Have you ever received an anonymous gift? One such surprise, a delightful arrangement of orange lilies, was delivered to my house with a simple note attached: “Just because you are special, from Anonymous.”
From Anonymous! The mystery became all too much for the Nancy Drew in me to disregard. Even more enchanting—and contrary to my first assumption—was my eventual realization that the bouquet was not from my mother. Without a doubt, this was the most intriguing gift—ever! How does this story end? Well, I won’t leave you hanging. The mystery was solved in time, and the sender’s identity ultimately discovered—I am now married to the sender of those flowers.
Christmas is a time for giving. In fact, a legendary tale rumors that St. Nicholas secretly tossed bags of gold down the chimney of a house belonging to a destitute and desperate father—allowing the penniless man to offer dowries to marry off all three of his daughters. But until recent days, I missed the significance of this celebrated story: St. Nicholas wanted to remain anonymous in his giving and didn’t wish for any acclaim for his good deeds.
Do we, like St. Nicholas, give generously, selflessly and without motivation to receive anything in return? Typically our incentive to give is prompted by anticipation to get something in return. We often desire acknowledgement or appreciation for our efforts. But what happens if we remove our expectation of reciprocity, and our call for recognition? Perhaps anonymous and random acts of kindness allow us to practice bigheartedness with an unadulterated objective.
Possibly you were taught the value in giving in a discreet manner. Even the Bible reminds us not to make a performance of our giving, telling us in a book by Matthew: “When you do something for someone else, don’t call attention to yourself…When you help someone out, don’t think about how it looks. Just do it—quietly and unobtrusively.”
Similarly, as we journey through life, we discover the pleasure in spending our money and efforts on someone other than ourselves. In case you think our joy in giving is somehow lessened when we give without taking credit, try it for yourself and experience the gratification of giving in secret.
Here are 10 cheery holiday-inspired ideas to help you conspire imaginative ways to give covertly this holiday season…
1. Pay for the coffee of the person behind you in a line up.
2. Treat your neighbor by leaving goodies on the doorstep, along with an unsigned note.
3. Volunteer to help with the delivery of holiday food parcels for a local charity.
4. Love ordering online? Mail a gift to someone, and do not include your return address.
5. Create care packages to deliver at a nursing home or senior center.
6. Organize a basket with gifts to be delivered to a family in need.
7. Secretly give money to someone who is having a challenging time with finances.
8. Place an encouraging mystery card under the windshield wiper of a friend.
9. Take a poinsettia or floral arrangement to a patient in hospital who needs a visitor.
10. Give toys to a charity such as Santa’s Anonymous, providing presents for children.
Giving in secret is an excellent expression of thoughtfulness, or of your appreciation for someone, devoid of receiving recognition for yourself. It’s my favorite way of giving—and an ideal way to help those in need during the holiday season without leaving the recipient feeling embarrassed, indebted, or obliged to reciprocate.
Above all else, when a gift is given stealthily, there is an element of surprise. A gift which has no “strings” can be exceptionally meaningful. How much money you spend is not what matters. Even a thoughtful note or hand-made gift will convey the message: you are cared about. You might have to be a little sneaky, but what’s important is that in the end we make someone believe they are special.
Christmas time is the perfect opportunity to practice a bit of mystery giving. Be inventive, be generous and be enthusiastic. Just remember to try not to get found out. Be sure to leave no trace it’s from you!
Image via Odessa May Society