Christmas-slash-Hannukah-slash-generic-holiday-season is nearly here, but with the economy still ambling along slowly, a lot of people just can’t afford to buy their kid that one toy certain to turn them into a little ball of shrieking joy. Hence the increasing number of ads in recent weeks from big-box retailers, announcing that you can get whatever little Johnny wants and pay for it bit by bit. The catch: You can only pick up the item once it’s all paid for, and with the big day just a week away some hard-up parents may be wondering if they’ll have to give their kids an IOU. But there’s hope still! A small but growing group of people from Michigan to Iowa to Indiana have been showing up at Kmarts (and the odd Wal-Mart) to spread around the holiday cheer and, in one woman’s case, her recently deceased husband’s life insurance, by paying off strangers’ layaway balances. It’s like Pay It Forward: The Christmas Edition — now if only the East and West Coasts could get onboard.