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Secret Santa: Trying to fan the random-acts-of-kindness flame

It's become a new, heartwarming holiday trend this year: strangers anonymously paying off layaway purchases at retailers like Wal-Mart. But will it spread? The Seattle's Morning News team is trying to light the spark.

97.3 KIRO FM's Linda Thomas issued a challenge to listeners and fellow co-hosts Bill Radke and Tom Tangney to practice their own random acts of kindness. But each took a decidedly different approach.

"I went to Fred Meyer and bought 5 gift cards, because my thought is you can buy groceries there, you can buy clothing, you can buy toys," says Linda.

She says she gave the cards to a principal at a South Seattle school where she knows there are a number of families in need, and asked him to anonymously pass them along to those he thought would benefit most.

Linda won't divulge the amounts. "It's really not about me. The idea is to inspire other people."

Bill says a day of fun gave him his inspiration. After shopping at University Village and seeing the Nutcracker at Pacific Northwest Ballet, he was reminded again of how fortunate he is.

"So we went to QFC and got a gift card and went down to Noel House, the women's shelter there. We chatted (with someone standing in the front door) and I told her if she knew someone who needs it more, please pass it on, otherwise have a Merry Christmas all the same," Bill says.

In typical Tangney fashion, Tom spent plenty of time philosophizing about the best way to practice his random act of kindness. He thought about lurking outside a toy store and offering some money to a mom going in. "But I realized it came off kind of a little cheesy or creepy," he says.

Instead, Tom says he went for the most random approach possible. He blindly chose a county, then randomly picked a name out of the white pages and anonymously sent them a card and some cash.

"Who knows who it's going to go to. Was it somebody needy or deserving? It doesn't really matter. It's the randomness of the act that I found interesting."

"It felt good. I would suggest to listeners there if you have an extra buck, it's a fun experience," says Bill.

It just might be enough to get them to pay it forward and perhaps a spark can become a flame.

About the Author

Josh Kerns is an award winning reporter on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM. He covers everything from May Day riots in Seattle to the latest Boeing news.

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