Why does it sometimes take the most challenging of circumstances to learn the meaning of Christmas? For our family, the understanding of Christmas comes in the form of a very scary realization. Yesterday, we got a call that our Dad went to the hospital with gangrene and part of his foot was amputated. Our Dad, Jim Greenleaf, has been through a lot in his life…
Many of you who know him, or have known him (through his work) may have memories about our Dad that are far better then what is written here. For those of you who don’t know him, here is a little back story. He has had many injuries and accidents in the past and all of them have brought him to a new chapter in his life. As a young man, James (like so many others) dreamed of pursuing a career as an actor. He also realized that he should invest in the more practical study of his craft so he applied and received a full-ride scholarship to the University of Idaho for theater. Shortly after his time there he broke his leg severely enough and had to quit college to heal and rehabilitate himself. During this intervening time, he lost his scholarship and couldn’t afford to return to College. This left him asking all kinds of questions about his future. At the time the only viable solution seemed to join the Navy as a journalist – which he did. The experience taught him discipline and determination and gave him a real sense of purpose and understanding the value for living life to the fullest. He was later honorably discharged and began to re-imagine his future as an actor so he moved to Hollywood to pursue the next “stage” of his life.
His first appearance was on the Gong Show, where he performed a skit of a ping pong match in slow motion. This got the attention of Norman Lear, who called him, and gave him his “big break”. Seeing the potential in him, Norman gave him a lead role in his show “All the Glitters”. He was a hit, and the doors blew open. He was cast in movies and in guest starring roles on TV, and at the time people recognized him where ever he went.
A well known celebrity by the age of 25, on his way to becoming one of the most sought out comedy Actors in the 80’s, starring in hit TV shows like “Laverne and Shirley”, and “Mork and Mindy“, in blockbuster hits, like “Night Shift”, and unforgettable films, with co-stars like Matt Dillon and Denzel Washington. He later received a lead role in a Sunday morning cartoon series on NBC, everything seemed to be going great. At the height of his career, he got in a terrible car accident that changed his life and our family forever. As kids, we heard that he was first pronounced dead at the scene. That moment everything changed. But miraculously our Dad came back to life and after two years in the hospital, he made a remarkable recovery. The surgeons performed a never-before-done surgery rebuilding his hip with titanium chains and screws and he underwent rigorous rehabilitation to learn to walk again. Since then he has faced every struggle with optimism attempting to turn every opportunity into a positive and hope-filled situation. Although, he would never reach the level of stardom once anticipated after this life altering accident; he managed to work in a variety of capacities, honing his skills as a character actor, doing stand-up comedy and working odd jobs to pay the bills along the way.
Our Dad loved to play basketball, and with his new limitations he became an even bigger fan from the sidelines. Unable to be as active as he once was he had to come to terms with the effects of a body that needed constant care and attention. With the onset of diabetes and other diseases caused by slowing down of circulation, he has been on a slow and lengthy journey to rediscover health and himself. He was recently married to Marva who believes in him and has helped him to manage a healthy lifestyle, since being married he has lost a lot of weight and he has been healthier than he had been for many years.
One great passion of his emerged over the past several years – his role as Santa Clause. During this time, thousands of people around the world, have come to appreciate his ‘Santa’ character and the wisdom he shares in this new role. Jim speaks about diabetes and healthy living all in the context of ‘Santa’. With an online presence and occasionally playing ‘Santa’, Jim and Marva have worked together as Mr. and Mrs. Clause, a jolly couple, bringing joy to kids and families worldwide. This Christmas, Jim and Marva were contracted to be in New York playing the roles of Mr. & Mrs, Clause once more. For five hours each day, they would help each child that visited feel special and intently listened to, and of course kids would get their picture taken. Unfortunately, they were unable to complete their stay. We learned recently that our Dad got a cut on his toe which would not heal a few days ago. Being diabetic this was the first sign he was in trouble. Coupled with a flu like cold, the two made a tough decision to leave New York early and come back home.
When they arrived two days ago it was clear that something was very wrong. There was a smell coming from his foot that was overpowering and James knew he had to see a doctor right away. When they visited the doctor, they were given a hard blow. They were told it was gangrene and that he needed to go immediately to the hospital…that was 2 days ago. They are still in the hospital today waiting to be given a room. They doctors say that they will have to amputate. As you can imagine this came as really hard news for our Dad and family. So many unanswered questions arose. Now we are wondering what the quality of his life will be from now on? How will he manage to take care of himself and one another? How will he work and pay his rent?
There is one thing that stands out for us as a major blessing. It is the outpouring of love and support from our friends and family. In the midst of all this our Dad reminded us to simply ‘believe’. So, we do, but we are struggling to see how he will be cared for along the way with all that is before him. It is overwhelming. We are hopeful to see and experience the best the human spirit has to show in the way of love, support and generosity through prayers and outpouring of compassion. Already we have received notes of encouragement and people have offered prayers and good wishes. Christmas to us, is exactly this!
Unfortunately, for Jim and Marva they were relying on the money they were going to make from their contract in New York to pay their bills this Holiday season. Now, there is a very real struggle to figure out how they will get by. They are too proud to ask for money themselves. So, this is why our family is appealing to the many people whose hearts ‘Santa’ has touched over many years in a positive way, to show their best wishes and blessings this holiday season. It is not easy for us to be this open and vulnerable about their circumstances, but we trust ‘you’ and believe that when people come together to help and serve each other in love, miracles can happen.
Words can’t describe the deep sadness we are feeling for our Dad right now. We are still shocked and have not even had time to grieve yet. But it is more important for us to tell his story and to invite you to consider helping our Dad this Christmas Season.
Here is what the money will go toward…
To help with their bills (rent, utilities, minor medical costs) which would have been paid for if they were able to complete their contract in New York. Becuase of the amputation and rehibilitation, they will need help meeting those needs this Holiday Season.
We know that every little bit helps, so thank you in advance for your generous help, which is a Christmas Miracle!
Will you please help to word out and make some noise about our campaign. Please use the Indiegogo share tools!