You better not shout,
You better not cry,
You better not pout,
I'm tellin' you why:
Santa Claus is coming to town!

That verse has haunted me for as long as I have had this job. No, that isn't true: the job that most people think I do has haunted me for as long as I have had this job. That's much closer to the truth.

You will have worked out by now that I am Saint Nicholas. According to the culture of many Western countries, it is my job to travel around the world during the night and deliver presents to all of the children. It sounds a cheerful enough prospect, doesn't it? For the fundamentally happy children, it is. For the children with food in their bellies and more in the pantry for the next time they get hungry, a stack of presents once a year is a nice bonus. For the children who know their parents love them and are capable of supporting them, for the children with access to education and health professionals, a visit from Santa is a much-anticipated joy.

Good for them, I say. However, they are not the ones I think the most about.

What about the cold and the dirty, the hungry and thirsty, the beaten and bruised, the scared and lonely? There are so many of them, and for those little ones, no amount of tinsel or strings of lights on trees or boxes wrapped with pretty paper to hide the gift inside until Christmas Day will make it better. My concerns are with the children whose needs are unmet.

I would like to say that those children could be helped with a blanket instead of a games console (and I do, in fact, stock those, in case you are wondering) because at least they would then have something to cuddle to keep them warm, but you and I both know that would be wrong. A blanket makes a pathetic shield against flying fists.

Yes, my dear. Father Christmas is talking about domestic violence. I know it doesn't match the jovial manner or the red coat with the white ermine trim or the curly white beard, but this is the truth of the world we live in. And, despite the image I am expected to project, I think about those hurt little souls far more than I do the happy, glowing children. It is too much of a reality in this world we live in for me to ignore them. The child trafficking, the sweat shops kept afloat with busy little fingers, the sexual violence, the underage soldiery. How must they feel when they see the safe ones?

I would be a hypocrite if I were only to pay attention to the safe ones.

And yet, my dear, and yet, I am not entirely without power to help. Not all presents are tangible, and not all come wrapped in glossy paper.

I should state, before I move on to revealing the following portions of my journal, that I am not entirely human. Do you remember all of those times you wondered how such a fat man could fit down the chimney? Or why you never heard reindeer landing on the roof? Or how I could carry such a large sack, or manage to visit so many houses all in one night? Some of those questions are pure folly, but some are good questions indeed.

I cannot easily answer how I visit every house in one night, for that involves things that ordinary humans cannot understand. But I can tell you that I am restricted to being active for only a limited number of nights. That only tightens the mysteries that make me what I am, but if it helps at all, I will say this: it is easier to carry multiple gifts if they are passed on by speech alone, or just by being there, and silent, with a child who simply cannot find the words.

Let us begin these annals with the story of Lauren.