I grew up hearing about Thomas Cannon, the "poor man's philanthropist" of my home town. He was a postal clerk known for leaving $1000 checks to strangers. Recently I received a book about him (thank you, David!) and have been enjoying reading about his life.
After his death in 2005, the Washington Post wrote:
He gave away more than $150,000 over the past 33 years, mostly in thousand-dollar checks, to people he read about in the Richmond Times-Dispatch who were experiencing hard times or who had been unusually kind or courageous.
Mr. Cannon supported his wife and himself, their two sons and his charitable efforts on a salary that never topped $20,000 a year. As one of his sons recalled, "There was nothing special about our home life. He went to work every day, helped us with our football and baseball, made sure we were taken care of."
When he retired from the postal service in 1983, he and his wife lived in virtual poverty on his pension. "We lived simply, so we could give money away," he told the Times-Dispatch this year. "People say, 'How can you afford it?' Well, how can people afford new cars and boats? Instead of those, we deliberately kept our standard of living down below our means. I get money from the same place people get money for those other things."