The Kindness of Mrs. Johnson Lives On

Every once in a while, a person comes into your life just for a season. We’d like it to be longer, but the gift we were given has an expiration date, and for one reason or another, the time comes when the season has ended and the person is gone.

Shortly after I started writing this column back in 2011, I got a letter from a 90-year-old woman. The previous week, I had written about how hard I was finding it to raise three small children and maintain a kind demeanor, especially in my home.

This woman, with great wisdom, gently reminded me to let the sticky fingerprints and the dirty floor go. She told me to relax. She told me I was a good mom. She didn’t even know me, and yet with that one letter, she breathed life into my weary soul.

The next time I got a letter from Mrs. Johnson, she included a $50 check. She told me she greatly valued my words about kindness and wanted to show me in a tangible way.

The third letter I got from Mrs. Johnson included a request: may she write letters to my children?

And that’s when the season of kindness truly blossomed.

I have two large manila envelopes filled with nearly 100 letters sent back and forth between Mrs. Johnson and my now 11-year-old daughter, Jordan.

Jordan would tell Mrs. Johnson things like how spooky she thought our basement was, and Mrs. Johnson would tell Jordan about how she used to have to churn butter in a cellar with a dirt floor and that she would take her dog along for protection from the shadows.

Jordan told Mrs. Johnson about the lunches at Longfellow Elementary, and Mrs. Johnson would write back and tell Jordan about her one-room schoolhouse in rural North Dakota, and how each morning she would put a potato by the fire and by noon it would be baked and ready for lunch.

We visited Mrs. Johnson at her north Fargo home several times. Jordan would sit right next to her on the couch. I have no idea what they talked about, because they kicked me out so they could have some “girl time.”

Before we left, Jordan would always run over and give Mrs. Johnson just “one more hug” about three more times.

We all cried when we visited Mrs. Johnson for the last time before moving to Ohio. We knew we’d keep on writing, but we also knew we’d never see each other again face to face.

Several months after our move, the letters stopped. By this time, Mrs. Johnson was 94. I imagined she was in heaven, and I looked in the obituaries for confirmation, but I could never find her name.

Finally, just last month, I found out that indeed our season with Mrs. Johnson had ended.

I got an email from her daughter explaining the decline in her mother’s health and her eventual passing. I was so grateful to have closure. Mrs. Johnson’s daughter sent me a DVD of the funeral service, and it was through the words of people who had known her much longer than I that I got to hear things about Mrs. Johnson that surprised me and yet, didn’t. The depth and width of her kindness extended far beyond my comprehension.

Mrs. Johnson’s letters serve as an instructional manual on how to love others in an unlovable world. Her check for $50 hangs in a frame on my office wall, still uncashed, as a reminder that you can’t put a price on kindness, and that someone I didn’t even know believed in me and my mission.

It’s sad to lose a friend, whether through death or other circumstances, but it’s better to have had the gift, even for a short time, than to never have had the gift at all.

I look forward to seeing you again, Mrs. Johnson, in a place where we can continue to let our friendship blossom in a season that will never end.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.

Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s Men’s Head Basketball Coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday. 

Kindness Abounds Through Cancer Journey

I am so sick of cancer. I am sure for many of you, that is the understatement of the century, but it pretty well describes how I’m feeling right now.

I just found out that cancer is messing with yet another one of God’s beautiful creations. This time, it’s my friend’s mom. She had a double mastectomy last week and is preparing for the chemo journey ahead of her. My friend has been holding her mother’s hand throughout the whole scary process: the biopsies, the diagnosis and the surgery. She will continue to hold her mother’s hand as long as she needs to. I just wish she didn’t need to.

Dale Thornton, from Moorhead, is dealing with his own journey, but as you’ll see from his letter, he’s not letting cancer stop him from encouraging the people around him.

“A number of years ago when I was working with Native students at the Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School in northern Minnesota, I devised a pin to encourage the students to stay in school. The pin had a red line drawn through the words ‘give-up-ed-ness’ indicating that regardless of what happens, they should keep trying. Also, at the bottom of the pin were the words ‘Don’t Give Up’.

Fast-forward to my cancer diagnosis. I decided to take my own advice and wear the pin when being treated at the Roger Maris Cancer Center. When asked about the pin, I gave away as many as my allowance permitted.

