Secret Santas strike again, shower strangers with cash

For the past seven years two Secret Santas have given away money during Christmas time. They returned on Friday to do it again this time with $14,000 in $100 for people at bus stops, thrift stores, restaurants and people out for a walk. Eric Seals Detroit Free Press

You can get cynical pretty easily during this holiday season. Stress. Terrible news all over the place. Money.

Or, you can choose not to be cynical. You can take control of your attitude. You can have faith in humanity.

You can withdraw $14,000 and give it all away.

OK, maybe not all of us – hardly any? – can do that. But the Secret Santas can and did on Friday.

For the eighth straight year, this married couple from another state came to metro Detroit to hand out thousands of their own money. And, like the other years, a Free Press reporter and photographer rode along with them and a Lincoln Park Police escort. Counting Friday, the couple have now given away about $115,000 of their own savings, one crisp hundred at a time. They say they are not rich, just comfortable.

And here’s the thing. They choose to hand their money out unconditionally. And randomly. When it’s your money, you hand it out any way you want.

So, when you see William Calloway get off a bus in Lincoln Park, if you’re these people, you walk up and ask Calloway, dressed in baggy sweats and a ball cap, if he believes in Santa Claus. The 56-year-old may take a cautious step back, and you may hand him a new $100 bill anyway. No questions asked.

That’s just how it works. And you move on to the other people who got off the bus, flipping hundreds to each of them like some sort of elfin blackjack dealer. You just give out money and you say things like “Merry Christmas” and “Pay it forward” and “Bless you.”

You stand there for a moment, and you watch tears well up in their eyes. You see Calloway look down at the bill in his hand. You see him smile and holler: “You lyin’!” You see realization spread across his face in a huge grin, and you hear him say, “Let me tell you what happened. They about to turn my phone off!”

He starts shouting: “Man, this is great! This is great!” He hugs you. And he runs around, holding his hundred up high, waving it at cars that drive by on Fort Street.

You see tears stream down his cheeks.

You get back in the car and head to the next stop. Calloway and the others wave as you pull away. He’s still jumping around. But there is more money to give out to others. Unconditionally.

Calloway offered up without prompting that he is a parolee who left prison this year after a quarter-century behind bars. You learn that Calloway served his sentence for second-degree murder and armed robbery.

When your point is to help out the needy, sometimes you run across people with troubled pasts and current struggles. You help them anyway.

“I really believe that the only thing that can overcome hatred and evil in the world is love,” the female Santa says. “And you can’t really overcome hate and evil with love if attached to that love is a spirit of judgment. It just doesn’t work.”

This pure generosity is modeled after the example of a man named Larry Stewart, who nearly four decades ago started handing out cash at Christmas to people in Kansas City, Mo. Stewart’s acts of kindness were done anonymously, and he became known as Secret Santa. His work became publicly known only after his death in 2007. His example has spread to other cities like Detroit.

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