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The Payoff

December 19, 2011

This week, there have been many reports in the news about “Secret Santas” who have paid off the layaway balances for perfect strangers at various stores.  The spirit of such giving has been infectious as there have also been reports of others paying for groceries, gas, etc.

Hearing those stories are heart-warming and remind me of the “Secret Santa” we have in my own family.  My grandmother – Medora #3 – was gifted with a generous and compassionate spirit, one that is tempered with humility and pragmatism.  Growing up, more than anything she said, I watched and observed the things she did – particularly what she did for others.

One recent example of her giving and loving heart was during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  She is a survivor of the storm and upon return to her home after it was safe to do so, she was learning about the struggles of others who had lost everything.  She was fortunate and felt very blessed as her home had only sustained minor damage and her heart ached for those who found themselves homeless.  For a time, many people were literally roaming the streets dazed and confused as they processed the enormity of their loss and tried to salvage what was left of their lives. My grandmother decided that what many of those folks needed beside food, clothing and shelter – which many churches and non-profit organizations were trying to provide – was money. So, any time she ventured out, she’d go by her bank and withdraw several twenty dollar bills.  Then, whenever she’d encounter someone who looked like they could use some help, she’d very discreetly and quietly hand them some money.

I learned about this several years after the hurricane during casual conversation with her. I wasn’t shocked by her generosity as much as I was over the fact that she didn’t mention it sooner. But then I had to consider the source.  Of course she wouldn’t brag about handing out twenty dollar bills to strangers as she wouldn’t see it as anything more than something that she should and ought to do. Learning what she had done for others – and perfect strangers at that – only made me admire, respect and love her even more. And that folks, was her payoff.

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