those vest or had a sign that identified him as representing some recognizable community charity.”
**5. “Well, I don't think whether or not you have vision should decide whether or
not you want to play Santa. I feel if Sam was doing his job and making good money for the charity then
who are we to tell him it is wrong?
You may not like some the waiters and waitresses that serve you in a restaurant but, you aren’t going to tell them. So why should a blind Santa be any different?”
Abby Spillman (Greensburg, Indiana USA)
**6. “My first thought was is this exploiting the blind? Does it arouse pity for the blind man? But then another thought struck and I like this one better. Why not! The blind can do almost all that sighted can do but may do it a little differently. The blind can be computer operators, programmers, physical therapists, clerks, and so many more professions! I think this man really enjoyed his job! His actions showed merriment, not pity! So I say, "Why not a blind Santa Claus?"
Ernie Jones (Walla Walla, Washington USA
**7. “I can't see the difference between a sighted Santa or a blind one. As long as the blind Santa in question entertained the folks near the store and I'm sure the blind fellow enjoyed himself! The fellow who was derisive was probably a fellow who was a no good chap who didn't care about anyone anyway! Weather we are blind, or otherwise handicapped it really doesn't matter. In fact, I feel sure that this Santa was appreciated and he obviously gave the potential customers for the store an incentive to chop there---Of course, that's why Good old Santa was there--Right? More power to the blinded Santa! If he wasn't a professional then ten bucks an hour would no doubt, help him too. O pardon me, if memory, now that I recollect, he was there raising money for a non profit organization--Right? At any rate, hats off to him!! Regards,”
**8. “ Been there. Done that. I played Santa back in 1990 for our apartment complex Christmas Party; even to letting the kids sit on my lap to tell me what they wanted for Christmas. I also played him when I worked at the San Antonio lighthouse for the Blind going around the shop handing out candy to
the employees and putting the place in a festive mood. It also happened that we had a blood drive going on that same day and Santa Claus wanted to encourage donations by giving blood himself. And for some of them it wasn't just toys. One youngster told me that he wanted a mother and a father who
didn't fight and drink. Another one wanted a mom who would have a little brother or sister for this kid. As I remember this child said that her parents told her that she would have a little brother or sister and several
weeks later they told her that she wouldn't be having any siblings. I later found out from one of the neighbors that this little girl's mother had had several abortions. As Santa you get some pretty challenging requests to fulfill.
Being a blind Santa really isn't all that different than it is for a sighted person to play him. All you're doing is walking or riding around shouting, "ho, ho, ho Merry Christmas" or something like that! Or you would be sitting down listening to requests from the kiddos, posing for pictures,
and handing out goodies of some sort or another.
I once heard of a blind person who played Santa in a department store. When on the store floor he didn't use his cane or a dog which was unfortunate. This would have been an excellent opportunity for store
visitors to see how a blind person functions using alternative travel methods for the blind. I've even come up with a story line to say that a blind Santa should use his mobility aid. After all Santa has been pleasing
little boys and girls for centuries. As Santa grows older he's bound to loose some of his faculties such as his eyesight. Santa can't let the little children down simply because he can't see so he's learned to get
around using a cane or a guide dog so he can locate the openings of chimneys, get around his North Pole village, and where ever he has the chance to visit with little children before Christmas. Who better to
promote a new positive image of blindness than Santa Claus himself.”
Peter Donahue (USA)
FROM ME: “Yes Peter and Virginia, there is a blind Santa! Isn’t this gentleman correct in stating that if Santa was human, like us, that he too at sometime due to the aging process end up experiencing vision loss? Or as a occupational hazard experience some snow blindness? Otherwise, how about the suggestion and encouragement Peter gives us in regards to the blind person in using their travel aid, be it a cane or dog, taking this time to educate the sighted to the abilities of the blind? ”
**9. “Personally, I feel more comfortable when I'm amongst other handicapped people. The non handicapped world tend to be too judgmental, opinionated, ignorant, stupid, and unwilling to accept anything but what they feel is traditional. Yes, course this situation can happen. I've
heard remarks made when the person portraying Santa is black, Hispanic, Chinese, whatever, and it infuriates me. I was raised believing that Santa Claus, like God, is a spirit and is anything anyone wants them to be. Their in the image of each of us.”
Patricia Hubschman (Levittown, New York USA)
FROM ME: “Where is the line drawn on the changing of those things we consider traditional? Can we enhance a tradition?”
