Welcome Comfort by Patricia Polacco is an often-undiscovered gem of a Christmas story. I have no idea why this story isn’t ten times as popular as The Polar Express, because it runs along the same lines, but is much more truly magical.
The story begins with the kind custodian at an elementary school, Quentin Hamp hearing some children teasing a little boy who is new to the school. Welcome Comfort, already burdened with a name that makes him a target is also overweight, and has been bounced around from foster home to foster home. Mr. Hamp immediately takes the little boy under his wing, and builds the kind of relationship with him that you just wish every child like him could find in an adult.
Come Christmas time, Welcome tells Mr. Hamp that he doesn’t believe in Santa, that “seeing is believing.” With his gentle brand of optimism, Mr. Hamp sets out to teach Welcome that he has it backwards … that in fact, “believing is seeing.” From there, the story takes a turn into the life-changing magic of love and kindness throughout the life of a child whose future could have turned out quite differently.
After one exceedingly magical Christmas, Welcome’s life is transformed. While he wakes from the night still not believing that Santa is real, he carries the lesson of “believing is seeing” throughout his life. I won’t spoil the true secret of the book by revealing it here, I will say that I find it impossible to read through the entire story without crying — every single time, which was always much to the delight of my students, and always resulted in a huge rush on the Patricia Polacco bin in my classroom library, and the shelf in the school’s.
If you’re looking for a new book for your Christmas collection, make sure to check out this one — and I promise you won’t be disappointed with any of her Christmas titles (and this is not the only one that makes me cry).