“James Bond, 007, has a license to kill. I have a license to laugh.”
It’s the perfect self-description by St. Thomas Public Safety Sergeant Reggie Wright because – as anyone of the thousands of people he interacts with on campus knows – it’s the truth: Wright loves to laugh, smile and in general have profoundly positive interactions with other human beings.
Several years ago the license part became literal when he became a certified Santa Claus: He now appears at dozens of company, school and family Christmas gatherings each holiday season throughout the Twin Cities, including twice at St. Thomas this year.“My wife already calls me a big kid, so imagine me having a license to be a kid for real,” Wright said. “We have a ball, man, for hours and hours.”
“They sneeze and cough, runny nose and everything else that a child has and that’s just part of it. Kids are going to be kids, but the reaction of the parents when their children light up and we really connect, that’s priceless because it takes away a parent’s anxiety,” Wright said. “Even for a few minutes, they see their child in a different light in a lot of ways. Not with their siblings or the other kinfolk, not at the day care center they see every day when they get dropped off, but what really is a complete and total stranger. And the fact that I am black man, that’s even more so. A lot of folks it matters to them, and I recognize that. I am a Santa for everyone.”
In his other suit, Wright has been an officer for everyone for the last seven years on the St. Thomas campus, where he strives to “make every interaction a good one,” even as he has worked evening shifts and been with community members in difficult situations.
“A lot of times as a public safety officer we’re running into people in bad moments. We can see how they overcome and persevere, or not, but being a part of that, of guiding someone during those points, is important,” he said. “We have so many resources here at St. Thomas.”
The most important resource Wright himself draws on is his faith: Outside of his uniforms, you’re likely to find him either belting out the message of God as part of his church’s choir or talking with people on the Twin Cities streets about what God has given them and him.
“I’m not going to hit you upside the head with the Bible; I’m going to physically show you why God is so good by being there to speak with you,” Wright said. “I’m a living, breathing embodiment of this. I wouldn’t have anything without Christ. I believe that, with all my heart and soul. There’s nothing anyone could tell me that would shake it. It’s immutable. I’m really passionate about it. Without the Lord by my side, where would I be? Nowhere.”
We spoke with Wright about some of his musical tastes (Fishbone, anyone?) and why having your best friend as Mrs. Claus works pretty well.
What’s your favorite style or music to sing?
Gospel. 100% gospel. And then love songs, like Luther Vandross. … Poetry and love songs are how I wooed my wife. I still sing to her every day.
Who’s your favorite band or musician to listen to?
Fishbone, out of California, is my absolute favorite band. My favorite singer of all time is Luther Vandross by far. As I’m concerned, the greatest male voice of my generation.
What’s one thing you can’t live without?
Jesus. And my wife. That’s 1 and 1a. I love the Lord and I love my wife. … She’s my best friend. She goes with me everywhere. She’s my Mrs. Claus. She’s truly
Mrs. Claus; the person who plays her is my wife. That’s one of her about 27 titles in life. She’s it.
If you had an ideal day where you got to set the itinerary for the whole thing, what would that day look like?
It starts out with prayer; every day starts with prayer. I thank God every day. I would kiss my wife. I would just walk around. I’d like to be here at St. Thomas some; I like it here. I would also spend a lot of time in the studio. When I finish my studio at home, I would love to just make music. So, go out, interact, come back and make music about those interactions.