Dear Santa . . .

Sometimes, in pursuing our own dreams, we inadvertently change the lives of those around us. Such was the case years ago for a young girl in Indiana.

Third-grader Amy Jo Hagadorn was experiencing a problem at school. It wasn't an unusual problem for someone her age, but it wounded her self-esteem little by little and broke her spirit.

Autumn passed-but the problem didn't. As the holiday season neared, a local radio station announced that it would rush children's "wish lists" to the North Pole, ensuring that Santa would receive each and every one. Hoping that Santa would intervene on her behalf, Amy Jo wrote to him and sent her letter to the radio station:

"I have a problem in school. Kids laugh at me because of the way I walk and run and talk. I have cerebral palsy. I just want one day where no one laughs at me or makes fun of me."

When station workers read it, they knew they had to do something. Amy Jo wasn't asking for much-just one day without teasing and bullying. The workers broke the story to a number of news outlets and read Amy Jo's letter on the air.

The result? Amy Jo's simple request was reported in newspapers around the world, tugging at people's heartstrings and needling their consciences.  Everyone could relate to her plea for respect, whether they shared her problem or were themselves the cause of the problem. In her hometown, Amy Jo received her day of goodwill from classmates-even the guilty participated in a sing-along presentation for Amy Jo-and the mayor proclaimed December 21 as Amy Jo Hagadorn day. An outpouring of cards and gifts arrived at the Hagadorn home, all of which delighted Amy Jo.

But the best part was learning that teachers and parents from as far away as England and Australia were using her letter as a springboard to discuss discrimination and respect with kids. Amy Jo's letter to Santa had not only benefited her, but quite likely presented another child from experiencing the pain she had known.

Before Santa was due to arrive, Amy Jo had already received much more that she'd whished for. "I think I had my Christmas today!"

(copy from Bits & Pieces)

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