If you've been reading Facebook during the month of December, you've seen the attacks on "The Elf on the Shelf" -- either humorous pictures featuring the little creature in compromising positions or the more vitriolic ones that called him "creepy" or "evil." I had vowed to stay out of the argument. After the polarization surrounding the elections, I figured the last thing we needed this holiday season was another controversy. I cringed when people attacked him for not being "traditional," as the book cover claims. After all, I'm old enough to remember similar attacks on Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer when his song first came out. This argument, too, would pass, I decided.
However . . . and there is always a "however," isn't there . . . I learned something yesterday that forced me out into the center of the controversy. So here's a "feel-good" story about the much-maligned little guy.
In Memphis we have two huge children's medical centers -- St. Jude's Children's Research Center for cancer patients, and Le Bonheur Children's Hospital for all of the other horrible things that can afflict our children. Patients come from all over the world for treatments here. Many come without their full families, and many stay for not just a few days but months at a time. And the absolutely worst time for children to find themselves far from home, alone, sick, and in a strange hospital bed is Christmas. One of the greatest fears among the little ones is that Christmas won't come, because Santa Claus will not know where they are. And in the child's mind, that makes perfect sense because they don't know where they are, either. Nurses tell us that Christmas can be a dangerous time for these kids because they are so sad.
Enter the Elf! This year Le Bonheur installed elves in every ward and every floor in the hospital. They made sure the children all heard the story, and throughout the hospital, the nurses carefully followed the prescribed ritual -- the elves would disappear overnight (to go back to the North Pole and report) and then reappear in a new location the next morning. Even the sickest children got a chance to discover each new location.
And that was their Christmas miracle. The elves were reporting on their location and condition every night. Now Santa Claus would know exactly where to find them. Christmas would come after all. When one reporter asked the children what it felt like to be in the hospital for Christmas, the overwhelming response has been, "It's been fun!" No more fears about Christmas not coming. The patients shared the same excitement and anticipation that healthy children experienced as they waited for Santa.
Creepy? Evil? Non-traditional? Excessive? Putting the emphasis on the wrong message? Not in Memphis! Our local Elves on the Shelves are truly blessings, bringing comfort and reassurance where it is needed most.