You may not know his name, nobody did, and that's just the way he wanted it. He wanted to be/stay anonymous. They called him Secret Santa, and the week before Christmas in 1999 he handed out $85,000 in $100 bills to unsuspecting people on the streets of Kansas City. But the real story actually begins in 1971 in the small town of Houston, Mississippi.
The man who would become Secret Santa was then a young salesman. Every week his employer would send him a paycheck and pay rent on a small room at a local motel. Then one day the employer went out of business but failed to tell the young man. After losing his motel room for non-payment, the young man slept in his car for eight nights.
He kept waiting for a paycheck that would never arrive. So out of gas and money, he walked into the Dixie Diner, a small brick cafe around the corner from the motel. Having not eaten for two days, he ordered a huge breakfast and slowly sipped coffee refills wondering how he could escape without paying. To use our metaphor from last week - he was UNDER water!
His plan was to pretend he lost his wallet. The owner of the diner, who was also the cook, waiter, and cashier lifted the countertop door and walked behind the young man's leather-covered stool, reached toward the floor, and acted as if he picked something up. "You must've dropped this," the owner says, handing the young man $20. The young salesman's heart was pounding as he paid his bill, left a tip, and pushed his car to a gas station before driving away.
As he drove away, he thought about how fortunate he was, and suddenly it occurred to him that no one dropped that money. The man behind the counter knew he was in trouble and helped him in a way that allowed him to keep his dignity. So he made a promise right then and there, that if he was ever in a position to help other people, that's what he was going to do.
Later that year, the young salesman found a sales job and continued living from paycheck to paycheck. To use our metaphor last week, he was now treading water! Eventually, though he became a very successful/wealthy businessman who regularly handed out $50,000 or more during various Christmas campaigns - which occurred for over 26 years. He was now 'walking on water!' Everyone wanted to know who the Secret Santa was in that area.
In the year 2000, Secret Santa finally located that Mississippi diner owner - Mr. Ted Horn. He acted like he was doing research on a man known as Secret Santa and wanted to come down and interview Mr. Horn. As they talked, Mr. Horn said that he had always wanted to meet Secret Santa himself. It was then the real Secret Santa revealed who he was and that he was the young salesman who received the $20 years earlier.
He asked the diner owner how much he thought that $20 bill was worth today comparatively? Mr. Horn replied, "Well, back then, that $20 bill was probably like $10,000 today." "Funny you should say that," Secret Santa replied, as he pulled out an envelope full of $100 bills with a scrap of paper around it that said... $10,000.
"You don't have to do this," Mr. Horn said. "I know," said Secret Santa, "but you never know what one little act of kindness will do for somebody - it changed my whole life."
In November of 2006, Secret Santa died from cancer at 58 years old. And when he died, the world finally discovered a man named Larry Stewart. The anonymous and generous man who changed so many lives, known better as Secret Santa.
Secret giving and FLE
This weekend we will talk about what Jesus calls "Secret Giving." (Read Matthew 6:1-4 to prepare.) I will also give you some secrets to making and managing wealth.
Don't forget Joe Sangl will be here on Sunday, June 6 to share his testimony, 'I Was Broke - Now I'm Not.' He will also lead a can't miss Financial Learning Experience from 6:30-8:30pm that evening. It is a special two-hour equipping event that helps you learn practical and biblical principles and tools to help you become a great steward of the resources God has provided you. Click here to sign-up for FLE.
The chatter is raging about my sermon props from WWE last Sunday! They might return again this week - hope you will too!