The Great K-Mart Layaway Payoff MiracleS

Are you hard-hearted cynic who hates Christmas? Perhaps you have not heard about the Christmas Miracle of 2011: The K-Mart Mystery Christmas Layaway Payoffs.

According to the AP, the miracle's occurring all over the American heartland—"Nebraska, Michigan, Iowa, Indiana and Montana," as well as Missouri and Illinois. What happens, quite simply: a family, unable to scrape together enough cash, puts some items on layaway. Maybe Christmas toys for the kids. When they return to K-Mart to make a payment, they find that part or all of their balance has been paid off by a mysterious stranger. A Christmas miracle.

Apparently, this is a spontaneous uprising of Christmas spirit by many unrelated but kind-hearted people across the country. The story cites one woman paying off balances as a memorial to her deceased husband, but generally they're presented as isolated incidents. Incidents so widespread that K-Mart corporate is aware of the phenomenon, and so is the AP, and now, so are you. This is the Christmas spirit in action:

Lori Stearnes of Omaha also benefited from the generosity of a stranger who paid all but $58 of her $250 layaway bill for toys for her four youngest grandchildren.

Stearnes said she and her husband live paycheck to paycheck, but she plans to use the money she was saving for the toys to help pay for someone else's layaway.

If this story doesn't make you at least momentarily contemplate running out and paying off a needy stranger's layaway balance, you have not been listening to all the things that Santa talked about in the Bible. Of course, it could be an incredibly effective (and cheap!) PR stunt by K-Mart; but if it helps to encourage a nationwide outpouring of Christmas charity, well, we're willing to overlook it.

Merry Christmas, everyone. May kindness redeem us all.

[AP. Photo: AP]