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Tag Archive: Catherine Hall

Dec 09

Thank you Secret Santa (Local traditions of Christmas, Part 2)

“The Lord loveth a cheerful giver. He also accepteth from a grouch.”
— Catherine Hall, British historian

Sometimes we are grouchy givers aren’t we?

When we are stingy or reluctant givers we are a far cry from Kansas City’s legendary Secret Santa. Remember him?

The late Larry Stewart, a Kansas City businessman and philanthropist, quietly and cheerfully gave hundreds of folks a grand total of more than 1.3 million dollars over a 26-year span.

He was no grouch, in fact, he was a right jolly old elf.

Times are tough right now, and the world needs more than ever a jovial and generous Secret Santa, such as Larry. Thankfully, Stewart’s benevolence continues through the work of the Society of Secret Santas. You can find more about them as well as the history of the original Secret Santa, Larry Stewart, on the Internet at secretsantaworld.net.

After researching this society and learning more about it, I am sold. However, they had me at “has a Secret Santa touched your life”. A long time ago, one did.

If we are honest with ourselves, we probably all have a story in our lives in which a Secret Santa, a good benevolent soul, helped us at just the right time.

I know I have such a story and have never forgotten the kindnesses bestowed in my time of need.

Here is what happened to me.

Once upon a time (which seems like a hundred years ago now), I was a single mom desperately trying to keep all the balloons in the air.

My home, small business and the pretense that everything was just fine.

The only problem was I did not have a dime to my name. Somehow, I kept the doors of my business open, paid my loyal staff and never allowed my son to know that we lacked for much of anything.

Family and friends stepped up to help and the balloons stayed in the air, for a while. That is, until the cost of doing business became impossible to manage. I sold everything I had that was saleable, including our furniture in our three-bedroom split foyer located on a tree-lined street in a lovely neighborhood.

Everything looked perfect from the outside.

However, we had little food, no television and only my son’s bunk beds for the both of us. I slept on the bottom, he on the top.

Enter Larry, and how coincidental is his name? My own Larry Stewart, if you will.

Larry, who has long since passed away, was a local pharmacist who invested in small businesses, usually ones going under so he could get the tax write-off. This is important to note, however, he was also a generous and kind giver, ready to help those in peril, as long as the beneficiary kept it to himself or herself.

I barely knew him, but Marilyn, one of my steadfast employees and dear friend, suggested I tell him of my plight. No, she didn’t exactly suggest, she pushed. Frightened to death because I would sooner have died than ask anyone for a handout, I called him.

To my surprise, he cheerfully agreed to help. He gave me a generous small-business loan, which was really a grant because he knew I could not pay it back. More importantly, he counseled me on how to run a successful business.

Long story short: the business survived, the employees were paid, my family provided us with used furniture and a television and nearly everyone around us invited us to Christmas dinner. After awhile, I was able to sell my business, pay my bills and move on to another career.

My own Secret Santa had only one request – that I keep his anonymity, and I have, sort of. You know his first name now, but not his last.

His joy was in the giving, ours in the receiving and in learning how important it is to pass on the tradition of cheerful giving.

It doesn’t seem enough to say, but “Thank you Secret Santa” anyway.

“At Christmas, a man is at his finest towards the finish of the year;
He is almost what he should be when the Christmas season’s here;
Then he’s thinking more of others than he’s thought the months before,
And the laughter of his children is a joy worth toiling for.
He is less a selfish creature than at any other time;
When the Christmas spirit rules him he comes close to the sublime..”.?– Edgar Guest?