Black Santa stands on the front Christmas lawn of Mrs. Martin, the mother of one of my literacy students. She is a transplanted sharecropper from Mississippi and the proud owner of a tidy bungalow in a big city, shoot-em-up neighborhood. She loves her illuminated Kris Kringle and beams his happiness every holiday season for all to see. At her kitchen table she chuckles over old St. Nick and insists that every teacher should own a Black Santa for classroom display when Yuletide rolls round.

“You know good and well that no White Santa is coming down my chimney. In fact, no White Santa ever visits this part of town, so why pretend? I like to tell it like it is and Black Santa is how it is at my house every year.”

So I took her advice to heart and one day I purchased my own Black Santa. He is soft, cuddly, portly and portable and he has brightened up many a hard-working classroom over the decades. If a beginning teacher asked me to identify an important acquisition in behalf of achievement, I would certainly list Black Santa immediately.

My community messenger signals “family” and everyone who meets him, makes it a point to greet him. Lumbering fifth grade athletes sneak in to give him a handshake or to playfully confide their gift list. Little ones asks if he can share their desktop as they labor at a challenging academic task. Teachers drop in to say how much they enjoy seeing his joyful face. One day, a tough but tender scholar stopped in to offer her thanks for the act of incorporating a jolly elf of color into the life and work of her school.

Starting Points are not always Data Points. Gift Givers can be Light Bringers who work a magic of cohesiveness using the Richness of Difference living deep inside the scope and sequence of our humanity.