...Emily swallowed hard, took a deep breath, then said, “Santa, I’ve been studying the charts, going over all the data, looking at the trends, and it’s clear that Christmas Spirit is in decline. The usual burst of spirit just before Christmas fizzled. I’m afraid it will fade completely over the next few months and be gone by next Christmas.” (from Part 1: The Day After Christmas)
Part II The News Spreads
“Hmm,” said Santa, “that is troubling. Are you sure?”
“Very,” said Emily.
Mrs. Claus reached for her hand. “Come dear, come sit at the table and I’ll make some hot cocoa to warm you up.”
Emily setup her laptop on the table while Santa worked at filling his pipe.
Mrs. Claus appeared within moments, carrying a tray with three cups of cocoa and a pile of cookies. She paused before she put the tray on the table and stared at Santa. Santa caught the look and put the pipe away.
Mrs. Claus smiled, then placed the tray in front of Emily. “Here you go, my dear.”
After taking a sip from the cocoa, Emily clicked a few keys then turned the laptop to face Santa and Mrs. Claus.
“What am I looking at?” asked Santa
“The first few graphs represent trends in various things, like kindness and charity. And these here represent various places, countries, cities, towns, and villages. The last graph shows a summary of the overall trends throughout the world. I compiled these graphs from a bunch of data sources that…”
Santa held up his hand and smiled. “Emily, in plain English please, I’m still a bit tired from last night.”
Emily nodded. “The world is becoming less kind, less charitable, and less happy.”
“Oh my,” said Mrs. Claus. “That’s terrible.”
Santa tapped his nose several times as he stared at the computer screen. Then, he pointed to several green dots on one graph almost lost among all the red ones.
“What are these?”
Emily smiled. “It’s the one glimmer of hope, I suppose.” She sighed. “First, I thought it was just a data error…”
Santa tilted his head to the side.
“Sorry. First, I thought I’d gotten something wrong, but I checked and rechecked and it seems there are some places in the world where everything and, it would seem, everyone is happy, kind, and charitable. And getting better every day.”
“Why is that?” said Santa
“I have no idea.”
“Well, then. There is the answer to our problem,” said Mrs. Claus.
Santa and Emily looked at Mrs. Claus.
“How is that the answer?” Santa said.
“Oh my dear, you are such a wonderful man, but sometimes a bit slow with simple solutions. If things all over the world are getting worse, except for these few places, then someone has to go there and find out why.”
She smiled and waited for him to catch on.
“It really is that simple. Go there and see why people there are so different from the rest of the world.”
Emily blinked a few times, then closed her laptop.
Santa reached for his pipe, thought better of it, than just tapped his forehead, thinking. “Emily, you and I are taking a trip.”
“Yes, we are, my dear. First thing tomorrow morning we leave for, ah, for… where are these places, anyway?
Emily started to speak, but Santa stopped her.
“Let’s keep this to ourselves for the time being. No need for any rumors to get started. You know how the elves and reindeer love to gossip, and I don’t want anyone to be worried until we sort this out. You can tell me in the morning and program it into the GSP thingy the Elf flight director put on my sleigh.”
“GSP?” said Emily.
“GPS, my dear,” said Mrs. Claus, “GPS.”
The three of them stood up and headed toward the door.
“You go pack, Emily,” said Santa. “But keep this to yourself for now. I’ll tell the flight crew I want to take the sleigh out for a little spin tomorrow, just to try out some new flight tricks. Meanwhile…” Santa placed his finger over his lips. “Shhh, mums the word.”
As Santa reached for the door handle, Mrs. Claus knelt down and gave Emily a kiss on the forehead.
“Don’t worry, my dear. We’ll find the answer. I am sure of it.”
With that, Santa slowly opened the door, hoping no one had seen or heard anything. But they were all shocked to see the entire town gathered outside.
Mrs. Claus laughed. “There are no secrets here, my dear, no secrets.”
Part III A Journey of Discovery