Friday, December 17, 2010

The Real Secret Santa

There's something to be said for Christmas cheer, even in the time of non-denominational parties and generic greetings of "Happy Holidays"! Secret Santa II hit the streets of Kansas City to start the celebrations early, handing out payments in $100 bills this week. People were simply stopped in the street and asked to tell their story, and then given a present of $100 or more.

Why “Secret Santa II”? Well, this Santa is a second-generation surprise-giver following in the footsteps of Larry Stewart, who died in 2007 at the age of 58. Stewart would give out $1 million in crisp bills every December to absolute strangers, getting replies that varied from gratitude to shock to disbelief.

Secret Santa II gave out an incredible $10,000 in one day this week, and he wasn't answering questions about his finances, like where he gets the bills or whether it was harder to create a nice Christmas bag of money for his surprised recipients in this economy.

This kind soul giving out cash might not be handing out as much at the original Secret Santa--$40,000 is what he has in his coffer for 2010—but the amount he's delivering is making a difference. According to watchers, the replacement Secret Santa gave money to a homeless man headed down the street with a shopping cart, a woman with 27 grandchildren, a police officer with terminal cancer, and an unemployed mom--and that's just a sample of recipients!

"He walked up to Peggy Potter, 59, of Kansas City, Kan., who was looking at some framed prints at a thrift store. He made some small talk, put his arm around her and within minutes she was crying. Her son died about a year and a half ago. Her husband died in July and her daughter died soon after that,” MSNBC describes. Secret Santa II gave her $200 after listening to her story.

"I'm just ... today's been a rough day for me, just thinking about my loved ones," she said. "I've been having a hard time paying for all the funerals."

If your heart is warmed by Santa's selfless giving, don't forget that you can give back at any time of the year. Even if you're staying in a luxury hotel at a special resort, you can sign up for volunteer opportunities in a nearby community. If you're not the handy type but you do want to make a difference, you can “adopt” a child in the country of your choice through a children's charity, or only stick to buying souvenirs from locals in town. Anything you can think of that makes someone's life just a little better is encouraged.

Happy Holidays, everyone!

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