Giving Back, News, People

Confessions of Secret Santas

This holiday season there have been numerous stories in the “Secret Santas” appearing at retailers across the country as well as here in Metro Detroit.

But what motivates a Secret Santa to pay off a layaway bill? Obviously, it would be hard to poll them. They are, after all, secret. But I had the very unique opportunity to meet some. Please note I’ve changed the names  to protect the givers, because if there’s one thing that’s a unifying tie amongst them, it’s that Secret Santas really value the secret part. It’s part of the joy and the fun.

Secret Santa “A” actually quoted a bible verse in relation to this topic, quoting Matthew 6:2. “When you give to the poor, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving will be in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.”

Secret Santa “B” said that the secrecy is part of the honoring of their loved one. Her husband had left us (did he die? This sounds like divorce.), and she’s been doing it since long before it became a well-covered news story.

Secret Santa “C” does it in a way for  his mom, and takes the money that would have gone to her gift and pays toward a layaway account. She always gave to others, even when she didn’t have a lot herself. Even a small gift, she taught Secret Santa “C,” could mean a lot to someone else.

Some might say that Secret Santas should give their money to a charity instead. I asked about that and found out it’s not either or for them.

“I do. But this is special to me. This means a specific family is going to have a better Christmas. There is a feeling of touch there,” said Santa B.

All the Santas I met with were very clear — they generally did give a lot to charity throughout the year in relation to how much money they made.

And what about the concern that maybe the list you pay isn’t for kids, or if someone is gaming the system, making a large list and hoping someone pays it off?

“Sure (referring to gaming the system),” said Santa B. “But there are some things in life you have to take on faith.”

Another assumption is all of these people must obviously be rich. Although we didn’t talk about the size of gifts, the income of these Secret Santas ranged the gambit from middle class to wealthy It wasn’t about having lots of money, it was about lots of heart.

As one Santa said, “The look on a clerk’s face when you say “just pick an ID” (referring to the ID system a retailer uses to organize layaway accounts) and they realize what you’re doing. One year it brought them to tears right at the counter. That made Christmas for me.”

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