A few months ago, my wife and I were talking to friends who were also dealing with cancer, and the topic of the pin came up. After discussion, the husband reached into his wallet and handed me a hundred-dollar bill and instructed me to buy more pins.

A few weeks later, I decided to post a photo of the pin on Facebook with an encouraging word. A friend of mine asked if I accepted donations, and I responded certainly. To date, I have received $500 to make pins available to many more cancer patients.

Should I ever have doubts about the kindness of people, all I need to do is remember this series of events.”

It is so hard to know how to support someone going through the war against cancer. What we really want to do is make it all stop. Make the cancer go away. Provide total healing. When we can’t do that, we feel helpless and oftentimes end up in a state of paralysis, doing nothing.

Dale captured the essence of kindness in those pins. By giving them away, one by one, he was able to brighten someone else’s day, and by accepting those donations, he was allowing others the opportunity to support him.

1888624_10202839422607189_1230586143432668591_nDale says he has given away more than 1,000 pins. That’s a lot of pins, translating into a lot of encouragement. Amazing things happen when we lead with kindness and Don’t Give Up.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.

Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s Men’s Head Basketball Coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday.

Kindness Comes in Handy During Car Troubles

I hit a car the other day. I was attempting to parallel park, and somehow the gray of my minivan ended up on the side bumper of the other person’s tan car. I was devastated, and mortified since it happened right in front of the window of a busy coffee shop.

I managed not to cry, which is usually my first reaction, so I was devastated, mortified and yet, a little bit proud of myself.

I left an apology note on the car with my contact information and headed into the coffee shop. Thankfully, no one had the guts to comment on my parking job.

Two hours later, I returned to my minivan, only to see that the assaulted car was still sitting there. There was another piece of paper attached to the man’s windshield – a parking ticket.

I couldn’t stand the thought of the owner coming out to a roughed-up bumper and a parking ticket, so I left another note and tucked some money into the ticket envelope.

The next day I got a text message from the owner telling me not to worry about the fender and asking if he could return the money. I finally convinced him that it had made me feel better to use that tiny act of kindness to reroute both of our days.

A Fargo woman sent me the story of her recent car trouble. She didn’t hit anyone in front of a store full of onlookers, but was certainly embarrassed all the same.

“I attended the wonderful musical production of Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ at Sheyenne High School in West Fargo. It was an excellent performance!

“I had never been to the school, so I parked in an unfamiliar lot. I was careful to back into a spot so I could easily get out, but it never occurred to me that I should look where I had parked.

“When I came out of the school after the performance, it was dark. I got totally mixed up and very embarrassed because I could not find my vehicle. It was an extremely cold evening, so I walked back into the school. As I walked out of the building again, I happened to mention to a passing couple that I could not find my car.

“I was walking around the lot some more when a car pulled up right beside me. It was the couple I had spoken to briefly. The very kind people, Doug and Alice, rolled down their window and invited me to ride around the lot in their car.

“It turns out there are two parking lots at the school, and we did eventually find my car.

“I just want to shout out a big ‘Thank you!’ to these kind strangers.

“Doug and Alice How of Minnesota, I hope you see this and know how grateful I am for your kindness.” – Kathleen Bennett, Fargo

I’d love to hear more of your stories of kindness. If you’ve been the recipient of an act of kindness, or are the one making someone else’s day, please let me know. I can’t wait to hear from you!

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.

Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s Men’s Head Basketball Coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday.

Shoveling a Path of Kindness

People in Ohio keep asking me what winter is like in North Dakota.

They want to know how many days a year school gets called off due to cold weather. I tell them, “Hardly ever.” They want to know how often our cars refuse to start. I tell them, “Nearly never.” And then they ask the biggie: Can you even go outside in that weather? I tell them, “Yes … but you have to wear a hat until May.”
The biggest difference I’ve noticed during my first winter in southern Ohio is the radical swing in temperatures. It will be nearly 60 degrees one week and 4 degrees the next.

And then there’s the snow. I understand the F-M area is having a “light snow year,” but having spent 10 years burrowing out of my Fargo driveway, the Ohio precipitation is a welcome relief. Snow generally comes down as sleet, which makes driving interesting in these Appalachian foothills, but at least there aren’t too many days of back-busting shoveling. If you wait an hour or two, the sun seems to do most of the work for you.

