The Lump In My Throat Just Keeps Getting Bigger — A Christmas story in which I get far more than I expect.

36 North forty in Autumn

They always told us “it’s the thought that counts,” but really, didn’t we all want that pony? After a dozen or so Christmases spent ramping up my hopes only to see them dashed by the trinkets and toothbrushes that invariably took their place in Santa’s stocking, I learned to accept that the happy surprises of my fantasies all-too-often took a backseat to the exigencies of my parent’s financial reality—and adjusted my sentiments accordingly.

I’ve not had a Christmas wish for many years now, but somehow I always seem to get infected with the holiday spirit a week or so before it’s upon us. And although I’m too embarrassed to give gifts face-to-face anymore (there’s always that unspoken implication of reciprocity – which there’s not,) I do love giving presents on the sly, or better still, anonymously and unexpectedly.

Secret Santa exchanges were made for people like me, so when announced their annual match-up, I was one of the first in line. Over 200,000 people from 149 countries signed up (along with such luminaries as Bill Gates and Snoop Dog) to exchange gifts with anonymous strangers then post the results on the website.

Now, I’m a pretty lucky camper actually, and certainly old enough that I don’t need any more “stuff” in my life, so here’s what I asked my Secret Santa for:

I would ask that you anonymously place the cash equivalent of whatever you’d spend on my Secret Santa gift into the mailbox, pocket, backpack, textbook, collection bucket, shopping basket, purse, ??? of the individual or family of your choice (not some institutional collection effort or charity, but an actual person you think might be glad to have a bit of unexpected money at holiday time.)

Alternately, please quietly pre-pay the grocery bill of the oldster in front of you in line at the store, or slip a few bucks under their groceries as they’re being tallied up — especially if it’s an old dude or lady buying cat food. You’ll know which one I mean.

And here, unedited, is the lovely gift my Santa sent to me:

“I would like for you to know how I spent the 20.00 that i set aside for a secret gift.

First off I was at a diner at the bar eating and seen the man next to me a bit rude, old, grumpy guy kinda being an ass to the waitress. He didn’t leave her a tip. I used 20.00 right then and there.

Then I went to local Walmart and paid off someone’s layaway bill, that was a bit more than 20.00, but a single mom of 2 kids got two new bikes for her kids for Christmas.

Lastly I was eating at a Mexican burrito joint yesterday. it was a bit busy a homeless man wandered in and ask some people for some money. I watch as a few people gave a few bucks and he got a small plate of food. As he sat alone me and my friend started to talk to him.

A timid man, beaten down by his own bad habits, but still grateful to be alive, I asked him if he was thirsty and would like for me to buy him a drink and he said no thank you I don’t drink soda. I figured he would be like FREE sure. But he said no……Not once did he ask for money we said good bye and left.

I reached into my pocket as we walked out and I felt the bills in my pocket it was only like 8 dollars but said maybe this gets him until the next week or a few days of food, I walked back in quietly hand him the cash in a low profile way not to draw attention to him or me. I told him Have a good holiday and that there are people out here who care. . . .”

Here’s where I lost it:

“. . .He could barely utter the thank you in his voice, and his eyes were that of a sad puppy. It was the best Feeling I’ve had in awhile and only wish I had some more to give him. Thank you for giving me this gift As I am usually numb to feelings, this was one of the best gifts I’ve ever received. Thank you Happy Holidays!”

(Allena fishes out hankie, honks nose.) 

There’s so much burden in the world right now, from cyber warfare to the continuing betrayal of our national ideals. Our idols once again turn out to have feet of dried muck, and our citizens increasingly feel their lives are worthless. So it makes me enormously happy to know that someone out there “gets” it. Seven people’s lives were made a little bit better by my Santa’s kindness, and I got a lesson in happy consequence; what more could anyone possibly ask for Christmas? 

TL;DR: My Secret Santa ends up thanking me for giving me my gift. I end up sobbing my eyes out.

Note: for those who would like to read the comments this story garnered, here’s a link:


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