This time of year, millions of toys are handed out in the name of Santa Claus. Supposedly they come from Santa’s workshop, but let’s get real. There’s no way that one elderly, overweight man can possibly produce all those toys. It’s an enormous task that must require countless hours of work.
This, of course, is where the elves come in. In order to turn out so many toys to be given away, they have to be working for little or nothing. There probably isn’t even a minimum wage law at the North Pole.
And what about the working conditions? Do the elves have health insurance? A 401(k) plan? Paid vacations? Do they get overtime? Or are they exploited and taken advantage of? It’s possible they are working hard all year round, meeting Christmas deadline after Christmas deadline, in sweatshop conditions that are anything but jolly.
Oh, they seem cheerful enough. Any time you see Santa’s elves in movies or books, they are singing while they work, bustling about with apparent joy in what they do. True, appearances can be deceiving, but maybe they are genuinely happy in their jobs.
If the elves truly are as satisfied as they seem, what is the secret? How is it possible that Santa’s workshop can produce so many toys year after year, give them all away, and still remain in business?
The answer must be that a great deal of the labor that goes into Santa’s toys is outsourced. There’s another labor force behind the scenes that makes it possible for Santa’s workshop to produce all those millions of gifts. This is a vast army of workers all over the world—all volunteers.
These unpaid workers are the ones who venture out to discount stores and shopping malls on Saturdays during December. Some of them even get up at dawn to fight their way through crowds of shoppers on the day after Thanksgiving. Others spend hours creating special gifts of wood, fabric, or yarn, working in secret and putting care and love into every stitch or stroke of a paintbrush.
Still others stay up half the night on Christmas Eve to assemble dollhouses or bicycles. Then these selfless volunteers wrap the gifts with care—and label them, “From Santa.”
Those generous volunteers are the parents and grandparents who delight in making Christmas a special time for the children they love. Some of them are able to buy expensive gifts without counting the cost. Others squeeze just enough out of their limited budgets to get something small. Still others give what may be the most valuable gift of all—their time.
Regardless of what the gifts are or what they cost, the intent behind them is to bring joy to children’s faces. Many of these volunteers go even farther, spending time and money in an effort to provide that same holiday delight to children they don’t even know.
This outsourced labor force is the real source of Santa’s incredible productivity. It’s the true secret behind his ability to bring joy to so many children in so many places.
Maybe you are one of those countless Santa’s helpers. Maybe your Christmas this year includes the great pleasure of watching small children open gifts from Santa. Maybe your little ones have long since grown up and graduated to being Santa’s helpers themselves.
Whatever the circumstances, may your Christmas be a joyous one that is focused on family and those you love. As you celebrate this year, please take a moment to help me join Tiny Tim in his heartfelt wish: “God Bless Us, Every One!”