In a marvelous reminder of the generosity the Christmas season inspires, the Detroit Free Press has a story today about a slew of anonymous donors, paying for strangers' layaway accounts at stores like K-Mart and Wal-Mart.
"It is honestly being driven by people wanting to do a good deed at this time of the year," said Salima Yala, Kmart's division vice president for layaway.
The good Samaritans seem to be visiting mainly Kmart stores, though a Wal-Mart spokesman said a few of his stores in Joplin, Mo., and Chicago have also seen some layaway accounts paid off.
Kmart representatives say they did nothing to instigate the secret Santas or spread word of the generosity. But it's happening as the company struggles to compete with chains such as Wal-Mart and Target.
Kmart may be the focus of layaway generosity, Yala said, because it is one of the few large discount stores that has offered layaway year-round for about four decades. Under the program, customers can make purchases but let the store hold onto their merchandise as they pay it off slowly over several weeks.
Stores report the recipients even breaking down into tears over the news -- and some have been inspired to pay the kindness forward. After having a her account paid down by a Good Samaritan, one Omaha woman decided to put the money she'd budgeted toward someone else's Christmas presents.
How wonderful to know that despite economic uncertainty, kindness thrives.