Not just colds and the flue bug are contagious – so is generosity.

Three weeks ago an anonymous donor walked into a K-Mart store in Grand Rapids, MI and asked if she could anonymously pay down a few layaway purchases.  She had obviously caught the Christmas spirit, and knew the joy she could unexpectedly bring to families that doubtless could use the help.  (People of means do not use layaway plan – they simply plunk down the cash or slap the plastic.)

The story was picked up by the media, and went viral.  Copycats all across the country have taken to similar acts of kindness.  In K-Marts alone, over $412,000 has been paid down on layaways.  And it is not limited to K-Mart.  It has happened in Wal-Mart and other stores across the country as well.

I got goose-bumps last week when I read about a complete stranger who walked into a K-Mart in Haywood, CA with $10,000 in cash, paid down $9,800 on 63 accounts, had $200 left over which he promptly stuffed into the Salvation Army bucket on his way out!

This is just the kind of story that feeds my perennial optimism, although I’ll admit I’m starting to feel somewhat like a social misfit.  Many of the folks that I chose to associate with are cut from the doom and gloom cloth who have not only convinced themselves that the sky is falling, but also are still convinced that the world is flat.

The following are a few of my observations on this story.

1.  I’m a “glass half full” type of guy.  I become weary of the general perception that the human race is on the skids, that every generation is worse than the preceding one.  It would appear that we have become wired to expect the worst in others.  Call me naive, but I’m not inclined to agree with those folks who say, “the world is going to hell in a hand-basket.”

2.  The Scriptures tell us “it is more blessed to give than to receive.”  I don’t know how anyone could argue that point.  There are few things more gratifying than “to freely give” especially in light of the fact that we have so “freely received.”

3.  Giving anonymously frees the recipient of having to reciprocate to the giver.

4.  Giving anonymously avoids the potential perception of patronizing.

5.  The herd mentality can work against us especially if a charismatic demagogue is involved – think Hitler and WWII.  On the other hand, when people are made aware of a good deed, it is encouraging to see this copied around the country.  We are by nature sheep.  Our only problem generally is, we have trouble following the Good Shepherd.

Tomorrow is Christmas Day where we collectively celebrate the best gift of all – the birth of the Christ Child.  I’ll be the first to admit that our family will have a difficult time sorting out the real meaning of the holiday from all of the stimulation that surrounds it, but as for me, the examples of these anonymous donors are symbolic of the real significance of the season for all of us “layaway buyers.”




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  1. Andrea says:

    Great words, Peter. I try to be a “glass half full” person, too.

  2. Nancy says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Peter. I enjoyed the K Mart story, which I had missed in the news somehow. Those of us who happen to be ardent “glass half full” people understand and appreciate that the rest of the world doesn’t quite “get” us. It appears to me that many people do not seem cognizant of the fact that taking the “half full” approach is a choice they can make throughout each day. What do you think? Is it a choice, or are people simply born with tendencies towards one view? And how much does one’s environment affect your view?

    • peter says:

      Is it either/or? You ask a difficult question, Nancy. For some it takes more work at making the choice than others, but whether that is environmental influences, genetic, or both – we’d could spend all day discussing that one!

  3. Brendy says:

    Especially love #3 and #4 — it really helps sort out of the motivation, doesn’t it? Thanks for saluting these wonderful people, Petey!

  4. Rosalie Lewis Garwood says:

    Thanks for this, Peter. It was written out of the heart of one who truly knows firsthand that it is more blessed to give than to receive. It is encouraging and uplifting. It adds a little spark of hope in my heart toward mankind! Merry Christmas to you and your family. <3

  5. Sheila says:

    Loved this blog Peter – and all of them actually – but especially this one. I believe in the existence of goodness in many people’s hearts too! I’m heading out to find a secret blessing of my own to give! Thanks for the inspiration!! Merry Christmas!!

  6. “Contagious generosity” – I like that! May it last through out the new year!

  7. Leila Bolster says:

    Yes, let us look up instead of down our noses
    Let us see the eyes of people
    Let us smell the roses
    Let us do what we can to bless our neighbor
    And not complain that the country is downhill and be a bore
    A glass half full is the result of a life that is joyfully full.

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