Jesse is a big man. With a white beard and full head of white hair. He looks like Santa Claus.
In fact, that’s his name: Santa Jesse.
It wasn’t always like that, however.
There once was a time when he was just Jesse.
That’s saying a lot, becuase after meeting him you’d never think of him as ‘Just Jesse.”
He’s a big guy with an even-bigger heart. You can tell it by the way he engages people.
I met him earlier this year while he visited Graceland. We made eye contact and we began to share stories. He has his heart in his work, going the extra mile to make an educational experience that is beyond the mundane for his students.
He’ll tell you that his story starts with the reluctance to take on the mantel of who he is and who he would become.
He teaches special education kids and at various times during his career would don the red and white suit to his offer his kids an extra special incentive to get excited.
He remembers someone suggesting that he do this year round. He bucked at the idea for a while. He even thought about cutting off his beard. (Man, that would have been a shame.)Then, he remembered, the joy that it brought to people.
“I finally gave into to what everybody seemed to know but me—that I was indeed Santa Claus. Jesse Claus.
To be Jesse Claus requires plenty of work. He has a cadre of four photographers and slew of hairdressers who keep every hair on his head and the whiskers on his cheek and chin the right shade of white.
The pay off comes in tangible and intangible ways. He’s in demand for corporate gigs and the everyday encounters of spreading the joy in the same way the original Saint Nicholas.
He’s my hero for recognizing that within the framework of Jesse there resides Santa Claus.
Copyright 2017 Cecil Yancy