This one almost pains me to write.
It’s not because of the person I’m highlighting this week, mind you. I’m actively searching for people doing extraordinary things during the holiday season to highlight their endeavors, and this individual personifies everything I love about the Christmas season. No, my conflict with this one is where he’s from.
It’s not necessarily the fine people of Pittsburgh I have a problem with, though I have allowed my bitter animosity toward their town to wash over them in a case of unfortunate collateral damage. And, to be honest, it’s not even the city I have a real conflict with, as I’ve been there several times and have had a lot of fun each visit. No, it’s their professional sports teams that make me feel an intense gag reflex every time I hear their names.
It was the fall of 1979. Yours truly was a 10-year-old boy with long, flowing hair (lie) and a youthful innocence (lie) that just screamed, “Pride of America” (lie). At that point, the most important thing in my life was the Baltimore Orioles, and they were truly a dynamic team at that time. The club advanced to the World Series, jumped out to a resounding 3-1 lead in a best-of-seven series and had me already practicing my fake cough so I could get out of school and sneak my way to the impending celebration parade.
Then the Pittsburgh Pirates won the next game to make it 3-2. No big deal, I thought. Then they won the next one to make it 3-3. At this point, I was a little less cocky, but was still certain the guys would get their act together and win the deciding seventh game. Guess what?
Did I mention that I hate the Pittsburgh Pirates?
Oh, it doesn’t stop there. The Pittsburgh Penguins have made it a part of that franchise’s folklore to steal victory from the jaws of defeat when playing against my beloved Washington Capitals in hockey, and the Pittsburgh Steelers... well, they are the worst of all when it comes to killing the dreams of all Baltimore Ravens fans. And, yes, even this year, I am one of those people.
So, yes. I often equate people from Pittsburgh with the mustache-twisting villains from the old movies, snickering with evil intent as they strap one of my teams to a railroad track as the ground begins to tremble from an incoming train. It’s never fair to judge a group of people based solely on where they are from, but here I sit, and that I do. It’s like...
But I digress.
While scanning through the Internet for some feel-good Christmas stories the other night, I came across a most-selfless gentleman who goes far and beyond what can be realistically expected from anyone. And... he is indeed from Pittsburgh.
Steve Hartman from CBS News recently reported on the good deeds performed by this man, who, along with some help from local law enforcement, gives away about $100,000 worth of $100 bills to total strangers on the street, asking for nothing in return except that the people practice kindness to one another.
For a $100 bill, I could hold a door open for somebody.
In a move that displays the ultimate form of altruism, the man simply goes by “Secret Santa,” as he doesn’t want any credit for doing what he believes is the right thing. And he believes this is the right time of the year to do exactly that. And the right year.
“This year the timing is perfect for everybody to come together — one random act of kindness at a time,” explained Secret Santa.
Indeed, we are surrounded by news of terrorism, both foreign and domestic, and constantly facing the threat of a government shutdown because the people we elect to specifically get things accomplished on the federal level cannot seem to do so with any consistency. We live in fear of disease, refugees, people having guns, people not having guns, rich people taking advantage of the poor, poor people taking advantage of our tax dollars and dangerous drugs getting their ugly little talons into every fresh body they can find.
It’s a little scary out there.
But Secret Santa roams the streets of Pittsburgh, joyfully handing out $100 bills to people and spreading that joy just as quickly as he does the money.
Hartman tells a story of a woman he encountered with Secret Santa while he was putting together the story. The woman, Mildred Morris, said she has Stage 4 breast cancer, undergoes chemo treatments, but still goes to work every day. She added that every day is a challenge, and that a million dollars couldn’t have turned her day around for her.
But $100 did. Because it came from the heart.
“It’s just amazing that there’s so much compassion out here with all this other ugly stuff that’s going on,” she explained.
Secret Santa does not care if the recipients of his good will are Christian, Muslim, Jewish or whatever. He believes this time of year is meant for doing things to spread humanity and joy. And that kindness is a gesture that should always be shared.
“Kindness is the bridge between all people,” he said. “Kindness is the one thing that cuts through everything, regardless of your station in life.”
And he’s right. You can be rich in money, fame or love, but you always have room for more kindess. And we all have plenty of that in our accounts to share.
Even in Pittsburgh.