If you're feeling down this holiday season, here's a surefire pick-me-up to lift your spirits. Just Google "Secret Santa Kmart" and see the brimming news of a philanthropic phenomenon that has spread across America.
I love surreptitious surprises and movements of kindness, so I couldn't help but get the chills after reading personal accounts of peoples' stories of -- and reactions to -- anonymous Kris Kringles who are secretly paying off customers' layaway accounts.
"I was surprised. It seemed so amazing to me," said Annette Pride, who works the layaway counter at a Kmart in Colorado and has witnessed acts of covert generosity since late last week.
"One woman stopped at the pawnshop and pawned something" to pay off her balance, Pride said, "but when she got here she found out that someone had already done that."
While all of the anonymous donors are different, there's a common thread (besides good ol' holiday cheer) -- they're paying for Christmas gifts other families couldn't afford, especially toys and children's clothes set aside by impoverished parents. These anonymous donors are leaving a 1 cent balance so the account doesn't get closed out before the customer can pick up the goodies. Many have also been urging other strangers to follow their example.
From Washington to Florida, Kmart stores in more than 15 states have been hit by Santa's helpers. Here's how you can get involved:
Some recipients say they're going to find a way to pay the act of kindness forward, while other Kris Kringles are encouraging people to be inspired to do the same. If you're moved by what these anonymous donors have been doing, follow their lead! If you don't have the means to do this, think of ways you can give this holiday sans the cashola.
Still don't know what to do? Look at this example of how my students are sending 29 kids to school in Haiti, just by using their talents. They made videos (we're still trying to send 52 more students; it only costs $85 per year for books, uniforms and tuition!):
Follow Toan Lam on Twitter: www.twitter.com/GoInspireGo