— — A random act of kindness can have a ripple effect on the human spirit. You don’t have to take my word for it either. Headlines from around the country showed evidence of kindness associated with the spirit of Christmas. With only days left to shop, retail stores in much bigger cities than Bluefield were reporting a twist on the secret Santa — a layaway angel. Anonymous donors were walking into stores and paying off Christmas layaway accounts. Customers were informed their purchases had been paid in full. Many of them were in danger of losing their accounts, unable to pay off the remaining balance. What a good, heart-warming story, I thought, as I hurried out the door. Who doesn’t love a warm and fuzzy story for Christmas?
On the way to work, I wondered if the layaway angels had landed in the two Virginias. I often think of possible stories on the drive and some of my best ideas have been born on Route 460. Later, a quick phone call confirmed my speculation. The ripple effect of kindness had traveled all the way to the local Kmart in Bluefield. As I spoke to the manager, I couldn’t help but feel proud of our local residents. Three individuals had paid off $1,200, closing eight different accounts filled with Christmas items for children. A region known for southern hospitality was giving more than the standard sweet tea and lemonade.
The donors asked to remain anonymous and the manager of Kmart honored their request. I tried to find the layaway customers for an interview, but had no luck. A second phone call resulted in another interesting angle; a man in line paid for a customer’s purchases. The manager said he had never seen anything quite like it during his experience in retail. The story ran in the Bluefield Daily Telegraph on Christmas eve. It was a positive feature about the kindness of strangers, even if there were no names associated with the story. Our area needed a Christmas mystery and a gentle lift of joy.