While in Chicago last week I saw a TV news story about a craze that has spread throughout the United States this Christmas season. Anonymous donors have been coming to Kmart and paying off the layaway accounts of parents who had “laid away” toys and clothing for their children. No one knows where this phenomenon started, but there were early reports of “Kmart Angels” in southern California, Omaha, Michigan, and Indiana, followed by donors in the entire country.
It works like this. A donor goes to the Kmart layaway department and asks the clerk to find a layaway order containing toys or clothing for children. The employee comes back to the counter and tells the donor that there is an order for $51.00 and another for $104.50…etc. The donor decides to pay off one or more account balances, except for one penny. Kmart then phones the customer and tells them that a complete stranger has paid off their layaway balance. When the customer arrives they pay only one cent, which officially closes out the layaway account!
This sudden and unexpected outburst of pure charity has brought tears of happiness to parents, children, donors, and Kmart employees alike. Who would have guessed that in 2011 the true meaning of Christmas would be found at the layaway department of Kmart?
Now wait, you say. “The true meaning of Christmas was the birth of Jesus Christ, the savior of the world. Isn’t it stretching it a bit to say that a bunch of Kmart donors could possibly be compared to the birth of the savior?”
Let’s take a look at it more closely. Jesus wasn’t born in a fancy Inn (Bloomingdales), but was instead destined to be born in a manger (Kmart). He came to be with all of us, not just some of us. If Jesus walked into a Kmart with a hundred bucks to pay off some layaway account, what qualifications would he put on the donation? Would Jesus want to make sure that the parent was employed and not some lazy bum collecting unemployment? Would he want to make sure that the mother and father were good parents who loved their children, or would he pay off the layaway balance even if he knew that the parents had a substance abuse problem and neglected their children?
Would Jesus judge the potential beneficiaries of his donation to make sure they were perfect? Or did Jesus come to all of us, whether we are perfect or not? I think all Christians know the answer to that question and so do the Kmart angels. They give because they love. Without judgment they donate. Without qualification they love those kids they will never meet. That, my friends, is the true meaning of Christmas!
Note: The readers of this blog are primarily Christians living in the United States, but many of my readers are Hindus living in South Asia. I don’t have to be “politically correct” to my Hindu brothers and sisters when I speak of my Christian faith. I have been in their temples and prayed with them at their home altars. I know their hearts and they celebrate with all Christians the joy that Christmas brings to us, while I love them for their serious and unconditional belief in God. May everyone in the world be blessed!