Laurie Straw, formerly Laurie Palmer and wife of the late Dan Palmer of Crookston, writes a lesson-filled letter to her grandchildren.

December 6th, 2012

Dear Children,

Today is a very special day! It is St. Nicholas Day. Santa’s birthday! And I want to tell you about a very special elf by the name of Daniel who had his birthday today too.

Daniel was always getting into mischief. He would pull the pigtails of the little girl sitting in front of him in class, make faces behind his mom’s back and hide when he was supposed to be doing chores. (Just to name a few)

On Christmas morning Daniel, along with his brothers and sisters, ran down the stairs with flushed cheeks and excitement in their voices in anticipation of finding out what Santa had brought from their long lists. He saw the stockings stuffed to overflowing with dolls, books, stuffed bears and candies. But there was one stocking that looked empty. Just a small, round area in the toe section was all the fuller this sock was. He knew with one look that it was his. The smile left his face and tears welled up in his eyes as he approached the now dreaded sock.
His brothers and sisters stopped too. They stood back as Daniel took down his sad, mostly empty sock and looked inside to see a small lump of coal at the toe. Thoughts of all the times he had been bad ran through his head. In his mind he said he was sorry for all the wrong he had done and promised to be better in the upcoming year. For you see, we can always chose to change to be a better person.

As Daniel closed his eyes and said a prayer to be better the next year a miracle happened! He heard his brothers and sisters gasp in awe as he felt his stocking growing heavier and heavier. He opened his eyes to see that the coal had disappeared and had been replaced with a new squirt gun, a sling shot, baseballs, candy and much more! He vowed that he would never be bad again.

When Daniel got older Santa asked him to be one of his elves. He would work in a factory run by coal that made the clouds in the sky with steam. Because of what had happened when he was a child he asked Santa if he could shine up the coal that other naughty boys and girls would get in their stockings. For you see, he thought that if the coal was shiny it would be like receiving a precious gem to learn from instead of something bad.

I have always kept dear to my heart some pieces of coal that were shined by Daniel with loving care. This year I want to share some with you as a reminder to be the best that you can. Not only before Christmas, but all the year through!

With all my love, Mrs. Santa Claus

Note to readers: Straw sent this letter to the Times, with the hope that other parents and grandparents might find the story an appropriate one to pass on to the young people in their lives.