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The Suburbanite
  • Jean Nero: Helping others is the ultimate gift

  • Columnist Jean Nero recommends reading "A Secret Gift" by Ted Gup, which tells the story of Sam Stone who anonymously donated money to those in need.

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  • I strongly recommend you read the book, “A Secret Gift,” by Ted Gup. Thanks to a generous friend, I have a copy. It’s the story of the Canton owner of a menswear store who, during the Great Depression, gave away several hundred dollars in $5 gifts (which in those days bought a lot of food) to needy families. While the story of Sam Stone and his gifts has been reviewed many times in this paper and elsewhere, one point may have slipped past us. That is the real gift he gave us was more than money, it is what I call “the gift of anonymity.” Mr. Stone used the name of B. Virdot in any correspondence and, thus, the good deed was done in the deepest spirit of giving — to help the needy without seeking credit.
    While both Christian charity and civic pride require us to recognize those bountiful givers who have contributed and still give so much to the community with their dollars, there’s something special about the anonymity of giving that puts both gift and giver in a special category, one that’s beyond the term “charity.”
    If you really think about Christmas, it’s all about the gift of anonymity. How much more anonymous can you get than to be born in a stable because your family can’t get into a decent inn? How about to be born of a mom who was little known outside her village except to her husband who had to accept the fact she claimed to be a virgin though she’s pregnant? He knew the baby wasn’t his, but accepted responsibility of providing housing and loving care. I feel sure neither he nor his wife could’ve guessed the heights this little Son would rise to, nor the far-reaching changes that would come about because of that little guy in the stable.
    Today babies are born in shiny new hospitals. We have cell phones, iPods, self-lighting stoves, cars that go faster than the wind and have built-in directions to get us where we’re going. But has anything really changed in the 2,011 years since that baby whose birthday we celebrate was born?
    The year he was born, nations were fighting impossible wars, vicious tyrants ravaged countries, taxes were too high and tax collectors were rampantly corrupt. Politicians lived a king’s lifestyle in elaborate homes while the working poor barely survived — just a step ahead of starvation with no medical help. Sounds like today’s headlines. How much progress have we made in those 2,000 years since?
    Except for one factor: the message He brought when he grew into manhood was the message behind “A Secret Gift.” Mr. Stone taught us that, right here in good ol’ Canton. It’s the universal and unique idea that loving care for others entails real, hands-on sacrifice from ourselves without notice.
    Page 2 of 2 - That’s what Christmas and Mr. Stone’s gifts are all about. And it’s the real reason to celebrate this holiday universally, regardless of our religious affiliation. So, break out the cookies and the turkey, decorate that tree, hang that stocking, and raise a glass to the reality of what we call Christmas. In this society where “me first” rules, the “anonymity of giving” is, after all, the ultimate gift.