He's called "Santa James" and what he found in a small town in Arizona is bigger than any Christmas gift and can't fit under a tree - or cactus in the desert.
The temperature in Arizona can change drastically, from fiercely cold winters to painfully hot summers but one feature that never changed among the seasons was the man who came one day and never left. He pushed a shopping cart filled with anything but groceries - clothes, various items and a small plush rabbit. The cart identified him to the locals as a homeless man but his choice of clothing - a red and white Santa suit complete with a Santa hat - made him stand out. Rain or shine, hot or cold weather, there he would be... pushing his cart up one street and down another.
The locals would stratch their heads as they watched this odd sight play out on their familiar roads. He looked like Santa but surely that wasn't his sleigh? He began to show up regularly at the local supermarkets, restaurants and diners. Neighbors, acquaintances and friends gathered together to guess where this man was from and what his story was. Finally, some locals decided to find out first hand by talking to this strange year-round Arizona Santa Claus.
According to LA Times, the locals were instantly charmed as soon as they met James Zyla and many were surprised by his thick British accent. He told everyone that he met that he liked to think of himself as "on the road" rather than the term "homeless" which has an unpleasant stigma attached to it. He also turned down handouts and instead expressed his desire to perform his passion as a musician.
As it turned out, there was something special in the cart that Santa James, as the town soon began to call him, pushed around. He had an electronic keyboard that he took exceptional care of. Soon, Santa James had a Facebook page which he continues to update often using his nifty iPad with stories of his life "on the road" as well as fiction stories. He has more than 4,000 followers - and growing!
The town of Arizona grew to adore Santa James, gifting him credit to Starbucks and McDonald's, new sequin Santa hats and other various gifts that show Arizona's favorite Santa how much they care.
Soon the town formed a carpool that would take Santa James 30 miles away to Laughlin two times per week where he plays the piano in a casino bar for tips. The town collectively took steps to care for their beloved Santa even more when they found out that he is legally blind. The locals watch out for him as he crosses the busy streets and appreciate how he never forgets a name.
Santa James has stories without end, from playing in a popular English band to selling real estate in Orange County, California to working as an extra in Hollywood under the name James Godfrey and even meeting George Clooney. He can play any music genre on his trusty keyboard and according to the locals who love this legendary Santa, gives the best, most magical hugs.
Who is the gift recipient of this story? Santa James who gained an entire town as a family or the town who gets to discover the true spirit of Christmas year round? You decide.