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Tag Archive: Secret Santa

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?

Dec 02

Hoping for decorations to reappear on I-70 cedar trees

“I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.”–Linus Van Pelt from “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, 1965

It is the week after Thanksgiving and that is when I begin to watch for the magically decorated cedar trees to appear along I-70 in eastern Jackson County.

You know the trees.

Those little cedars that sit alone on highway embankments and beg for attention. They remind me of Charlie Brown’s forlorn little tree from the classic television special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.

In recent years, whoever faithfully decorated those trees in the 80s and 90s stopped.

I wrote about this before as have others, all wondering why. Was it a sad widower who decorated those trees out of love for his late wife?

Were there several people who randomly decorated the trees just for the pleasure of surprising others and spreading Christmas joy?

For whatever reason, I wish they would do it again.

Perhaps there are highway department reasons barring decorating trees along the interstate highways or simply the fact that it is not an easy task to do.

One must walk down precipitous banks while carrying the adornments, circle the garland around the tree, all in the dark of night without being seen by car headlights.

Otherwise if not at night, where would be the magic?

On the same subject, I recently noticed a similar AP story by Wayne Parry who wrote about a roadside Secret Santa in New Jersey:

“An annual Christmas mystery is playing itself out again along a busy New Jersey highway”. A secret Santa is once again surreptitiously hanging ornaments from a large pine by the side of the Garden State Parkway in the dead of night.”

The highway department there says they are not responsible. In fact, no one has claimed responsibility. As the story goes, for the fourth year in a row, ornaments appear gradually and eventually grow to about a dozen by Christmas.

The mystery is enthralling to watch.

But I digress; back to our own Charlie Brown cedars along I-70 in western Missouri and a story that bears repeating.

Thousands of motorists along Interstate 70 watched each December for the first sighting of the decorated cedars; thousands wondered who was responsible.

The sweet and simple decorations brought joy to hurried souls traveling the busy highway. For the briefest moment, surprised motorists believed in the magic of things that cannot be seen and in the wonder of it all.

At the very least, they made us smile.

I miss them terribly and if it weren’t for my arthritic knees I might be climbing those highway banks myself in the dark of night.

I must leave that to the more athletic among us.

Some of those trees, however, are close to the outer road and technically doable.

I wonder.

“Before the ice is in the pools, before the skaters go, or any cheek at nightfall is tarnished by the snow. Before the fields have finished, before the Christmas tree, wonder upon wonder will arrive to me.”—Emily Dickinson

Dec 02

Hoping for decorations to reappear on I-70 cedar trees

“I never thought it was such a bad little tree. It’s not bad at all, really. Maybe it just needs a little love.”–Linus Van Pelt from “A Charlie Brown Christmas”, 1965

It is the week after Thanksgiving and that is when I begin to watch for the magically decorated cedar trees to appear along I-70 in eastern Jackson County.

You know the trees.

Those little cedars that sit alone on highway embankments and beg for attention. They remind me of Charlie Brown’s forlorn little tree from the classic television special, “A Charlie Brown Christmas”.

In recent years, whoever faithfully decorated those trees in the 80s and 90s stopped.

I wrote about this before as have others, all wondering why. Was it a sad widower who decorated those trees out of love for his late wife?

Were there several people who randomly decorated the trees just for the pleasure of surprising others and spreading Christmas joy?

For whatever reason, I wish they would do it again.

Perhaps there are highway department reasons barring decorating trees along the interstate highways or simply the fact that it is not an easy task to do.

One must walk down precipitous banks while carrying the adornments, circle the garland around the tree, all in the dark of night without being seen by car headlights.

Otherwise if not at night, where would be the magic?

On the same subject, I recently noticed a similar AP story by Wayne Parry who wrote about a roadside Secret Santa in New Jersey:

“An annual Christmas mystery is playing itself out again along a busy New Jersey highway”. A secret Santa is once again surreptitiously hanging ornaments from a large pine by the side of the Garden State Parkway in the dead of night.”

The highway department there says they are not responsible. In fact, no one has claimed responsibility. As the story goes, for the fourth year in a row, ornaments appear gradually and eventually grow to about a dozen by Christmas.

The mystery is enthralling to watch.

But I digress; back to our own Charlie Brown cedars along I-70 in western Missouri and a story that bears repeating.

Thousands of motorists along Interstate 70 watched each December for the first sighting of the decorated cedars; thousands wondered who was responsible.

The sweet and simple decorations brought joy to hurried souls traveling the busy highway. For the briefest moment, surprised motorists believed in the magic of things that cannot be seen and in the wonder of it all.

At the very least, they made us smile.

I miss them terribly and if it weren’t for my arthritic knees I might be climbing those highway banks myself in the dark of night.

I must leave that to the more athletic among us.

Some of those trees, however, are close to the outer road and technically doable.

I wonder.

“Before the ice is in the pools, before the skaters go, or any cheek at nightfall is tarnished by the snow. Before the fields have finished, before the Christmas tree, wonder upon wonder will arrive to me.”—Emily Dickinson

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