**10. “I usually like the thought provokers. But this one puzzles me, because it's hard to know what the real issue is. The man who voiced the criticism could mean most anything, and his intent might even have been positive. Sure, he could be criticizing blind people (though for what, I
can't imagine, as I've never heard of any stories remotely like this one). On the other hand, he could be criticizing this blind man's apparent perpetuation of the old stereotype of blind people raising
money through begging (a stereotype I see repeated in the popular media every month or two). And, frankly, I couldn't help wondering if the person's fundraising success was due as much to his eye condition as to his bell show, engaging as that show might have been no matter WHO did
it. Either way, of course, the man picked a rather rude way of expressing his opinion.
So I suppose Santa's appropriate first response would be "why not?" And if the man's intent was to criticize the blind beggar stereotype (of which the bell-ringer is probably well aware), explain how Santa
justifies it -- "It's important to realize I'm not raising money for myself, I'm raising it for a public cause -- this is a case of the blind helping the sighted!" or, if you want to be more combative, "Blind
people have just as much right to help [name of charity] as anybody else." Or something like that. Though I suppose, since this is Santa, the reply has to be something that can be delivered with a good Ho, Ho,
And, for one's own satisfaction, even if the person is just irredeemably rude, weigh that one comment against the dozens of compliments Santa was probably receiving for bringing such creativity to
a job that so many others do with much less charm.
I have a question back to the thought provoker writer. I would be interested on hearing a couple of the real-life experiences on which this story is based, and how people dealt with those experiences.”
Thanks -- Ed Zehner (BlindKid list)
FROM ME: “ I wrote him back and in part wrote- First of all, my motivation for writing the THOUGHT PROVOKER was based upon the experience of a blind man that I recently met, who proposed to his
family that he was thinking of earning some XMAS money by getting a job as a Santa. This gentle man is 58, totally blind, uses a long white cane. Both he and his family are new with all this blindness stuff. The up-shot of this little episode of his initial stretching for independence, of going
back to work was for his family to express their thoughts that the general public, yet alone the employer would not want him. I talked to them all and it might be that some day they'll feel different, but they need to learn a think or two about blindness before that comes about. So what we gather
here in this PROVOKER and in others I know will be one source of that education, grist in the mill of discussion that will help them develop a better understanding and attitude.”
**11. “It takes all types to spin the world and this loud mouth hassler certainly wasn't in the Christmas spirit or he would have known to zip his lip.”
Sally Baird (ACB-l)
**12. “What was that? I don't think an idiot should make judgments?”
Lori Stayer (Merrick, New York USA)
**13. “There are a lot of people out there who think that blind people shouldn't do this or that. Perhaps the man who said Sam shouldn't be a Santa will change his mind after he has an opportunity to meet Sam
personally. If not, I would just try to forget about him. This holiday season, I'm sure we all have other concerns such as sending cards and buying gifts.”
Abbie Johnson (Sheridan, Wyoming U.S.A. firstname.lastname@example.org)
**14. “I believe there is no reason why a blind person could not be a Santa raising money for charity. This shows a blind man not begging, but doing something positive. There always those who feel any difference does not allow progress in our society.”
David Stayer )Merrick, New York USA)
**15. Yes the public "assumes" we are helpless and need to be taken care of. Disabled people in some minds should stay home on charity not out working for one. That's embarrassing to non-disabled persons, for some reason, that, I cannot define.
Something similar happened to me As a mobility impaired person I would meet with a dozen or so friends all in wheel-chairs. We would roll around visiting, having coffee etc. A woman came over to us asked what "Home" we came from and where was our nurse it never occurred to her that we came
from our individual houses to enjoy a visit with friends. The old saying fits here do not "assume". it's spelled "ass"+ "u"+’me’”
Diane Dobson (Victoria, British Columbia)
FROM ME: “Do you think that any one type of disability would get either a more positive response or a more negative response to playing Santa than another?”
**16. “I don't have any idea if your fictional situation can actually happen, (well, I guess just about anything is within the realm of possibility) but it was just in our local paper about blind guy soliciting money for a charity and the great reception he is getting. Only difference was that he is playing some other instrument, exactly which escapes me now.”
