By: Jason Sheppard
With empathy, compassion and a twinkle in his eye, Bruce Templeton takes readers on two remarkable holiday journeys in his newest book
Many of us have worked as assistants during our lives and careers whether it was for business owners, physicians or college educators. Bruce Templeton however, has been assisting someone very special for many years. He has been assisting none other than Santa Claus since the late 1970’s.
Spreading holiday cheer
Templeton, who considers Santa a very good “friend,” has been assisting the jolly man every season in the red and white suit and spreading holiday cheer to children and seniors in hospitals across the province. He’s also been spotted riding along the streets of downtown during the annual St. John’s Christmas Parade.
Templeton has previously written three books about his experiences helping out his friend Santa and has just released a fourth.
In Search of St. Nicholas is told in two parts; the first section is a story about a little boy, a fictitious child named Nicholas who partakes on a wonderful time-traveling adventure with his friend, Santa.
Together, they journey back in time to witness the origins of mummering, how the teddy bear came to be, Charles Dickens penning A Christmas Carol, how the beloved Christmas song Silent Night came about, an encounter with Rudolph and a trip way back to a special night when a miraculous child was born in Bethlehem.
The history of Christmas
“The book has been in my head for quite a number of years,” Templeton tells The Herald. “I’ve always wanted to write about the history of Christmas and I wanted to do it through the eyes of a child.”
Their adventure is one of a child who wishes to go back in time and give away his teddy bear to someone in need of kindness. “I decided my little hero was going to have Autism or Asperger’s syndrome because I was intrigued by the idea that we are all different,” says Templeton. “I decided he was going to be harassed in school. That led him wanting to go back in time and give away his teddy bear to someone who would love and appreciate the teddy for who he is.”
Templeton uses this section to remind us we must love and appreciate our differences. If there’s one message the author would like to see parents and grand-parents impart to young readers it is to embrace tolerance.
“In this book we meet Rudolph – a little reindeer with a red nose. He was neither handicapped or disabled, he was just different and all he wanted was for someone to love and appreciate him for who he is. The intent of the book is that we are all different and if we have tolerance and appreciation for others, we see the world differently. That is the message of the book.”
The second section of Templeton’s book is more personal. It begins with a phone call from his aunt Anna in 1978 with a request to play Santa at the local church that year. That one call changed his life forever. It created a lifelong friendship with Santa that continues to this day as Bruce arranges Santa visits with the people of the province of all ages.
Templeton, who in 2014 was inducted into the International Santa Claus Hall of Fame, explains that his friendship with Santa has gone through several phases over the years.
“The first phase is someone in a red suit playing something. The second phase comes when you truthfully believe you are Santa. You lie down on the floor and kids climb over you and you just become immersed. The third phase is when the visits become more challenging.”
These visits, such as when Santa visits children in the hospital or seniors in nursing homes, may be challenging but once Santa arrives, smiles often widen and eyes light up as warmth is felt throughout. “There’s not a day that goes by where somebody doesn’t tell me about the impact a Santa visit has had on a child,” shares Templeton.
Among the 50 or more visits Santa makes every year, one is especially meaningful to him: on Christmas Eve, Santa (along with Templeton’s daughter Christina, a Pediatric Cardiologist) visits all the children in the Janeway Children’s Hospital. After 40 years, he remains committed to theses Christmas Eve visits but reveals his involvement with the capital city’s parade has come to a close. “The torch should be turned over to someone to carry that in the future.”
Since that fateful call from Aunt Anna many years ago, Templeton, along with his wife Paula maintain that.
“It is your presence, not your presents which truly counts and it is a continuing privilege to be part of this journey assisting Santa. Sharing his ministry of St. Nicholas, will continue in hospitals, schools and seniors homes for many years to come. I started out playing something, then I became something. The place that I am today is very different from the place that I started.”