KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The sight of flashing blue lights in the rear-view mirror as you drive through city streets can be nerve-wracking and even fear-inducing.
This year, though, some of the folks pulled over didn’t get a ticket or arrested or even a lecture. Instead, the cop handed over cash.
Turns out that an anonymous wealthy businessman, carrying on the tradition of Kansas City’s original Secret Santa, Larry Stewart, deputized officers in the Jackson County sheriff’s office to hand out money.
Around 15 officers, each “armed” with $1,000 in $100 bills, went out in search of deserving suspects Dec. 3, according to Sgt. Ronda Montgomery, a Jackson County sheriff’s spokeswoman.
In the CBS news report, one mother of three isn’t too happy — at first.
“I was doing good until you pulled me over,” she tells the officer. But when he hands her a $100 bill, she starts to cry, and explains how he has just saved Christmas for her kids.
Secret Santa’s gift, of course, extends beyond the obvious recipients. He’s giving to the law enforcement officers as well.
“Joy,” he replies when asked what he wants the officers to get out of this, explaining, “As tough as they are, they have hearts bigger than the world …”
The encounters were captured on deputies’ body cameras as some recipients responded with giant bear hugs, overcome by emotion. Most people cried, reported CBS correspondent Steve Hartman, as they not only needed the money but were caught off-guard.
Even CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley looked like he had tears in his eyes.
I’ve followed the stories each year of Kansas City’s original Secret Santa, who gave away an estimated $1.3 million from 1979 until 2006 when he revealed his identity before his death from esophageal cancer. Larry Stewart wanted “to pay it forward” from a random act of kindness when he was down and out at a Texas diner and the owner handed him a $20, saying he thought Stewart had dropped it.
Stewart had said he liked handing out cash because it was something people didn’t have to “beg for, get in line for, or apply for.”
And this year, those gifts of cash may have carried an extra bonus. Maybe, just maybe, they can help start healing the rift between the public and the police. As Hartman said in the CBS report, it was a chance to see “hands up in celebration.”