**17. “The blind Santa was doing his thing for a charity. The objective of those charitable fund raisers is to raise money. Why shouldn't the blind guy have the same right to do the Santa thing as his sighted colleagues? It is Christmas. He was probably having a good time and at the same time raising money for the charitable organization. One could argue that the man was using his blindness but in this case I don't think so. Sounds like the guy was doing nothing more than raising money for a charity just like his sighted pals were. Merry Christmas.”
Joyce Porter (Houston, Texas USA)
**18. “I have a website entitled "Blindness for Kids" listed on the Internet and used as a resource by many. A father who is a leader in an
online discussion group for parents of children who are blind or visually impaired wrote to make a correction to my site. He noted that
I was mistaken when I said blind people could not pilot planes “ that in fact it could be done with an adjusted instrument panel and a willing co-pilot. This story reminded me of that email. I also thought you might have added that the blind man earned more not only for his talents, but because people felt sorry for him. At any rate, the blind and members of many other groups “ whether they be disabled, of different ethnic or racial groupings, gender, socioeconomic or whatever will probably get some questions about their jobs or activities. This should not stop anyone from trying or stop any of us from offering encouragement. The only true disability is that of the spirit or soul - one is a dead man walking without that spirit.”
Catherine Alfieri (7 Summer Tree
Pittsford, NY 14534
Monroe County Women's Disability Network
**19. “Well, a great Christmas tale! I think if I were the Santa, I might be tempted to as the crowd if Santa would use a blind helper....then I would point to the women who said it and say...she does not think so! But I guess in the true spirit of Christ and Christmas....I would pity her
ignorance and hope those with her make her feel like a jerk she was!”
Joyce Cass Pratt(Gillette, New Jersey USA)
**20. “That remark made to blind Santa was really offensive and certainly insensitive. The only reason I think it was made is because adults want very young children to believe that's really Santa, and obviously Santa is not usually portrayed as being blind. However, let's be clear that in this
day and age, Santa is more a symbol of the goodwill and good cheers, for children and adults alike. And lest we forget, there's been some African American Santas, which certainly isn't the traditional Santa image. It seems unconscionable to make such insensitive remarks to a blind Santa.
That's a clear case of ablism and a childish reaction, IMHO.”
Michel Paquin (DeafBlind list)
**21. “And why not? While I am "new" to the blindness field I have been
impressed as to the fact that blind people are people. Period. Okay,
they can't see, so they find alternative ways to do things. What
alternative methods does a blind man need to be a Santa? This story
sounds like he needed nothing other than a willing spirit to stand on the
street and solicit donations. I know I am more willing to contribute
when the person is friendly, personable. Sounds to me like this guy has
everything it takes to be a GREAT Santa.
(mother of newly adopted 4 year old blind girl--who doesn't let her
blindness interfere with her life unless she chooses--like when chore
time comes around!)
**22. “When I was about five years old and living in a small village in the middle of British Columbia, I attended the annual Christmas concert and gift-distribution
that the local community put on. When it came my turn to get my gift from Santa Claus, I approached him eagerly. He lifted me up and, as I was about level with his face, I suddenly noticed the holes in the mask out in front of his eyes, but I could only see dark hollows where his eyes should have been. I was so startled that I cried out, "He has no eyes!" It; struck some kind of terror into my five year old mind. I suspect that some human beings never get over the fear of not being seen and acknowledged. Some years later, when I was twelve, and returned for the summer after my first year at the residential school, my four year old sister sat on the floor in front of me for a while, apparently troubled and puzzled and finally said: "I hate your blasted eyes!"
Perhaps Sam was a victim of some such gut reaction on the part of someone whose psychological development had not progressed beyond that of a four or five year old child. I don't know if there are any outer boundaries of acceptability for Santa Claus, but I think the community of San Antonio, Texas, offered an example. When I taught at a college there in the early seventies, one of my advisees requested leave to, as he said, take care of an accident case. I heard a
newscast the next day that John was on trial for shooting both his parents. After the judge rejected a plea bargain that would have given him five years for each parent, he was let out on bail. Having nothing to do, he applied for, and received, a job as a shopping mall Santa. You can hardly imagine the uproar when parents discovered that their children were being dandled on the lap of a parent-killer! Even though John was a quiet sort of fellow, I think they may have had a point!”
James S. Nyman (Lincoln, Nebraska USA)
**23. “Perhaps all us disabled should ring bells. After all it would save Us causing embarrassment to those others who accidentally walk into us.”
