Nuggets of Gold Shine Among the Christmas Trash

It’s easy to get depressed, especially when you’re limping about with an attack of gout. Things seem a lot grayer than they did when your foot wasn’t the size of a small watermelon and hurting like crazy. You are more apt to mistrust everyone, to suspect ulterior motives and secret agendas behind everything.

That health care reform boondoggle, for example. Could this giveaway to the health insurance profiteers have been planned all along? Was the objective always to force millions more Americans to buy health insurance? And did the “reformers” plan all along to take $500 billion from the old folks’ Medicare Advantage and use it to subsidize low-income families? Was that all there was? Was the chatter about a “public option” and letting younger people buy into Medicare just an elaborate distraction?

santaAs for the few concessions made by health insurers, I’m sure they can figure out ways to get around them, and even if they do have to give up a few of their more rapacious practices, that’s a small price to pay for 30 to 35 million new customers. Not to mention no cap on their premiums and no government competition. Bah humbug!

But ’tis the season to be jolly. And if you look hard enough you can always find something to boost your faith in human nature. In the news today, for example, there was a story by Associated Press reporter Martha Irvine that described some of the many acts of generosity by “secret Santas.” It’s too long to reproduce in a blog, so I suggest you read it here:

It’s reassuring to learn that so many people find the joy of Christmas in making anonymous gifts to the needy. Irvine isn’t starry-eyed about it, though. She explains that there are some not-so-selfless reasons for donors to remain anonymous. Here’s one reason:

Some … donors, especially those who are wealthy, do not want to be repeatedly approached for more money.

“Once you become known, people come out of the woodwork,” says Ron Hill, a marketing and management professor at the Villanova University School of Business. He works on fundraising strategies with nonprofit organizations and has studied the various types of donors, including secret Santas.

But let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth, as the old people used to say. It’s obvious from Irvine’s report that a lot of people still get a kick out of  being generous and don’t look for any praise in return.

One heart-warming example is a 59-year-old investment banker in New York City whose favorite charities include, a Web site that seeks donations for educational causes.

Here’s what Irvine said about her:

She likes the fact that teachers can post their classroom needs on the site. Then donors can select a project to support — and do so anonymously… She often waits until a posting is about to expire and then steps in and donates the remaining cash.

This year, she gave about $20,000 to DonorsChoose causes, roughly a fifth of her overall annual giving. Among other things, she paid for chairs for a classroom that did not have enough, and for ping-pong and pool tables for teachers who wanted to use the games to help students learn physics.

For her, being a secret Santa is a year-round endeavor.

“When I’m really feeling stressed-out … and generally unhappy, I go to DonorsChoose and I look for something I want to make happen,” she says. “It’s incredibly rewarding. And that’s enough of a return.”

Hey, maybe it is more blessed to give than receive, after all.