An anonymous businessman spread Christmas cheer by giving away $30,000 in $100 bills to residents of the San Carlos Apache Tribal Lands in Arizona, CBS News reports.
For fifteen years, CBS News’s Steve Hartman has covered the “Secret Santa” and his charitable holiday give-aways, where the mysterious businessman hands out large sums of money to strangers during the Christmas Season.
The kind-hearted man visited strangers on the San Carlos Apache Tribal Lands this year.
“I’ve always felt, inside my soul, a spiritual connection with the Native American,” the Secret Santa told CBS News.
Almost half of the residents who live on the “tribal land live below the poverty line” and struggle to make ends meet, CBS News reports. When the Secret Santa spread out the $30,000 – giving strangers hundreds of dollars each – he made an immediate difference.
“It’s going to put more food on the table — more for my family to eat,” a woman, known as “Grandma Rose,” told CBS News.
A young man named Elijah Cooke said he already had plans for the money. “I had no food, really,” he told CBS News. “I think it goes to my father, he needs it more.”
The Secret Santa highlighted the importance of kindness and its ability to transcend different backgrounds.
“Whether you’re Native American, African American, Christian American, left American, right American — kindness is that common language between us all,” he told CBS News.
Perhaps the benevolent words the mysterious businessman said to recipients were even more meaningful than the cash giveaway.
“Do you know how special you are?” he told one woman, prompting her to grin from ear to ear.
“You’re a beautiful spirit,” he said to another woman as tears rolled down her face.
The man gave $400 to mother Nelvena Cobb and said, “You’re an example to every mom. You’re amazing.”
Cobb was overcome with emotion. “Just to hear that feels good. It helped me a lot,” she told CBS News as her voice trembled.
‘You’re an incredible, incredible grandma,” the Secret Santa told another woman, who broke down in tears.
“Thank you,” she replied as the two embraced for a hug.
The origins of this particular Secret Santa extend back to 1971 when a hungry, homeless man walked into a diner in Houston, Mississippi, according to CBS News. The man ordered a large breakfast and planned to skip out before receiving the check.
Diner owner Ted Horn understood what was happening. He walked up to the man with a $20 bill and said, “I think you may have dropped this,” according to CBS News. The man decided if he ever had the resources to pay the kind act forward, he would.
Eventually, the homeless man, named Larry Stewart, became a millionaire and gave away more than a million dollars to those in need, CBS News previously reported. Larry’s identity only came to light after he was diagnosed with terminal cancer in 2006. His friend, who is today’s Secret Santa, took the endeavor upon himself.
“Larry was hospitalized and I went up to visit him at night … moonlight shining in, kind of surreal … so I asked Larry, ‘Do you have any regrets?'” the current Secret Santa recalled to CBS News. “And he said, ‘Yes.’ I said, ‘What is it?’ And he said, ‘I just wish I could have helped more people.'”
“So that’s when I assumed the responsibility,” the Secret Santa added.