Secret Santa

Secret Santa

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Be The Best You Can Be

Secret Santa

Generosity is giving more than you can and pride is taking less than you need.

~Kahlil Gibran

Manuel and I work in the same building. I’m a music talent agent with a firm on the eighteenth floor. Manuel has his own space near the escalator from the garage to the lobby. He sells newspapers, magazines, gum and candy. I pass Manuel each day as I make my way from the underground parking to the lobby.

Hundreds of people working in the building pass by Manuel each day, and he seems to know everyone’s name.

Each morning I stop to buy a newspaper, and Manuel greets me. “Good morning, Miss Tanja. How are you today?”

Last year I convinced him to stop calling me “Miss Crouch,” but he refuses to drop the “Miss” in front of my first name. Some mornings I stop to chat a moment and marvel at the fact he supports a wife, three boys and a daughter on his salary.

Prior to Christmas, my assistant learned that Manuel not only supported his own family but had recently taken in his widowed sister and her two children. Manuel’s wife, Rosa, stays home to care for the six children while Manuel and his sister work to support the family. When my assistant heard about this, she decided we needed to become secret Santas to Manuel’s family.

Throughout the month of December, several of us made it our mission to learn all we could about Manuel and his family. We rejoiced as something new was discovered, such as Manuel’s oldest son, Jose, was ten years old. He loved baseball and hoped to one day play professionally. He would get a baseball, bat, glove and cap. Manuel’s only daughter Maria was just learning to read and she loved bears. A special teddy bear and books were selected.

We charted facts, listed gift ideas, then cross-referenced them with what had been purchased. One of the partners in the firm got into the spirit and bought a VCR, then charged a new television set to another partner! Everyone was caught up telling stories of how Manuel had touched our lives with his warm spirit and the details we were learning about his life.

We arranged for UPS to deliver our gifts the day before Christmas. The return address was simply North Pole. We speculated at how surprised Manuel would be and could hardly wait to return from the holidays to hear if he would mention it. We never in our wildest dreams anticipated what we would learn.

Manuel had packed up all the gifts and sent them away! The television and VCR went to a nursing home where Manuel’s sister worked as a maid. Clothes were shipped to relatives in Mexico. Food was shared with the neighbors.

On and on it went. Manuel considered his family so blessed that they had shared all the wonderful gifts they received with others less fortunate.

“We had the best Christmas ever, Miss Tanja!” Manuel beamed.

“Me, too,” I smiled.

~Tanja Crouch

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