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In Tough Times, A Simple Request Of Santa

With the economy the way it is, we've heard plenty of stories about the heartbreaking requests children are making to Santa. It's so common that as The New York Times reported back in November, one of the premiere Santa schools in the nation is teaching its Santas to "swiftly size up families' financial circumstances, gently scale back children's Christmas gift requests and even how to answer the wish some say they have been hearing with more frequency — 'Can you bring my parent a job?'"

Still, each request tugs at the heart. That's the case in Stillwater, Okla., where 6-year-old Jaelynn Riden asked for "makeup" and a "doll that dances" but opened her letter like this:

"Dear Santa,

"Please can you bring hay for our cows."

As the local paper The Journal reports, the Salvation Army of Stillwater is collecting hay. According to The Journal, Jaelynn is being raised by her grandparents who have faced health and financial problems during the past year, so they've had difficulty feeding the "small herd of Wye Angus cattle."

The paper adds:

"Her grandfather Joe Riden said his father started the herd, which is special to their entire family. The cattle are all very gentle and tame and each one is named, he said.

"'I promised him as long as my mom is alive I wouldn't sell any of them,' he said. 'I don't want to have to sell them off to buy feed.'"

We spoke to the Salvation Army's Sgt. Rob Daniels, who said someone has volunteered a trailer to move the hay, but they still don't have enough of it to feed the herd.

As for Jaelynn, her grandparents told The Journal, they're not surprised by her letter, because it's "not unusual for her to think of others."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eyder Peralta is NPR's East Africa correspondent based in Nairobi, Kenya.