Jim Farmakis will never forget those words. For the past eight years he’s played the role of Santa Claus for the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence center for challenged adults, just around the corner from the Western Catholic Union fraternal hall in Chicago.
This little girl was going to see HER Santa Claus, and Jim has learned to appreciate the power of the beard and red suit.
One other moment continues to be a special one for “Santa.” As all the nuns wiped away their tears, a little girl rose up out of her wheelchair, and took her first steps since she arrived at the center weeks before.
Nothing was going to stop her. Santa Claus was in the house! “It’s God’s spirit helping her walk to you,” the nuns told Santa.
Jim Farmakis started his role as Santa Claus without realizing he’d inspire others. He didn’t realize how his special audience would react. He had agreed to pop in to St. Mary to visit the children. But then he found out that many “challenged adults” were regulars there.
“A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.”
—Clement Clarke Moore
“The Night Before Christmas”
“It just broke my heart. It was scary the first time because I didn’t know how to react. I didn’t want to scare them,” Jim said. “They got all excited, but I wasn’t sure I could ever do it again.” But as Farmakis was beginning to leave a nun asked if he’d return again the next year and he couldn’t say “no.”
Then something magical occurred. Farmakis had asked if he could have a couple of photos taken. So he posed with the nuns and those pictures came out beautifully. Then he posed with the special adults and kids. When he got those pictures developed he was amazed. “On that picture there was a big flash of light through the picture, and you couldn’t see any faces. It was as if God had said ‘No, you’re not supposed to take this picture.’ I got an eerie feeling when I saw that.”
Through the years Jim has learned that these experiences are a gift to him, as well. “It’s unexplainable,” he says. “It makes you feel so good in your heart. They have less, but maybe with the joy in their hearts they actually have more. They don’t know of all the problems around them.”
Farmakis is one of many members of the Western Catholic Union that unselfishly give of their time to help the needy. It’s how they live their lives, and how the WCU hopes to help the needy in every branch activity. “We’re able to help many people less fortunate. People have pride, but they appreciate our help,” Jim says.
This December 19th, Farmakis will be back in costume. His sleigh will stop on Austin Street in front of St. Mary of Providence. He knows he’ll brighten the day of someone inside. After all, he’s “MY Santa Claus” to so many by now. While he knows he’ll see the sparkle in those amazed faces, he’ll feel like the person getting the gift.
His eyes—how they twinkled! His dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses. His nose like a cherry.
This Christmas season, think about the gift of giving. Think about James Farmakis. And think about and open your hearts to all our neighbors in need. Maybe you will experience one of God’s miracles, too.
The Western Catholic Union is proud of all our members who celebrate the Christmas spirit year-round. Merry Christmas to you all.