Dave Nelson (Carlisle, United Kingdom)
**24. “Yes, this could happen, but I don't think it's a result of hate. What I see here is a fearful man responding out of his own fear. Many philosophers have said our emotions reduce to two basics: love and fear. This isn't love, it's fear. What is he afraid of? Interesting question. We really can't tell by reading the story. Has he just had a difficult event in his own life, and is projecting his unhappiness and fear into a joyful group of people? Does he have a fear of disability? Has he had negative experiences of the Christmas season and
chooses to try to squelch expressions of holiday joy? Is he someone who has a hard time with things that don't fit his pictures of how things should be?
There are so many possibilities. In any case, it isn't about us (the blind or the people watching Santa) - it's about him. He's in need of healing and support, but his approach is so off-putting that it will take a very generous blind Santa to see past it to his pain and need.
For the rest of us, it's just another fearful thought put into our path. Every human being experiences lots of them. Some are self-generated and some come from others, but it's all the same in the end. We get to decide whether or not to allow them to limit us.”
Karen (Dana Point, California USA)
**25. “Before I say this please be assured that I'm not making fun of anyone or
their messages. Just take a chill pill and picture this:
a young child is looking at a Christmas card. She says, “Oh! look, its Father Christmas. I can see his slay and all the rain dear. Mom why is there a dog in front of the dear?" Mom replies, ‘Oh! that, is his Guide
Happy Christmas to you all.”
Jane and Miller (High Harrington, Cumbria United Kingdom
FROM ME: “Who is to say that there isn’t room for a ninth rain deer.”
**26. “read this one and know my first response to the dude who asked such a stupid and it is stupid question would be 'why?' ..... Santa as we identify him is an embodiment of what commercial producers would like us to believe ... the idea he could be young, black, Asian, disabled, whatever goes
against their grain ...I mean let's be honest they cater for the norm therefore they perpetuate this image ....just like you can't be happy unless you own this that or the other ... or we have 'the perfect family'
programs which none of us can live up to ... they coined the term supermums and so many other myths but they forgot one thing we are people and we are all unique and different ... how Santa is represented is irrelevant it the symbol he is meant to represent which they would have us not recognize and
that is the joy of giving ... that is what that Santa did ...gave unconditionally to strangers, old, young alike with no discrimination shown at all ...he gave and it was from the heart ... but those that make the
bucks sure would not like us to remember that ...the fact is whatever the Santa symbol whoever they are the message they are meant to be passing on is that of the joy and celebration of mankind and of giving ..not products they say we need to make our life complete ..but of giving of oneself ...
my answer to the dude after why would be on how he seems to be missing the point of Christmas and beware of the spirits of Christmas which may just come back to haunt him...”
Julie L. Robottomin )Northern Region - Gresswell Cluster,Australia)
FROM ME: “Interesting, as the lady says, don’t mistake the true meaning of what is seen in the picture portrayed in this PROVOKER; its Santa, its giving and caring and other wonderful things of that nature. Just as, when the public sees a blind person walking with a long white cane or dog guide, they will sometimes mistake the true picture here as well; it is a capable person out traveling independently with purpose and all those wonderful things.
The comment here is, what is a mind-set? How are they developed and/or changed?”
**27. “Funny you should ask. I've always thought that a blind Santa was very appropriate. You know, probably an old guy with macular degeneration. I mean he's got Rudolph with that shining nose to guide him from house to house, but when he gets to the houses, its probably pretty dark out there. So those alternative techniques of blindness will come in handy! Also, when you get in the house, it may be dark or if the lights are left on or there's a fire place blazing, you'd be temporarily blinded by the light coming out of the pitch dark of night. And you only have a few seconds to do your work.
Well anyway, you get the point. Let me tell you that on Saturday the 25th of November, the NFB Denver chapter and our Colorado Center for the Blind held a craft and gift fair where 30 exhibitors had booths. We advertised throughout the community. We sold food and drink and there was general Christmas merriment, including Santa Claus. Now, I ordered this wonderful Santa suit off the Internet. My fiancé, Bridget, dressed me up all good: hat, wig, eyebrows, mustache, beard, coat, pants, and these funky boot tops that you wore over your shoes.
Anyway, I generally ho-ho-ho'd, bounced kids on my lap, and learned that the most asked for toy of the year is something called a Pookie. Also, Santa Claus told our good friend and colleague, Scott LaBarre, to go off and call the TV stations, which had already received press releases about our gift/craft fair. Low and behold, Channel 4, the CBS affiliate came to interview the blind Santa Claus. I explained to them that my sight just wasn't as good as it used to be. Sitting there in my wooden rocking chair, with my long white cane alongside, I told them that Santa Claus would still make sure all the children got their goodies. Ho ho ho.
