February 25, 2009


2009 1506 page31 capS A YOUNGSTER IN GRADE SCHOOL I BELIEVED THAT “ANONYMOUS” WAS actually someone’s name. I’m sure I wasn’t alone.
Sometimes our teachers required us students to memorize poems and recite them in front of the class. I remember standing before the class announcing the title of the poem and that it had been written by Anonymous.
As an adult, I often wondered why some individuals who write poetry choose not to identify themselves. Perhaps they don’t want the attention or the accolades. Or as a later experience taught me, perhaps they are subscribing to a higher principle.
It was roughly two months before graduation, and Carol,* a parent with children at the school where I was principal, approached me with the following request: “Would you look at the student accounts receivable to see if the parents of any seniors are having difficulty keeping current on their school bill?”
2009 1506 page31I reported to her a few days later that there were two students from one family with outstanding school accounts that were not likely to be cleared before graduation. The amount due was almost $4,000. Carol listened, scribbled a note to herself, and said she would be back.
It was the week of final exams and students had to clear their accounts—pay up, in other words—or they would not be able to take their tests. If there were no final grades, then those seniors would not be able to participate in graduation exercises. It was not a popular administrative decision to stand by, but the faculty had discovered that firm action was needed to keep student accounts receivable under control.
Then Carol stopped by my office again and asked, “Have the students cleared their accounts?” I responded that the family had suffered financial setbacks and had not been able to pay their bill. Carol then handed me a check for the balance owed. As I stood in shock, she whispered, “By the way, I don’t want anyone to know about this.”
Many times over the years, even when experiencing her own financial challenges, Carol repeated this same act of kindness. Numerous students have had the privilege of participating in graduation exercises because of the selflessness shown by someone who to them was named Anonymous.
One day, unable to contain my curiosity, I asked Carol, “Why are you doing this?” She responded with this story:
“I once knew a student whose mother didn’t have the money to clear her account. On commencement day, this girl marched down the aisle with all her classmates. When her name was called, she walked up proudly to receive her diploma folder. When she returned to her place she hurriedly opened the folder to take a quick peek at her hard-earned diploma, only to discover a blank sheet of paper where the diploma should have been. Her eyes instantly clouded over as she read the message, ‘Congratulations! When your account has been cleared, come by the office and we will give you your diploma.’”
Fighting back her own emotions in retelling the story, Carol added, “I was that girl, and I determined right then that with God’s help, I would do everything I could so other students would not experience the same kind of disappointment I did.”
Carol could easily have established a scholarship fund in her name; instead, she anonymously gave thousands of dollars to students in need.
Many institutions of the Adventist Church have benefited from the extreme generosity of individuals and families who have given large sums of money in their own name, and those munificent acts are certainly commendable. But literally millions and perhaps billions of dollars have also been given to the church anonymously by donors seeking no recognition. They have simply asked themselves the question “If I don’t help, who will?”
Their names may not appear in any earthly records, but their acts of generosity are certainly recorded in the books of heaven. 

*A pseudonym.

Thambi Thomas is associate director of education for the Pacific Union Conference.