Wednesday, December 26, 2007

"I Have a Santa Claus Complex"

Peter Applebome writes on Father Groeschel in the New York Times:

Forty-five years ago, the Rev. Benedict J. Groeschel had a small idea.

Then the chaplain at the Children’s Village for troubled youths in Dobbs Ferry in Westchester County, he decided in December 1962 to take Christmas dinner, other food and a smattering of presents to the impoverished families of five children from the South Bronx and Harlem whom he worked with.

Those families mentioned others — nephews, cousins, friends who were also in need. He thought: Why not? So next year the circle widened a bit. Word spread in the neighborhood. A building superintendent or neighbor would mention other names. Each December the list continued to grow.

Before long, he realized he had begun something that couldn’t be stopped, a Christmas tradition with a regular cast of characters, a past as well as a present, one of those reminders that the more noble notions of Christmas can sometimes creep in amid the seasonal clutter of commerce, bustle and noise.

Pick your religion, the essence of the season is the enormous things that can flow from small ones — a birth among the poor in a humble stable, a day’s worth of oil that somehow burns for eight.

And so, when Father Groeschel and his crew of helpers went to the South Bronx for the 45th year on Saturday, this time with around 700 boxes of food and thousands of presents, the message was not just about the importance of service to the poor. It was also about the huge things that can come from tiny ones.

“As a psychologist, I have to say I have a Santa Claus complex,” Father Groeschel said on Friday, the calm day between the loading and delivering of the food and toys and their distribution. “But I never, ever anticipated that this would become anything like this.” Read all …

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