|Me, as the Grinch, obviously|
Everywhere I see these stories linked, on various forums and Facebook, people are saying the stories have made them cry, warmed their hearts, and inspired them to do something nice for another person. And that's great. I'm happy that people are inspired by these stories, but frankly, I'm not that moved by the actual acts themselves.
Layaway programs are typically used this time of year for holding gifts that you can't afford by paying them off in small increments until they are paid in full, ideally by Christmas. Call me the Grinch, I just can't get on board with thinking that paying off someone's layaway bill is the greatest way to help another person. In fact, I don't even see it as amongst the top 5 things money should go to. Layaway programs don't help victims of a natural disasters or domestic violence. They don't educate children, cure cancer, or provide food and clean water to people who go without.
They provide materials items, most frequently those which are unnecessary. And the money ultimately goes to big businesses, like Wal*Mart. I mean, if you want to do something of this nature, comparable nonprofit programs which help give gifts to needy children seem much less frivolous than paying off someone's layaway bill.
Really, I am happy that people are giving to one another. And I'm glad that this positive story has been highlighted by the media, which too frequently focuses on death and destruction. However, the focus does seem to be on consumerism, which, as I've argued before, is far too prevalent this time of year. My advice is that if you feel moved by the "layaway angels" stories, you check out some of the nonprofits in your community and give a gift which will have an impact beyond a present which will end up under a Christmas tree.