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Village Administrator Tim Gillian was surprised and moved when a Forest Park resident, who wished to remain anonymous, called the village saying she wanted to pay someone’s outstanding and overdue water bill. She didn’t have a specific person’s bill in mind; she simply wanted to help one random person who was having trouble this holiday season.

“She just wanted to do this wonderful thing for another person,” said Gillian. “Paying the water bill can be a big deal for some people. This was a really kind act, and it’s important to take time to applaud seemingly little things like this that aren’t really little at all.”

At the Forest Park Public Library, anonymous giving allows patrons to clear a child’s or teen’s library card. A “giving tree” has paper ornaments that display the amounts of fines on patrons’ cards. Each patron is displayed anonymously on the tree, which is located by the information desk on the main level of the library. 

According to Alicia Hammond, the library’s community engagement manager, this is the first year the library set up the giving tree.

“We randomly selected 50 kids and teens to anonymously be part of the program,” said Hammond. “The idea is that community members can select an ornament from the tree that represents a kid and lists their library fine. This is a nice way for our community to help kids in a small but significant way.”

In less than a week, over $200 of the fine and fees had been paid.

“We didn’t know the type of reception this project would receive, but we have been so happy with the results,” said Hammond. “The tree will be up until the end of December.”

Mayor Rory Hoskins is continuing the tradition of the village’s annual toy drive, started by Community Center director Karen Dylewski and hosted by the previous mayor, Tony Calderone, for years. Toy are collected for the Forest Park Community Center to give, anonymously, to families that can’t afford gifts this year. Toys will be distributed as part of the Community Center’s Christmas meal delivery on Dec. 23. Unwrapped toys for kids age 3 to 16 or gift cards for kids age 11 to 16 can be dropped off at the Community Center (7640 Jackson Blvd.) or brought to the toy drive event, which is on Dec. 12 from 6 to 10 p.m., at the American Legion, 500 Circle Ave. Free food and soft drinks will be provided.

There is evidence that one of the best ways to increase happiness during the stressful holiday season is through giving. Studies show that giving — time, a donation, an anonymous gift — triggers a release of oxytocin which can, if only temporarily, provide a bump of pleasure. 

One study reported in the journal Psychological Science shows that while human beings adapt to most pleasures and get decreasing satisfaction from them over time, this doesn’t happen from giving. 

“The happiness we feel from eating the same food, from earning the same income, and from many other experiences quickly decreases as repeated exposure to an identical source of happiness increases,” wrote the researchers. But “the happiness we get from giving appears to sustain itself.”