Imagine my surprise when I woke up a few weeks ago and it looked like Fargo outside. My driveway was covered in 6 inches of heavy, wet snow, and it was still coming down.

I knew I couldn’t wait for Mother Nature to melt it away. I was going to have to pull out the big red shovel. But first, I had to get the kids to basketball practice. I forced my minivan down the driveway and onto the street. Based on the difficulty my tires had cutting through the snow, I knew I had my work cut out for me when I got home.

But a few hours later, I was stunned to pull into a clean, professionally plowed driveway. Who in the world has a plow for the front of their truck around here? That’s a Fargo thing.

With the kids still in the car, I sat there babbling the only word I could think of – kindness. “Kindness! It’s kindness! Do you kids see this? Someone did an act of kindness for us!” I was nearly giddy.

Later in the day, I ran into a new neighbor who admitted she took the liberty of sending her husband (and his truck) over to do the job. Hallelujah!

I have such great fondness for my new neighbors. There is a tenderness and devotion that, selfishly, probably would not exist had they not literally cleared the path between their house and mine.

So what if that affection could spread throughout a whole town? That’s what city leaders are trying to create in Dilworth.

This winter, they have been promoting a program called “Shovel Dilworth.” They are asking people to spread goodwill throughout the land by shoveling neighbors’ sidewalks, fire hydrants, bus stops and the paths used by kids to get to school. The DGF High School National Honor Society members and Dilworth Boy Scouts are on board, both shoveling and convincing their classmates to join in. The goal is to incorporate the whole community, and eventually neighboring communities, like Moorhead.

Since it’s fun to give and to get, citizens who make the commitment to help can sign up on the city’s website for a chance to win a $25 gift card. You can enter yourself or another Good Samaritan. One mom entered her 11-year-old daughter, who has taken the program to heart in her own neighborhood.

Our chance to spread kindness by shoveling for others is quickly melting away. The Shovel Dilworth program goes until April 3, but will be back again next year, along with the snow.

Shovel Dilworth

Want to adopt a sidewalk or help a neighbor? Call Will Mackaman at (218) 299-7839 or register yourself at www.eventbrite.com/e/shovel-dilworth-tickets-14949751108for a chance to win one of five $25 gift cards donated by the Dilworth Lions Club and Park Board.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.

Show Kindness By Reminding People They Are Not Alone

My girlfriend is talking about going back to work. She’s not certain she can swing it with three small children at home, but she feels like she should be using the degree she worked so hard to earn.

I could tell her beautiful heart was torn between being at home for her children and something she couldn’t quite identify. As we sat on the floor watching her baby play, she looked me in the eyes and sadly asked, “Is this all there is?”

Her question didn’t come from a place of ingratitude or selfishness. It came from a place of exhaustion. In that one question, she was asking many. Will it always be this hard? Will they ever look at me and see a strong, accomplished woman, or will I always be the maid, the nurse and the short-order cook? Am I the only mom who sometimes wants to be somewhere else? Do other moms feel this strange mix of heart-melting love and then guilt for wishing they would leave me alone for five minutes?

I know what she was asking because I have been there so many times. I would say I finally feel at peace with where I am, but that’s probably because my children are older and actually do leave me alone for five minutes. I don’t think it’s anything I did. I think it’s something time did. And so now we have a different problem: my children are growing up too fast.

My daughter turns 11 on Feb. 29. She is a leap-year baby, so technically, she only gets a birthday every four years. I didn’t realize how old Jordan was getting until I took her and my two boys to Disney World earlier this month.

I was sitting on the bus heading to the Magic Kingdom, kind of lost in thought. When I turned to look at my children, they were gone. In their places were taller, older, more self-sufficient children.

The last time I took my kids to see Mickey Mouse, Jordan was 6, Charlie was 5 and Ben was 1. Being back on that bus transported me to a time that no longer exists, so when I looked at them, I was

Missing Money Begins Chain of Kindness

I remember when I first read the book, “How Fargo of You” by Marc de Celle. I was captivated by the stories of kindness weaved through this man’s everyday life as he moved his family from sunny Arizona to our own little piece of (frozen) heaven.

