Over the weekend, I watched an old holiday classic – the original black and white version of Miracle on 34th Street.
I watch it every year before Christmas to remind myself that there is something restorative about having faith in the goodness of humanity.
In the 70-year-old film, Kris Kringle shows up amid the hustle and bustle of New York City during the holiday season to remind us that what makes Christmas special is the happiness of people, not commercialism.
He reminds us that belief with a childlike simplicity can be healing and even energizing.
The short storyline: Kringle fills in for an intoxicated Santa in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and becomes so popular that he is hired to appear regularly at the Macy’s store in midtown Manhattan. When Kringle claims that he really is Santa Claus, it leads to a court case to determine his mental stability and authenticity.
Throughout the film, the characters – the mother, the daughter, the neighbor, the judge — struggle to find the balance between faith and reason.
The young daughter of the (single mother) advertising executive strives to reconcile her mother’s determination to raise her without “filling her mind with fantasies” and Kringle’s perseverance in trying to show her that imagination is important.
The neighbor of the mother and daughter (the lawyer who defends Kringle) is all about ideals and finds himself at odds with the mother’s realistic approach.
At one point, the neighbor tells the disapproving mother: “Faith is believing when common sense tells you not to. Don’t you see? It’s not just Kris that’s on trial, it’s everything he stands for. It’s kindness and joy and love and all the other intangibles.”
Ah, the intangibles – the things that can’t be touched or seen or bought or sold — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faith, hope, self-control, goodness, etc.
The neighbor goes on to tell the mother “… someday you’re going to find that your way of facing this realistic world just doesn’t work. And when you do, don’t overlook those lovely intangibles. You’ll discover those are the only things that are worthwhile.”
I choose to believe that the intangibles are real, powerful, and worthwhile.
I choose to believe in the Santa that Kringle represents in Miracle on 34th Street – the human ability to suppress selfish and hateful tendencies and replace them with compassion and goodwill.
I choose to keep believing.