Seriously, the only difficulty I really had doing the Santa thing was that most little kids get kind of quiet and I guess kind of big-eyed and not very expressive around the jolly old guy, so its kind of difficult to tell exactly where they are. You sort of reach out, laughing and reassuring, and
they're so excited about Santa, they don't have a clue you can't see them at all.
One other thing, I always loved that old Burle Ives Rudolph special because Rudolph's nose not only shone, but it had that neat tonal thing
going on. Merry Christmas! I'm outta here.”
Santa Kev (NFB-talk)
**28. “Here in Germany Santa Claus, whom we call Nikolaus, comes to visit children on December 6. I am totally blind. I used to work for a social organization called Arbeiterwohlfahrt "Workers' Welfare Association". In my home state, the Saarland (on the French and Luxembourg border), the agency ran several
Kindergartens, a house for battered women and their children and a children’s' home for children with behavioral disorders.
after I was working there for about a year one of my colleagues who was in charge of the kindergarten program got the great idea that I should play Santa Claus. I did that for many years until I changed jobs, and some kindergartens even kept me for a few more years.
It was big fun. I would sit down on a chair, the kids would most of the time have prepared a little program (songs and poems), and afterwards they would come up to me one by one so I could give them my presents. I made it a point to speak a few words with each of them, asking them if they liked kindergarten, if they were looking forward to going to school and which job they would want to have when they are adults. (I should mention that Kindergarten starts at the age of three here in Germany).
Out of the hundreds of children I served over the years there were probably not more than five who noticed that Santa might have a vision problem. First of all, I used to know what direction they were coming from and could hear most of the time where they were standing anyway. Sometimes the people working there would say something like "and now the girl to your right is Nadine", so I could turn that direction and greet her.
At that age most children really belief in Santa Claus, and it was so thrilling that he was here and talking to them personally that they in their excitement wouldn’t have noticed my blindness even if I had made it more obvious.
Now I live in another area of Germany (right on the French and Swiss border)
and Kindergartens here do not know about me. Of course, they also would have their own people. So I play Santa once a year at the Santa Claus get together of the local chapter our Federation of the Blind. Here I walk from person to person, and the persons are adults who know that this Santa Claus really is Norbert Mueller. Still, it is big fun. But I miss my kids.
Best regards and a merry Christmas to all of you,”
Norbert Nueller (NFB-talk)
**29. “My hopes would be that the sound of money clinking in the kettle would drown out any more comments by the rude person. Then the gathered crowd would join in singing the carol, carry on the spirit of goodwill and raise their voices together to drown out prejudice.”
Suzanne Lange (Chico, California USA)
**30. “Yes, there is such a thing as “HATE Crimes” and they can be pointed at any one element of society, of any society. They have always been and I’m hoping will not always be or at least will some day be lessened. Humans, to this point in our collective existence have matured as a group, yet still have a problem seeing all of its members as being of the same group. The internet is going to be one of the one of the biggest movers toward we seeing ourselves as “one group.” The language was the first major equalizer, the printed word the next, then the wireless or radio, then the Tellie and now the WWW. We will or are be come one united global village; not there yet. Let’s work on it!”
Martin (United Kingdom)
**32. “I am puzzled as to why someone would make such an argument as to whether or not a blind person should be playing a Santa Claus. To me, it is quite clear that Sam was being active in his community by providing time, talent, dedication, and a bit of fun in order to help raise money for a charitable
cause. Was the man, who was in the audience, being derisive in his comments because he felt that having a blind man ringing a bell to solicit money was synonymous to perhaps, let's say to that of a blind beggar pleading for alms for the poor or money for himself? did this man somehow believe that this
would be one more stereotype and chocked up with the many others that have been labeled on blind individuals?
I too would have played Santa Claus, or Mrs. Claus. I'd be the Kim Basinger look-a-like, gorgeous, slender, perfect curves...okay, I digress...
