A 13-year old boy sent a letter to Santa for Christmas, like thousands of other children this year. But the boy, named Malik Bryant, didn’t ask Santa for toys. He didn’t ask for the hottest new video game, a smart phone, a tablet, a cool new bike, or even money or new clothes. What Malik asked for was intangible, but extremely important: He asked for safety. And his letter fell into the hands of none other than President Obama himself.
Malik, according to MSNBC, lives in Englewood, which is one of the most dangerous neighborhoods on Chicago’s south side. Because of the gang violence there, all Malik knows is murders and shootings and stabbings. Englewood is so dangerous that he can’t even cross the street to visit his cousins’ house without risking getting shot, stabbed, mugged, or otherwise harmed. His mother has to tell him all the time to stay indoors.
Malik’s letter to Santa was part of a charity drive run by DirectEffect, according to the Chicago Sun-Times. The charity gives letters to donors, who then try to fulfill some of these children’s Christmas wishes. But Malik’s letter said:
I would like to ask you sum[thing] but first Imma tell you about me. Im a black African American … My favorite subject is math. I have 2 siblings living with me and Im the only boy on my Moms side of my family. But anyway all I ask for is for safety. I just wanna be safe.
Michelle DiGiacomo, DirectEffect’s CEO, said she was floored. She didn’t know what to do with the letter at first. She said, to the Sun-Times:
Malik’s teacher suggested we get him winter wear and some school supplies. So I sent off his letter to one of our Santas. Yet I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Then it hit me. Someone bigger than Santa needed to see this letter. I thought the president of the United States needed to see it.
She contacted her representative, Mike Quigley, who said that President Obama did indeed need to see it, and forwarded it on to the White House. To everyone’s surprise, Malik received a response from Obama, dated Dec. 22, which read:
I want to offer you a few words of encouragement.
Each day, I strive to ensure communities like yours are safe places to dream, discover, and grow. Please know your security is a priority for me in everything I do as President. If you dare to be bold and creative, work hard every day, and care for others, I’m confident you can achieve anything you imagine.
I wish you and your family the very best for the coming year, and I will be rooting for you.
Malik and his mother were both overwhelmed by the president’s response. The Sun-Times says they both know that Obama can’t do anything specifically to make Englewood safer now, but to know that he’s aware of their plight and felt compelled to respond to a single boy’s plea was an incredible Christmas present for them.