The recipients of the money were, perhaps, too ecstatic to notice the red ink on the greenbacks, but they surely got a good look at the denomination that the Secret Santa pressed into their palms and sometimes dropped at laundramats and bus stops. Some used the money to buy booze, and others promised to use it to pay rent or buy groceries. Secret Santa doesn’t care one way or the other. “If they want to buy a hamburger and a six-pack and that makes ‘em happy,” Secret Santa told the Kansas City Star, “then I’m happy.”
Indeed, it’s the spirit of giving that often gets lost during the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season. In fact, Secret Santa himself said handing out money is his way of giving back, since someone named Ted Horn helped him out 30 years ago when he was down and out in Mississippi. “I made a vow,” Secret Santa said, “that if I was ever in a position to help someone, I’d do it.”
He kept that vow. Secret Santa spent Christmas 2001 in New York City, scene of the horrifying terrorist attacks. This season, he spent in the Washington, D.C., region, arriving with $25,000 in bills stamped “Ted Horn: 2002” in red ink and wearing a black baseball cap emblazoned with the 10 names of the victims killed in the terrorizing sniper attacks. One recipient, a homeless man named Minister Harry, said he appreciated the $100 because it meant daylong bus rides to stay out of the frightful cold. Another recipient, Leonora Licanda, 10 years old and stricken with Down syndrome, joyously hugged the other folks at the bus stop, where Secret Santa had been generous.
A burly man with a white beard, Secret Santa has been offering his random acts of Christmas kindness for years in the Kansas City area, and always anonymously. He hears the sad stories from recipients, but doesn’t question whether they’ve been naughty or nice. “I get my soul touched by everyone I come in contact with,” said Secret Santa. He does, though, have a Christmas wish: That others hear of his good deeds and do the same. ‘Tis one reason for the season.