Sunday, December 18, 2011

Secret Santa at K-Mart

Reading the stories of "Secret Santas" paying off people's layaway at K-Marts across the country inspired me this week. I posted a link to a story on Facebook and then decided I'd call our local K-Mart to see if they would let people do it. They would. So, I created a Facebook event, just to tell people that and encourage them to do it if they felt inspired to.

By the time I had created the event, a friend had commented on my story link that he would chip in if I wanted to spearhead doing this. I said, "sure," and went and added that to the event. (Thanks, Aaron, for really getting the ball rolling and making this happen!)

Well, what happened was kinda cool. People were incredibly generous. I had friends in four different states who contributed to the fund and today I went out to K-Mart to pay on layaway for some folks. There were seven people total who contributed money and we helped eight families. I know nothing about these folks, other than what was on their layaway.

I have to say that Carol, who helped me at K-Mart, was AMAZING! K-Mart was prepared and had a list of contract numbers on a sheet of paper taped up in case anyone wanted to do a Secret Santa. Carol told me they had about $1,000 each of the last two days with Secret Santas paying layaway.

I had $350 to spend today, and ended up chipping in another $5 to pay off one last one. Carol was so incredibly helpful. She looked up contracts and found ones that were obviously Christmas presents - a few toys here and there, but largely practical things. We bought Barbies, Dora the Explorer toys, a construction set, Cars toys, Mickey Mouse, some preschool educational toys, a journal, and a Captain America figure. We also bought gloves, pajamas, socks, coats, and other clothes. We didn't find the high dollar things you might expect on a Christmas list. It was obvious to me that these folks were looking to put more than a couple of things under the tree.

She was very helpful in finding ones that had been in the system for a while, and been being paid on for some time. Most of ours were from October and early November. One was actually delinquent, but now has just a tiny bit left on it. I like thinking that tomorrow they will get a call that their Christmas is paid for. It was all things for kids. Carol thanked me repeatedly and I told her I would pass the appreciation on to those who made it possible.

In each case I paid off the majority of it, leaving less than five dollars. It has to have something left on the ticket so it stays in the system. K-Mart will call the people and tell them someone has paid on their layaway and how much is left, so they know they can get it for Christmas. Many of the payment histories showed payments of $11, $13, $20. The largest one on any of the tickets we looked at was $40.

I am so incredibly grateful to people for trusting me with their hard-earned money and letting me play Santa. Although I had no experience with layaway until today, I know there are many, many, many good, honest people in this world who just can't get ahead financially. They want the same things for their loved ones that you want - safety, comfort, food on the table, and presents under the tree. I know some are skeptical about such things, but I decided years ago that it's not my place to judge what happens with anything I've given after I've given it. I will just give what I can, when I can, and let it go.

Today was a wonderful way to spend a little time in the Christmas season. Thank you to my friends for giving me such a fantastic gift.

Although no one asked for it, I want to provide a full accounting, which is below:

Here's a screenshot of my paypal for the last week. (I started this a couple of days ago) You can see $300 was contributed. I rarely use my paypal except for buying online, so all of this was for the Secret Santa fund.

I erased people's names so people could remain anonymous if they wish. I 'd love for anyone who's willing to speak up and say they contributed, but I didn't want to publish that information. As you can see, people were very generous. I was not able to contribute nearly as much myself, but it felt good to do what I could. And, if you have only a few dollars to spend and want to do it, you can. At our store, the lower contract numbers are the older accounts.

Additionally, I had some cash contributed, and my own small contribution, making a total of $355. (Was going to be $350 but I chipped in another $5 at the end to pay off one last one.)

Here are the K-Mart receipts. I erased my debit card numbers and approval info, as well as the layaway contract numbers. But I wanted everyone to see that all the money was spent on families. Carol wrote on each one that it was a Secret Santa payment.

Thank you to everyone for giving me the gift of playing Santa today! If there's any accounting I've not included you'd like to see, please let me know.

And a Happy Christmas to all!

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The Myth of the Paperless Office

For at least a decade we've been hearing about the paperless office. I'm a girl who spends practically every waking moment connected by one or more devices and uses technology in almost every aspect of my life. I've been shopping online since we could, paying my bills electronically even before banks started offering "bill pay" services, and signed up for a account while it was still in beta. So why am I surrounded by paper? Some might say drowning in paper?

At Thanksgiving, when I was packing up my "virtual" office to go spend time with my family three states away, it occurred to me that I was sure lugging around a lot more than a laptop. Shouldn't it seem that would be all that would be necessary in this paperless world? After all, I'm backed up to the cloud. In fact, to two different services. But I was carrying something heavy - what was it - oh yes, paper. Paper filed in paper file folders. Why would I need a single piece of paper? Much less enough to need folders?

Well, today the answer dawned on me as I was sorting through stacks of paper on my desk, looking for a note. Because the rest of the world isn't paperless. And until it is, I can't be either. And neither can you, unless you only interact with others who are. Is there any paper at Google? Yahoo? Ebay? I'm betting there is. I bet they have file folders, too.

What I was looking for today was a note to myself that I wrote on paper because I was in an environment where it wasn't convenient to use technology when the information came to me. Why? Because the world isn't paperless. By a long shot. And we have to stop pretending it is going to be. I don't know, but I'm guessing sales of file folders and reams of paper are still quite steady. Perhaps we print more now that we can easily click the printer icon on any webpage.

Let me be clear and say, I'm a big fan of paper. I love paper in all its various permutations. I have many thousands of pages of journals I've filled over the years. I don't want my world to be totally paperless, but my office area should be mostly paperless. We generate things on the computer, email them to people, and then we both print them out and file them. There's something quietly insane about that. And  I think it's ridiculous that I ever have to write a check for anything. But, we do. Why? Because we need a paper trail.

Yes... a paper trail... the very phrase tells me we are a long way from having paperless offices. So, I suppose I'd best get back to dealing with the paper in my supposedly paperless office.

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