In my younger days, I was often compared in looks to Alan Ladd. Then it was Robert Wagner.then Tim Conway. Last week it was Burl Ives. This is the end of the road for me. 2009 is going to be the new year for me. I am committed to losing weight and getting into better shape. Burl Ives , indeed! The person telling me this had to be at least eighty years old’ perhaps his eyesight was failing. Who knows, but I can’t take a chance.

My last three columns have been written about bad things that have happened in this country and I promised to write something positive before Christmas, so here it is.

Last week a friend of mine had to opt out of playing Santa at a local church so he conned me into going in his place. Having the vision of Burl Ives freshly planted in my head, I decided to accept, knowing that this is the last year I would be able to play the part without extra padding. My golden retriever was very surprised to see me in a Santa suit. I think it dawned on her who I was and that she might get her wish for thumbs or a can opener.

The church had no instructions, no training manual, no list of do’s and don’ts’ just show up, be nice and it will all work out.

I was somewhat apprehensive at my lack of training for this position. Several people warned me that my attitude and my performance would impress these children for years to come. In other words, don’t screw this up or some kid will have to go to years of therapy because of me. My mind is telling me this might not be good.

I arrived at the church about fifteen minutes early and waited in the car for the noon hour to arrive. I wanted to go in on time since that was about the only instruction I received. I arrived in the lobby just as about two hundred little, very little’ kids were filing into the sanctuary. All of them staring and waving at someone.

Then I realized it was me.

Showtime.

One of the ladies came over to me and told me to just sit in a big chair, hand out candy canes, let the kids sit on my lap or wherever and let their parents take their pictures. No big deal, she was sure I could do it. The room was hot and I was hotter in this velour suit. My glasses kept fogging up, so I took them off and sat down and told myself that anyone who has been in the Army, and a cop and has been in God knows how many fights and shot at can handle a bunch of two, three and four year olds.

Let me tell you this. It was a hoot. I had so much fun I am determined to let my beard grow full next year and do it again. I laughed until I cried at some of these children. Their personalities are so evident even at this early age. Some held back while others ran to jump in my lap and talk. One little girl told me she had food for my reindeer in her backpack. I told one of the little boys to be sure and set out some milk and cookies for me on Christmas Eve. He looked at me and said… ‘ We did that last year, and you didn’t drink all of the milk and the cookies got hard and we had to throw them away.’ I promised I would do better this time.

There were many requests for puppies, but I kind of reneged on promising them that they were a sure thing. I just told them we would have to see if we had enough this year. Let Mom and Dad handle that one.

I asked another little girl what she wanted and she did not hesitate to tell me A baby sister. I told her mother what she had said and the mother advised that was one request that wasn’t going to be answered anytime soon.

The best one was a precious little girl with a sheet of paper with cutouts of all of her toys that she wanted to tell me about. On her way out, I asked if she wanted to give the sheet to me to take back to the North Pole and she told me. ‘ No, I think I’ll keep it.’ No fool there.

I only managed to make four or five cry and these were very young’so I didn’t feel too bad. I don’t think they had a clue as to what was going on.

It was a wonderful day. It renewed my faith in the human race once more and makes me want to try harder to make a difference in this world while I have time. God Bless you all.hug those children, call someone and tell them that you love them and be good.Santa is watching.

Merry Christmas to all’