For over a quarter of a century, the Kansas City area was blessed by a man only known by strangers as Secret Santa. During this time every year, KC’s Secret Santa would travel to different local areas and places where he would encounter people in need. There, without fanfare, with complete anonymity, he would pass out $100 bills to those who seemed to need it, and only asked in return that they “pay it forward” and do something kind for someone else.
In late 2006, Kansas City’s Secret Santa was revealed as Larry Stewart who met his own Secret Santa years before when he arrived in KC and did not even have the resources to pay for a simple meal at a diner. However, the night he ordered and ate dinner at a Kansas City establishment and planned on claiming a lost wallet when the check arrived, the diner’s owner, Tom Horn, instead presented Stewart with a twenty-dollar bill claiming that Stewart must have dropped it. From that point on, Stewart vowed to himself to eventually care for others in need. After working successfully in business, he began to play Secret Santa, handing out $100 bills, and by his last year, he was handing out more than $3000 each year to a wide variety of people, all of whom needed just a small helping hand.
When Mr. Stewart realized that his ability to be Kansas City’s Secret Santa was coming to an end, he met with a close, personal friend who vowed to keep on the tradition, including remaining “Secret”. Since that time, KC’s new Secret Santa has been passing out $100 bills to people at second-hand shops, in struggling neighborhoods, and even to those in need outside the Kansas City area. He also began upon a new endeavor.
One year ago, this new Secret Santa decided that one of the best ways to spread the message of giving to those in need was to show some teens the powerful impact giving can make on those who need it—even if the monetary denomination is not that great. He decided to meet with a small group of teenagers, swearing them to secrecy and vowing to pledge that Secret Santa was, “a jolly old fat man with a white beard” (Bradley 1). So this Secret Santa told these teenagers the story of Larry Stewart. He explained that the purpose of giving was to help others in need in a small, financial way, but by asking these recipients to do something kind for another person, they were receiving a far greater gift: the gift of compassion.
And what better audience is there to learn this lesson than a small collection of teenagers? They have the power of articulation and sharing, yet they also still have the hearts of giving and caring. It sounds like a story too good to be true, and it almost is, so, blessings to Kansas City’s new Secret Santa. You are a real-life hero to all of us.
Bradley, Donald. “Secret Santa Enlists Help of Young Teen Elves.” The Kansas City Star. Dec. 5, 2009.