The point is, I believe that we owe it to ourselves to take part in community functions where are skills can be effectively utilized for that specific cause. If we are going to have an opinion about what we think our
communities should be doing in order to better our lives, then we had better get in there and start being instruments of change. It wouldn't be the blind Mrs. Claus that I would be playing, nor would I believe that I was lumping fuel on the proverbial stereotypical fire if I rung bells to receive
money for the organization that I was working for, but it would be a Mrs. Claus who was using her skills in a way that would deem profitable, who just so happened to be blind. As for people telling me what I am doing to bring a bad name on blind people, it takes far more courage to stand out there on
a cold day in front of a Wal-Mart practicing and using your skills for a good cause in front of a crowd of strangers than it does for someone to spout off at the mouth about why I should or should not be playing a role in order to benefit others. To that person, I say, "Get a life and go out there and be
a part of the solution instead of more of the problem!" The guy in the crowd should have kept his mouth shut instead of running it like an old car battery....long and exhausting, and frustrating for everyone else to hear. He should have either given his money, or walked away, but his comments were
not in order, and we all know that he was in the crowd, not participating in the charity or the raising of money.
I realize that I may have some disagreement on this one....good! At any rate, I hope I have answered this thought-PROVOKER in the best way that I could.
I hope that all of us, whether blind or sighted, rich or poor, will do something to get involved with our community and help our fellow man *and women* out for the holiday. I hope that we can find a way to effectively use our skills.
Also remember, that no matter how hard you try to help someone, or what you try to do for an organization or a cause will always be met with opposition from someone who has nothing better to do than to complain about why the world is round instead of flat. Ignore them, or try to enlighten them, but
don't give in to them!
Have a happy holiday!”
Meka (ACB list)
**34. “Well, if you ever thought there is a shortage of discrimination in the world, check yourself by visiting the Web Page called, www.colouredchristmas.com
and buy yourself a neck-tie with either a black Santa or Angels upon them. If this troubles anyone, then we can understand how others will be troubled by our being blind Santas. I have always stayed away from volunteering to be a Santa for the Salvation Army because I didn't want to invoke that pity thing, but I
don't thing I will ever avoid it again. This Thought Provoker has opened my eyes so to speak. Thanks Robert and Merry Christmas to all, and to all a Happy New Year.
Albert Ruel (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada)
**35. “well, this isn't about being a Santa; but about ringing bells. For the last 3 Christmas seasons, I, a blind woman in my late 30's rang the bell at JC Penney for the Salvation Army. All Salvation Army volunteers or
employees were strictly forbidden to wear Santa suits. The accepted garb was either the Salvation Army uniform, or a red apron with the words "season's
Greetings" on it along with "the Salvation Army" inside of a shield. I heard that they were short-handed in 1997, and immediately applied and was hired.
My husband was out of work, and I felt good helping make ends meet, even if only for 3 weeks that year. For the next 2 seasons, I went back. This year,
my own home business is taking off nicely, so I didn't. I was told that my kettle often yielded among the highest amount of donations for an evening, a day, the season, etc. I always tried to look neat, act friendly, etc. Believe me, it did cross my mind how other friends and colleagues in the blindness community would react to my taking a job with the Salvation Army--i.e. an offshoot of the stereotypical blind man with a tin cup--a big, red tin cup at that. I got mixed reactions. The ones who really knew me well didn't mind. My VR counselor realized I was just trying to earn temporary/immediate money while still pursuing a long-range goal (Which has panned out and begun to bear fruit, by the way.) The ones who were offended were those who didn't stop to look beyond the surface or who were so busy militantly trying to change the stereotype, and they thought my position only reinforced it.
Did all that make sense? Merry Christmas.”
Laura L. Collins (Rapid city, South Dakota USA)
FROM ME: I too have rung bells for the Salvation Army for the past 5 years. Some times its me and another Blind person and some times its me and my wife and at times its just me, my long white cane and my bright yellow vest that says in big black lettering, “LUCENT Pioneers.” It came about as a trade off between the Lucent Pioneers and the Omaha chapter of the NFB; they volunteer to drive some of us to meetings and we volunteered to help them fill some of their spots. (Never thought I’d be one of those jingle, jingle Bell ringing people who I had seen for years in front of popular stores). Its been a good feeling. I’ll be doing it more in the future. Giving back to the community is important.”
**36. “If the male who thought there should be no blind Santa, he might have been a blind person himself. "That Santa is blind?" said one of the spectators. "Isn't that amazing what he can do?"
"There shouldn't be a blind Santa," said the other blind man loudly. "Good grief, we have enough trouble discouraging the attitude the blind people are beggars without *that!"
