Secret Santa Gives On

One man's kindness inspired many others

Dec 17, 2009 | WRITTEN BY CHRIS RUSSELL

Larry Stewart was one of the kindest human beings you never heard of. You might have known him better as Secret Santa.

In 1971, Stewart was a salesman for a company that went broke. His money situation after that was so tough that he slept in his car for eight days at one point. Things came to a head when he went to the Dixie Diner in Mississippi later that year.

He ate a huge breakfast (one that he knew he couldn't pay for) and then acted as if he had lost his wallet. The cook for the diner, who was also the owner, came over and handed Stewart a $20 bill, explaining that Stewart had dropped it. It was only after he left the diner that Stewart realized the cook had planted the money to help him get out of a sticky situation. He promised to do the same if he were ever financially able to pull it off.

He pulled it off to the tune of $1.3 million given in secret over the next two decades, earning him the nickname "Secret Santa." Before Stewart died of esophageal cancer in 2007 at the age of 58, someone else came to him and wanted to carry his torch.

That person has, and he is not alone. The new Secret Santa has hand-picked 20 others to join him in anonymously handing out $100 to random people all over the country and listening to their stories. The Secret Santa group will give out between $250,000 and $300,000 this year. The members are met with laughter, tears, and shock, and they ask for only one thing in return—that the recipient do something nice for someone else. It could be a hug, a kind word, or cash.

That's a great legacy to leave behind. Giving is where you'll find the most joy in life and one of the things you'll be most fondly remembered for. It's best done when you're out of debt, so make that happen. Wouldn't you rather give money to someone needy instead of American Express?

Source: Associated Press

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