READING, Pa. – Every year, CBS News correspondent Steve Hartman goes out with Secret Santa – an anonymous businessman who travels the country at Christmas time. Secret Santa randomly goes up to people in bus stations and thrift stores and hands out 100 dollar bills.
“We can change the world one random act of kindness at a time,” says Secret Santa.
One of the people Secret Santa gave money to is 30-year-old Thomas Coates.
“I didn’t earn that,” Coates said to Secret Santa.
“You did earn it,” Secret Santa replied. “Because I can tell you’re a good man.”
Coates started to tear up, and said the last time he was called a good man was by “maybe, um, my mom.”
Coates is a deadbeat by most accounts, including his own. Addicted to heroin, he recently hocked his own son’s toys for drug money – that’s how bad it is.
“I haven’t worked in over a year,” Coates said. “I spent so much time in and out of treatment facilities.”
Why his girlfriend hasn’t left him and taken their son is a mystery – even to her. But she is now running out of patience. Which is why the night before we met him – during yet another one of their many fights – she suggested he try something radical – a prayer.
Coates said his girlfriend told him, “‘Maybe you can shoot a prayer up to God real quick. I know you don’t really believe in him, but maybe you can start.”
And so he did pray for the first time since childhood. Then, out of the blue, Secret Santa shows up slipping $100 bills into his hand. A display of that kind of kindness from a total stranger the day after he prayed was too much of a coincidence for this atheist to bear.
“It’s amazing,” Coates said. “That to me was a miracle. That was God saying, ‘Alright, you had enough now. I’m going to show you something.’ So from here on out it’s up to me.”
After meeting Secret Santa, Coates checked himself into a treatment facility. And although he’s done it before, he says this will be the first time with a higher power at the helm.
“Maybe that gave him the hope that he needs to break his addiction,” Secret Santa said. “And maybe that will be the turning point that will change his life and maybe he won’t go back. Wouldn’t that be worth it?”
I’m proud to serve a God who answers the prayers of atheist heroin addicts like this. If you feel the same, pass it on.