Q: I recently emailed my 8-year-old grandson, Zac, to ask for his Christmas list. He replied with the usual things: a Nerf gun, a pack of Pokemon cards, a remote-controlled helicopter, and last on the list, A Note From God. That last request is amazing and I'd like to honor it by asking if you could help fulfill his wish.
-- J., Landisville, PA
A: Dear Zac: My name is Marc Gellman. I'm a rabbi and I give advice to people about God and religion in the newspaper. Your grandfather sent me your Christmas list and asked my help in getting you the last thing.
I hope you get all the other stuff on your list, especially the remote-controlled helicopter. I see guys flying them all the time in the hallways of the mall. A few years ago, I bought one for my grandson Zeke. The first time I tried it, I flew it right into our dog, Miles, who was sleeping on the couch. He jumped about five feet into the air and when he came down, he ate the helicopter. I hope yours works better than mine.
Anyway, your grandpa was not writing to me for advice about toy helicopters. He was asking my help in getting you a note from God. I don't know exactly how to do this for you, but what I did do is write you a note myself that's the kind of note I wish God would send you. Here goes:
From God to Zac:
The main thing I want to tell you -- the most important thing I want you to know -- is that I love you and will always be with you, so you should never be afraid because you're never alone. (OK, that's not exactly one thing, but almost.)
I made you special and I gave you blessings, which means that I made you good at some things. As you grow up, I want you to figure out what you're good at and I want you to use what you're good at to help yourself and your family and your nation and your world. Mostly, I want you to use your special gifts (which does not include a Nerf gun) to help other people who haven't figured out their blessings and who are lonely and poor and afraid. I care about what you do for yourself, but I really care about what you do for others. Be a kind person, Zac.
I also hope you'll always be truthful. The only thing you have that matters is your good name. Cheaters and liars have given up the only thing I gave them that they can't buy and can't replace. Do the right thing and everything will work out for you, I promise. If you hang out with cheaters, people will think you're a cheater, too. Be an honest person, Zac.
I hope you can learn to say "thank you" as easily as you breathe in and out. "Thank you" is not just two words put together. "Thank you" is a sign to me that you're grateful for what you have. Why don't you start with saying "thank you" to your parents and your grandpa, even before you open your presents and even before you fly your new remote-controlled helicopter into the pie your mom baked for dessert after Christmas dinner. Saying "thank you" is not just what you say after you get stuff. If you have time, you might thank me for sending Jesus on this, his birthday, which is the real meaning of Christmas. Jesus is the best and only Christmas present a little Christian boy like you needs on his list, and saying "thank you" is the only price I set for that great gift. Be a good Christian, Zac.
Some day, when you're much older, you'll have your own grandchild, just like your grandpa has you. You're going to love that child just the way your grandpa loves you now. On that Christmas, you'll know why your grandpa wrote to a rabbi about your Christmas list. On that Christmas, many years from now, your grandpa will be in heaven and Rabbi Gellman will be in heaven. So do me a favor, Zac. On that Christmas, I want you to find Rabbi Gellman's grandson, Zeke, who's about your age now. Tell Zeke the story of how your grandpa asked his grandpa for help in getting you a note from God. Then wish Zeke a Happy Hanukkah and he'll wish you a Merry Christmas. That's all I want.
I bless you, Zac.
I bless you, Zeke.
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