Playing Santa, making a difference

Playing Santa, making a difference

Once a year, our company volunteers at The Children’s Inn at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. According to The Children’s Inn website, it is “a residential ‘place like home’ for sick children and their families. Children come from across the country and around the world to stay together with their families in The Inn’s healing environment while receiving groundbreaking medical treatments at the NIH, the world’s leading biomedical research center. While the NIH takes care of the child’s medical needs, The Inn tends to the child’s heart, soul and spirit.”

Our regularly scheduled Santa was on a business trip this year (perhaps to the North Pole), and I was asked to step in. While my belly might not have shook like a bowl full of jelly, I did my best to make an impact.

While this blog post might not be about “Sales Intensity,” I’m hoping that it will serve as a reminder about how we, as hospitality professionals, can influence the lives of others. One colleague made the turkeys, another prepared the desserts and the rest of us provided smiles and support to the kids and parents at the hospital. 

One small boy, about 4 years old, came up to me wearing a surgical mask to avoid further illness, and would not remove his hood to show his whole face. When I asked him his name, he shyly and quietly murmured something inaudible. Someone convinced him to decorate a gingerbread man, and moments later another teammate encouraged him to make an ornament. After about an hour, I felt a tug on my hand, and it was the same boy. He did not say anything, but led me to a chair to sit by the room’s Christmas tree. Feeling more confident, he asked, “Santa, do you know my name?” This time, even through the surgical mask, I could make out his voice say the name “P.J.” Trust me, I used his name at least 25 times for the rest of the night so he was sure that Santa knew his name. He showed me how the costumed bear was dancing and how his nutcracker could bite my white gloved finger, and we searched for special ornaments on the tree together. 

For those last few moments of the event, we all got a sense of what true, unselfish hospitality can mean to children who truly deserve miracles this holiday season.