The book prompted me to recall so many acts of generosity in my own life that I went out and bought 10 copies so I could give them away as better-late-than-never thank-you gifts.

Kathleen Isensee of Moorhead said she recently got to experience a “How Fargo of You” moment through her granddaughter’s money mishap.

“In an effort to earn a little extra cash for Christmas gifts and life expenses this past holiday season, my granddaughter, Abby, started sewing and selling sweater mittens. Abby is a college freshman on a very limited budget.

“After delivering an order to a nurse at Sanford, my granddaughter turned to leave the clinic and put her hand in her pocket to reach for the $50 bill she had been paid just minutes earlier. To her dismay, the bill was gone and her pocket was empty! She hadn’t gone far from where she had been handed the bill, so she retraced her steps and spent several minutes searching the area. A kind woman asked Abby what she was looking for and then spent the next several minutes helping with the search as well.

“Shortly thereafter, a man also joined in the hunt. After 15 minutes or so, they decided the search was fruitless and Abby left her name and number with the clinic attendant, in case anyone should turn it in.

“About an hour later, Abby got a call from the clinic saying they had $50 for her. She asked more about it and the clinic attendant admitted it wasn’t actually Abby’s $50 bill, but that the man who had helped in the search left her $50 cash.

“Abby was so touched. She hopped back on the bus and eagerly went downtown to pick up the money. She was so honored by this generous act of kindness and wished that she knew the man’s name so she could thank him personally.

“Later that night, after a full day out and about, Abby went back to her dorm room and kicked off her boots. To her surprise (and dismay), the original $50 bill fell out of her boots. Somehow, the money had dropped from Abby’s pocket, safely into the inside of her tall winter boots. Abby was now very perplexed. She didn’t know how to return the money because she had never gotten the generous stranger’s name. As she went to bed that night, she knew that she wanted to do something good with the money in honor of the man who had given it to her.

“Later that week, as she and a group of friends went to view the holiday lights in Lindenwood Park, she used some of the money to pay for the three cars behind her. Throughout the rest of the holiday season, as she walked past Salvation Army kettles and even rang the bell herself, she dropped in the money.

“It warmed my heart to see the Christmas spirit in action: first through the kindness of strangers toward my granddaughter and then through her own acts of generosity. Abby told me she hoped the people in the cars they paid for in Lindenwood felt that spirit and went out and shared it with others. I hope she’s right.

“To the woman who helped Abby and the generous man who gave her his own money, we want to say ‘thank you’ for making this a very memorable season for our entire family and hopefully for others beyond our knowledge. How Fargo of you!” – Kathleen Isensee, Moorhead

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.

Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s Men’s Head Basketball Coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday.

Kindness Can Put Spark Back into Your Love Life

Do you think of love in terms of passion and hearts and romance? Or do you see love as a test of endurance?

Does your love still sparkle, or have the lights gone out?
When Saul and I started dating, every moment was magical. He would look into my eyes and my stomach would flip. We thought nothing of driving seven hours every weekend to see each other. We got married because we knew, just knew, that nothing could ever come between us.

Shortly after we said “I do,” our “Affair to Remember” became just “The Way We Were.” Instead of surprising Saul with love notes, I started surprising him with new ice cube trays and the occasional package of socks.

What happened to us? Kids happened. Expenses happened. Jobs happened. In short, life happened.

I grew up thinking love meant passion and hearts and romance but somewhere along the way, it felt more like endurance.

Now, before you think I’m taking all the joy out of Valentine’s Day, let me go on.

Endurance is not an option in my marriage. While the word has great merit, to me, it is also a bit depressing. So every time I feel like we are backsliding or settling in or just enduring, I fight.

This year has been particularly hard. Being a basketball coach can be all-consuming. Being a basketball coach at a new school in a new town can feel like a whole new ball game. While I would say that our marriage is rock solid, there have been times this year when I’ve felt invisible. My husband is so focused on his job that it is occasionally the only thing he can see. I’m certain I cannot be the only wife out there who has ever felt this way.

Instead of further burdening him by complaining, I decided to spend my free time reading.

I chose the all-time fall back in love with your spouse book, “The Five Love Languages” by Dr. Gary Chapman. I was hoping to discover my love language so I could tell my husband, and therefore make his job of catering to my every need that much easier, since he’s so busy. I’m a very good wife like that.

