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December 10, 2013

1000''s of people around the world are familiar with my well known Holiday Story that I used to send out each year. This time of year 100's start asking when I am going to start doing them again and if they dropped off the list. I honestly had to stop them, because it got so expensive to print and mail 5000 or more books each year and because my network has grown so big. I just found my card from 2003 and it was one of my favorites so I thought I would post it and share it here:

A BRIGHT GLOWING RED DOT

YOU KNOW, BEING A COMMUNICATOR, LIVING AND BREATHING A LIFE OF STORYTELLING IN A VISUAL FORM, IS QUITE A GOOD LIFE TO GET TO LIVE. IT’S ALSO, I SUPPOSE, WHY THERE IS NOTHING BETTER IN THIS WORLD TO ME THAN SOMEONE WHO CAN TELL A GREAT STORY OR JOKE. BECAUSE THAT PERSON CAN PAINT A PICTURE SO WELL IN YOUR MIND THAT YOU SEE AND CREATE EVERY DETAIL TO SUPPORT THE STORY THEY ARE UNFOLDING FOR YOU. IT’S WHY I COLLECT CHILDREN’S BOOKS AND I SUPPOSE WHY I THINK THE “WIZARD OF OZ” HAS ALWAYS BEEN SUCH A COOL STORY. THE STORY THAT FOLLOWS IS ANOTHER I THINK WE ALL KNOW.

I started thinking about this story recently in the middle of the night after I had fallen asleep with the radio on, and upon waking decided to write about what has been for me one of the most powerful stories I have ever heard.

On November 18, 2003, I went to bed around 10:00 p.m. with the radio on softly as I fell asleep early for a change. I think an Eagles song was the last music I was conscious of hearing. About 2:15 a.m. I awoke to the song “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” on the radio...by the Beach Boys of all people. I raised myself up on one elbow and in that stupor of half asleep and half awake stared directly at the radio trying to figure out why in the world my stereo was playing Christmas music at 2:15 on the 19th of November. I hit the off switch and went back to sleep. When I woke up the next morning, I turned the stereo back on to hear the Carpenters and Karen singing “Merry Christmas Darling”. Damn if they were not playing holiday music 24 hours a day, over a month before the Christmas holiday. For even me, a total sap at the holidays, that is just weeks too early. All I could think was if that is too early for me how it must have left my Jewish friends shaking their heads in further dismay at the further commercialization of a Christian holiday and its effect on the masses.

That said, I started thinking about Christmas and the holidays in general and realized that for me although I was raised Catholic that none of my important memories, and more important none of what Christmas has come to mean for me, has anything really to do with religion. It has to do with a great story and the effective and colorful telling of that story time and again. It is about love, sharing, giving, family connections, and a time to reflect all while eating foods you would not touch the rest of the year!

In addition to our respective faiths, I know many Jews and Christians personally who celebrate and love the idea of a story about a fat, white- bearded man, dressed in a red velour/satin suit, flying, no less, in a sleigh and bringing gifts down fireplaces, eating cookies and milk at every stop. Damn...I want that job! Please, I am fully aware of Santa Claus, the Saint Nicolas connection, and his origins and history, so don’t write any letters about how I clearly don’t understand the real story and its connection to myth etc. I’m talking about something a little different for me.

The great part, and the magic of the story for me, is all the traditional trappings the story seems to have and the amazing consistency with which it sits in our collective conscience. Now wrap that all up (pun intended) and put that in your pipe and smoke it (pun also intended) and think of the impact that has had on a kid from Kansas who would tune in to hear the Santa report on AM radio each Christmas Eve on the way to Grandma and Grandpa’s house to eat holiday food, open presents and be an entire family on a cold sometimes snowy Christmas Eve.

Now let’s just stop for a moment, setting religion and all faiths aside, and look at the cool part of this story in my view. Then on top of it we can all go celebrate within our particular faith, but in a day and age where half of this world continues to battle and kill each other in the name of their respective gods let’s just look at the beauty of a great, and to me non-denominational story as it has evolved.

Ok, now a few facts. North Pole. Massive toy workshop, clearly profitable by the way, as evidenced by its centuries in business. Happily married and eternally old fat couple with no illness despite a pipe smoking habit. This couple employs any number of tiny elves to build, repair, and pack toys (all year long), there is zero employee turnover, and there are no strikes or labor disputes. One single sleigh. Not Wal-Mart or Toys “R” Us distribution with
an army of Santas — just one sleigh and eight tiny reindeer with cool names. Oh, and a “special” reindeer who leads the way because his nose glows red as this single sleigh delivers gifts to children of all faiths around the world all in one single night. Best of all, he does not care if you have been good or bad but being good sure helps...hey we all have the guilt to deal with right? I’m sorry, no matter what your faith...that’s a cool story. It’s also a story...no, a concept we could all stand to adopt a little more you know?
Give a little more, spend all year thinking of others first, enjoy the foods you like, treat your family and employees well no matter how tall they are. Care for your animals. Keep your vehicle in working order. Love your work. Work your ass off and spend some time afterwards relaxing...step and repeat!

WOW...Not a Jewish or Christian symbol in the entire story. But to my mind a lot of shared concepts.

And the best part, it does not teach hatred, is inclusive of every child, it’s multicultural, diverse, and non-discriminatory plus it’s not a bad place to begin before we start layering our own belief structures on our kids or their kids. Maybe that’s why every child at some point smiles when they see a Santa, or should.
So this year in the name of kids who love a great story, kids who need a great story, and kids who don’t have the same chance that many of those we know are lucky to have, we have made a donation to The Art of Elysium.

The Art of Elysium is a Los Angeles based organization that regardless of the god you pray to helps bring the art of storytelling through music, acting, and the arts into children’s hospitals. I became acquainted with and joined this organization a year or so ago while attending an art opening for one of their artists. You see AOE organizes and produces art events, openings, concerts, and performances of all types to raise money through the sales of tickets and artwork. Portions of the proceeds go to AOE and help promote very talented artists and their work. In exchange, those artists go to the hospitals to perform and work with terminally ill kids. And it’s magic! Much like the story of a fat, red-cloaked Santa and his team. A great concept. A win win for everyone involved. And to see their faces light up—kids so sick and with no smiles and then to see smiles break, toes start to wiggle and to watch them move closer and closer in wheelchairs toward the artist is like nothing I have experienced in my life.

In itself Art of Elysium is another great story unfolding. Just like Santa, just like other myths and stories, just like the hope we all hold inside for love, peace, eternal health and no more shattered dreams, all the rest is quite simply another form of storytelling at a different level. And it’s bringing smiles, hope, and letting these kids forget their pain along with the medicines, treatments, loneliness, and the lengthy separation from their family, friends, and all that is familiar to them if just for a little while the story unfolds.

I hate the way our world is turning right now. And no matter how you pray if you do, pray this season that things get better. Hold some belief in your gods, in your heart, and in great stories that might move you closer to eternal hope.

From all of us at Reflectur, THE ART OF ACTIVE NETWORKING, THE BOX SF and BrainfoodUSA and my other companies — watch the sky for an approaching bright glowing red dot this year—it always appears sooner or later, you just need to make a little room for it!

— Mark E. Sackett
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