Everything about the film fills one up with hope and holiday cheer even as it reminds us of the inherent good in people and the magic of Christmas miracles.
Last week, we brought to you the story of a little boy's heartbreaking letter to Santa. "Dear Santa," the letter said in the messy scrawl of a school-age child. "Do you support the LGBTQ community and if you can speak to God, can you tell him I love him, and if he loves me for being gay?" The letter — which was intercepted by the USPS as part of its Operation Santa initiative — tugged at the heartstrings of netizens as it went viral on social media, sparking words of encouragement and support for the child. While we might never know if these words ever reached him, a heartwarming holiday movie releasing Thursday reveals how Santa responded to the youngster's letter.
This letter to Santa broke my heart. pic.twitter.com/NWbum1rvaX— Nancy Cruz-Garcia 🇲🇽 (@Nancy_Cruises) November 22, 2020
Brought to us by Emmy-Award winning director Dana Nachman (Pick of the Litter), Dear Santa shines a light on the 100-year-old Operation Santa Program. "Each year, hundreds of thousands of letters to Santa arrive at Post Offices around the country. Through Operation Santa, the United States Postal Service makes it possible for the public to safely adopt these letters and make children's dreams come true. The film invites audiences along for the magic of this massive endeavor. Traveling the country, much like Santa does on Christmas Eve, the film focuses on select Operation Santa centers: some in metropolitan areas like the massive operation in New York City and others in small towns where the post office is the heart of the community," explains a press release from the filmmakers.
Having watched the documentary, I found that the best way to describe it is as a warm mug of eggnog on Christmas morning while opening up presents under the tree as a child. Everything about the film fills one up with hope and holiday cheer even as it reminds us of the inherent good in people and the magic of Christmas miracles.
It also proved cathartic as it provided answers as to what came of the young boy's letter and how Santa responded to his heartbreaking questions. As it turns out, the letter was adopted by "adopter elf" Michael Muñoz, who himself is gay, and made it his mission to make sure the youngster knew he is loved.
"The boy didn't ask for anything! NOTHING! What kid doesn't ask for toys galore?!?! All he wanted is to know was that he was loved. I was hellbent on making that happen," Muñoz — who has been adopting letters for as long as he can remember — told Upworthy. He revealed that although he'd initially planned to skip the tradition last year when the letter eventually found him, he couldn't say no. "Once I read it, I mobilized my 'troops' and it was a done deal," he said.
"When I presented to my circle, there was some push back. 'What if he's in a dangerous situation?' 'What if his parents don't know?' and other very valid questions like that. It definitely weighed on me a lot, but I think every year I get someone who questions what's on the other side of the letters. My answer always is 'We set out to do something good for someone else. What happens on the other side of this is out of our hands. All we can do is approach this with love and kindness in our hearts and hope for the best.'"
Speaking of how he responded to the young boy's letter, Muñoz revealed that he sent him a package containing several books on acceptance and what it's like to be gay. "We sent him everything we could find and I mean everything. Down to filling the boxes with rainbow mylar glitter! The idea in my head came from that old joke we, as LGBTQ people, sometimes tell each other when one doesn't get an old reference... 'IT CAME IN YOUR BOX!' Starting with 'A is for Audra: Broadway's leading ladies from A to Z' (cause hello! BROADWAY!), Carson 'Kressley's Your Different and that's Super!,' 'Julian is a Mermaid,' 'Stonewall: A Building,' 'An Uprising. A Revolution,' 'Pride: The Story of Harvey Milk and the Rainbow Flag' and so many more," he shared.
"Every year I also include a letter from Santa that I write myself. The boy's was specifically geared toward the fact that he is loved and that being different is beautiful and powerful. I also sent his parents a letter from Santa wishing them well and offering resources if they needed them. That came along with a wrapped book titled 'Unconditional: A Guide to Loving and Supporting Your LGBTQ Child,'" Muñoz added.
Dear Santa follows the journey of several other letters to Santa and the tales of selfless "elves" like Muñoz. "We had the absolute best time filming all of these stories. It was a real privilege to get a look into the lives of such a diverse group of kids and even some adults and learn about them through their own words in their letters," said director Nachman.
"Their wants and needs are so relatable because we all have wants and needs no matter who we are and our lot in life – especially children. We all remember what it felt like to really, really, really want that dog or bunny or whatever it was! It was humbling to have this front-row seat into these people’s lives who we otherwise would have never met. We are all so grateful they let us into their worlds! It’s also a great reminder that little gestures can make a huge impact! Look at Damion's story. [He is featured in the film.] He received an alarm clock radio from an elf when he was a little boy and now as an adult he gives to hundreds of kids every year which is a direct result of that one small gesture when he was a child. There is a place for all of us to participate in Operation Santa, and our country is a better place because of it," she added.
Muñoz also addressed those claiming that going by the handwriting in the letter, the child who wrote it would be too young to know his sexual orientation. "Every day we hear amazing and sometimes not so amazing stories about children coming out and coming into their own at a very young age. To those that question this, I reply with a question in return. Why is it unreasonable to think this young boy can feel this way but reasonable to ask children if they have a school boyfriend or girlfriend at this same age?" he asked. "Remember by nature children are intuitive. That intuition diminishes as we as adults impress our own fears, views, etc on them."
"Children do not hate, discriminate, or the like until adults teach them so. Do you think this little boy would be questioning if he is loved if his parents are impressing this on him? Not at all," Muñoz added. "It's the negativity from those same people who just won't let him come into his own which is what I believe is making him question if what he is feeling is good or right. Once again, we set out to do good. Whoever or whatever situation is on the other side of that letter is out of our control but you best believe he got the biggest gayest glitter unicorn rainbow-filled box that would make any LGBTQ person young or old say 'This is fabulous!'" Dear Santa opens in theaters in 40 cities this Friday and those interested can also watch it online from the safety of their homes.