Inspiring story about a boy who rises above his circumstances and learns to give the greatest gift of all ...
It’s Christmas day. For Antony, this is another day spent in a white-walled hospital. His family celebrates Christmas five kilometers away. Together they feast on stuffed cabbage rolls and slurp avgolemono - hot chicken and rice soup mixed with eggs and lemon juice. Afterwards, Antony's family drinks coffee, smoke cigarettes, and share stories while enjoying melomakarona cookies spiced with cinnamon and orange.
In the corner of the family room sits an evergreen tree with ribbons and flashing fairy lights. But for Antony, just like last Christmas, he doesn't enjoy the Christmas tree lights. Instead, he observes flashing lights from arriving ambulances and beeping bed-side monitors.
Two weeks ago, when his family were preparing for Christmas, Antony revealed that he hated Santa Claus.
The Boy Who Hated Santa Claus
Antony was born in a little village in Macedonia. A village, where old stone buildings could tell stories of a thousand years past. The kind of place where ancient trees keep secrets; the stories of wars won and lost, stories of love and laughter and the lives of the people that have dwelled there for centuries. Antony's village is a place where you take a casual stroll and stumble upon fields with looted graves, dug-out holes pillaged and left gaping open for you to gawk upon their loss and emptiness. A place where tradition stays strong, and religious festivities are upheld with the highest honour.
I queried Antony about his hatred for Santa Claus. He looked at me, “Yes, of course. I hated Santa”. Antony frowns in disdain. He raises his arms, true Macedonian style, he waves his hands, palms heavenward, and jerks them back suddenly in a gesture that says, “Be off with him”.
“But, why did you hate Santa? Was it because you knew he wasn't real?” I asked Antony. “No!” Antony laughs out loud. “It’s because Santa never brought me Christmas presents”. His laugh turns into a contagious bellow and he continues. “All the other children in the village got Christmas presents. But me, nothing. Never. Nothing”. Antony speaks even louder and laughs harder. He throws his head back and I can’t help but join the hysteria of the boy who hated Santa Claus.
Antony's parents couldn’t afford to buy him gifts. Antony was left to think Santa was an awful magical man who always forgot him. Santa brought the other children gifts, but nothing for him. I felt sad for Antony as I imagined what it was like for him on Christmas morning watching all the other kids open their Christmas presents.
But now, Antony's all grown up. It’s Christmas again and his laughter indicates he is over his hatred for Santa. Antony is a senior Cardiologist. He works tirelessly at the hospital, close to the village where he grew up. When the other children were playing with their new toys, Antony told me he'd read his older brother’s medical textbooks. His older brother inspired him to become a doctor and help others in need.
Antony was a boy who grew up without gifts at Christmas. He knows what it means to go without, to sometimes go to bed hungry. Over the holiday season, hospitals see a spike in heart related emergencies.
Doctors are especially needed and Antony is not relying on Santa to deliver. He is at the hospital faithfully giving out the greatest gift of all.
He is saving lives.
Antony teaches us that we can rise from humble beginnings. His story shows us that though we may not grow-up having what others do, with the right motive and mentors, we can do something special with our gift of life and give back to others…
because something’s for certain. Santa Claus isn’t going to do it.