"But, sir," protested the other spectator, "he's not begging. He's collecting for the charity so that the hungry/homeless/and otherwise unfortunate can have Christmases like you and me!"
But the blind man had turned away, a look of disgust and disdain on h is face. The curtain of disdain closed, leaving that gentleman isolated from the good cheer all around him.
Cindy Ray (Leon, Iowa USA)
**37. “Whether we're blind or not, for all the good we do for our communities, there will always be a few naysayers. The point is to dust oneself off and ignore them. There's this, too: while we plainly heard the naysayer's opinion on blind people as Santas, we didn't hear that person volunteer to
work in the same capacity. If I'd been Sam, I would have been inclined to ask: Okay, buddy, would you like to do this for awhile?"
Steve Britt (NFB-talk)
**38. “In response to your question....
Of course this can happen, but the question really is: Who cares?
Just because one small-minded person would like to keep this gentleman from doing his work, doesn't mean the blind fella should stop.
If we listened to all the small-minded people we'd still be living in caves.”
J. Isaac (RPlist)
**39. “Hello, I do not believe that there should be any controversy about Santa being blind. If you give the situation a chance with children and not let adults intervene there would be no problem with Santa being Blind. I believe that we all have some limitations and if we would accept this we would get along much better. What if Santa had been a parolee and was released for assault or something along those lines. What if Santa was a child molester and has not yet been
caught would this be a better candidate for the job? Why do we not see these other limitations as disturbing as a blind Santa? Thou without sin cast the first stone. We are all people no matter what the limitations. We just do not all wear our limitations on our sleeves, but we all have some. Thank You”
Vince Llanas (Bemidji, Minnesota email@example.com)
**40. “Well, if and when we the blind experience a form of discrimination of this type from the public, then we deal with it. Yes, I am also sure there are some employers who would not hire a blind person to be a Santa and again where and when we find them we deal with them. Note: in the Santa scenario, it is important to note that we are speaking of pushing the envelope of “tradition.” It may be more difficult to change the public’s view here, then in less special or sacred roles. Second Note: by broadening the visible presentation of “who” is doing it. Such as in this case of Santa, if the accepted perception of Santa is the “giving” aspect of Christmas, then showing the broadest view of people types would be best; like having a woman Santa, a Santa of color, a disabled Santa, etc.
The next major potential negative or positive issue here with this PROVOKER comes with the blind individuals themselves. For example, we might find a blind person who can’t see him or herself being accepted for the job or by the public or can’t see themselves capable of handling the part of a Santa. Or, there may be a blind person out there who doesn’t see a problem with acceptance by an employer and/or by the public, however they don’t think it is right. Here would be a need for counseling and a philosophical tune up. There is not much worse than discrimination by the ignorant non-disabled community, than to have the disabled themselves believing it.”
**41. "I can see the derisive comment. It could be someone who does not think a
blind person could do the charity activity. It might be a concern about some
kind of liability, it might be...
One possibility is a positive concern about reinforcing the stereotype long
held about blind persons and the "tin cup" syndrome. I don't think there is
necessarily a prohibition against a blind person raising money for a
charity. However, the real problem may be the perception that is held still
by some about blind people and begging, not being able to work, etc. The
scenario reminds me of the historical anecdote describing Valentin Huay's
reported motivation for trying to start a school for the blind in Paris. One
report describes his observing blind people participating in circus type
exhibitions wearing costumes, pretending to be musicians. This was seen by
some as the only thing a blind person could do. So the specter conjures up
this vision of historic stereotype and dependency.
On the other hand, a blind person probably should have the right to assist
in raising money. The charity referenced above is one that some of the
students at our rehab Center support, not by the above exhibition but by
assisting working on the food and soup kitchen lines during holidays,
encouraging those less fortunate or in need of short time help.
So while I support a person's right to select what he or she does including
raising money, I would prefer raising money a different way other than
dressing up and clowning...its just too close to home and one must consider
how one does might impact others who are blind. For me, I would prefer
organizing help in a kitchen, helping them find housing or a job...or at
least counting the money being raised!”
Edwin Kunz (Austin, Texas USA)
**42. "Hmm. To my mind it does sound a bit extreme. I mean, it's obvious to me
this Santa has a hell of an act, is doing well, and that people like what he
does. So the guy who made that particular comment can easily be dismissed
as a crackhead. Later.”
John Coveleski (New York, New York USA