Some family Christmases will be a whole lot merrier this year, thanks to anonymous donors who are paying off layaway accounts for complete strangers. It started in Grand Rapids, Michigan, when a woman dropped by the accounts department in Kmart. The clerk was confused, thinking she wanted to pick up items she had on layaway. Instead, the anonymous angel spent $500 paying all but $10 on accounts that included toys among the items waiting to be picked up. Imagine the smiles on three parents’ faces when they tried to make a payment and learned they owed so little.
The story went viral on radio and television, and a lot of generous people stepped up to make other families happy. In Missoula, Montana, a man paid off $1200 in overdue accounts for six layaway customers.
An Indianapolis woman paid off more than 50 layaway orders. Then she handed out $50 bills and paid for another family’s toys. According to a report in the Toronto Star,
She was doing it in the memory of her husband who had just died, and she said she wasn’t going to be able to spend it and wanted to make people happy with it.
Other donors have called the company and pledged money anonymously, making sure families buying for young children are recipients. Dona Bremser, an Omaha nurse, was at work when a Kmart employee called to tell her that someone had paid off the $70 balance of her layaway account, which held nearly $200 in toys for her 4-year-old son. “I was speechless,” Bremser said. “It made me believe in Christmas again.”
The acts of anonymous generosity have inspired others. Kare11 also told the story of grandparents who were stunned to learn a stranger had paid all but $58 of a $250 layaway bill, mostly for toys for the grandchildren.
Stearnes said she and her husband live paycheck to paycheck, but she plans to use the money she was saving for the toys to help pay for someone else’s layaway.
With its policy of allowing year-around layaways, Kmart has been the main recipient of this largesse, but other discount stores such as Target and Wal Mart have also reported anonymous gifts.
Now if only the kindness of strangers would seep into the grinches who are behind the economic downturn and the rising inequality. No doubt the families being helped would prefer to pay their own bills, but for that they need jobs and decent wages.
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