I was jealous of Secret Santa.
I was jealous of Secret Santa.
Not because he doled out enough $100 dollars to help put a dent in the national debt. No, I was jealous because of the look on his face every time he received a hug, a strong handshake or a “God bless you and thank you” from a person with tears in their eyes and newfound hope in their heart.
I was wondering what it must feel like to meet someone who is struggling and say, “Here, I hope this helps.”
And then hand them a crisp $100 bill stamped with “SECRET SANTA” in red.
Well, bless that jolly old elf. He allowed me the opportunity to do just that.
As Secret Santa sat and talked with countless folks inside the Independence Community Services League, I watched from afar.
Secret Santa kept his composure, asked each of his recipients about their current state of affairs and let them know that he cared and he loved them.
I stood behind one of the many Christmas trees on display and cried like a newborn. Their stories touched my heart in a way that I didn’t think possible.
If anyone believes that Santa is a myth, just keep reading this column and you will change your mind.
I was especially touched by a single mom who had two boys back at home in an apartment with no tree or presents.
She had walked more than three miles to the CSL office, because she did not have a car, to get some assistance, and she discovered the joy of Christmas.
She had a heartfelt conversation with Secret Santa, who ended the chat by placing some money in her hand. Tears streamed down her face and she gave him a hug. She returned to the waiting area outside of the lobby to see if she was going to get any help with her rent.
As I took notes and chatted with various elves who had made the sleigh ride, I was approached by Secret Santa.
“I can tell by your reaction that you understand what this is all about,” he said with a smile. “Here, I want you to experience the joy of a random act of kindness.”
He placed four $100 bills in my hand.
Like so many people had done before me, I gave him a hug. I thanked him, and I knew exactly what I was going to do with that money.
As I left the Community Services League, I saw the single mom with two boys walking north on Noland Road.
I pulled over and offered her a ride, which she accepted, because we had just met after her visit with Secret Santa.
She told me that Secret Santa had given her two $100 bills. When she left CSL, many recipients were talking about their good fortune.
One man, who had missed out, was so distraught he began to cry.
She gave him one of her $100 bills.
If that’s not a random act of kindness, I don’t know what is.
As we pulled up in front of her apartment, I reached into my pocket and gave her a $100 bill to replace the one she had just given away. I’ll never forget the look on her face. It just might be the best Christmas gift I ever receive.
After I left her apartment complex, I headed to an area high school. An activities director had told me about a young man with many siblings who was not going to be able to celebrate Christmas.
I called the activities director, made sure that a charitable gift would not break any school rules, and met the young man in the front office.
We went out to a secluded hallway and I placed two $100 bills in his hand.
He immediately gave them back. He had too much pride for charity.
I told him this was a gift, a gift from the heart, and I told him he better believe in Santa Claus. I pointed out the “SECRET SANTA” stamp on the bills and told him they came from Kris Kringle himself.
He accepted the money and gave me a bear hug that nearly broke my spine.
I then made a trip to another high school, to visit with a coach who had a homeless youngster on his team.
I gave the money to the coach and asked him to present it to the player, making sure he knew the story of Secret Santa.
I later found out the money was used to purchase gifts for friends – another loving and random act of kindness.
While the joy of handing out $100 bills is intoxicating, I discovered that it was the act that meant as much as monetary value.
I once left a $20 tip for a $5 meal at Waffle House. The waitress ran out to my car thinking I had left the money by mistake. When I told her it was her tip, she began to cry and told me she didn’t have enough money to get some milk and eggs for her kids that night.
I’ll always remember that moment, like I will always remember my brief stint as a Secret Santa elf.
Much like Dr. Seuss’ Grinch, my “small heart grew three times” that day and I never felt more alive. I’m going to do my best to keep this Christmas feeling 365 days a year.
Go out and commit one random act of kindness, and you will know what I’m talking about.