While I did learn that I especially appreciate acts of service and words of affirmation, I also learned that it’s not about me.

I learned that truly loving someone is about putting that person first. It’s about showing them you love them in a way they understand. It’s about supporting them when they are preoccupied, holding your tongue occasionally, and doing things that you don’t feel like doing just because you want to make their life better. It’s about kindness.

The funny thing is, when I began focusing on my husband and what I could do to ease his burden, he began trying to ease mine. He started seeing me again. His job commitments didn’t change. His stress level didn’t change. But we were somehow closer. All of a sudden, we were in it together. And that subtle distinction made all the difference.

I think it’s probably normal for the euphoria of love to ebb and flow during a relationship. Some days you may feel it and some days you may not. But if you’ve chosen to walk out this life with someone special, why settle for endurance when you can bring back the sparkle with kindness?

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND, 58107.

Kindness Can Be Both Contagious and Courageous

My dad is a deep thinker. He spent most of his life as a therapist, so he’s a pretty good listener, too. He can be engaged in a conversation and then spend several days, if not weeks, thinking about the deeper meaning behind someone’s words or actions. Had he not gone into the profession of family counseling, he would have made a great researcher in the field of sociology. Human interaction fascinates him.

My dad retired a few years ago and decided he’d had enough of Wisconsin winters. He and his wife now spend several months as snowbirds, swimming and playing shuffleboard at a condo in sunny Arizona.

He calls me on a regular basis to give me a weather report, find out if I need to take a last-minute trip out West, and to fill me in on the latest shuffleboard gossip. I wasn’t at all surprised when he sent me this email. My dad had clearly been busy thinking again.

“Sometimes I think your column could be called ‘Kindness is Courageous.’ For men, it takes courage to do nice things for people. Probably for women, too, but especially for men. We wonder how our actions will be interpreted. Will people think I am showing off? Or if I do something nice for a woman, will she think I am trying to make a pass at her?

“In the last shuffleboard league game, I played a man who has suffered two strokes and now has limited use of his left arm. We were tied in the last frame when his phone rang. He was unable to get it out of his pocket before it quit ringing.

“He told me it was his daughter calling to see if it was time for her to come and get him. I called her back for him and therefore missed my last shot. He won the game. I took his phone and laughingly told her he won and she could come and pick him up. Andy was as happy as a pup with a new toy.

“My teammates, who were not on the same end of the court, didn’t see what had happened and made several comments about me not focusing on the game. Kindness almost always carries a risk.”

I agree, Dad, kindness almost always carries a risk. But so do so many of the amazing things we do in life – like spending every penny you have to go to college, like being the only single guy to sign up for country line-dance lessons, like teaching your teenage daughter how to drive, like asking a lovely woman on a first date. You’ve done risky things all your life, Dad. Why stop now?

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.

Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s Men’s Head Basketball Coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday.

Taking the Extra Step Eases an Already Heavy Burden

I say that I’m grateful for my health and the health of my family. I say that I’m grateful for the food that makes its way to our table. But maybe I’m not.

Health and nourishment have always come easy. If I really knew what it was like to go without either, I think my gratitude level would change entirely toward both.

Perhaps there are some things that you can’t truly understand unless you’ve been there, in the midst of the battle.

A woman named Fran is going through the battle with her husband. He’s getting radiation at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Fran says she and her husband are counting their blessings because it’s preventative radiation. But still, they are on the battle field and they know what it’s like. Maybe that’s why their hearts were so touched when they encountered another couple who looked wounded and beaten:

“One morning last week after treatment, we went to the patient cafeteria for breakfast.

“While in line, we noticed a young couple ahead of us about to pay for their breakfast. When the clerk rang up their order, they didn’t have enough money to pay for it. It just broke my heart to think that, here are two people, one most likely ill, and they cannot pay for their breakfast. The clerk made a comment that they could return something on their tray. I told the clerk not to worry, I would pay the balance of their bill.

“We got our food, paid for our orders and found a place to sit. I noticed the young couple went to sit in the farthest corner of the cafeteria, away from everyone. I sat there trying to figure out a way to make sure they had enough to eat. I was about to suggest we talk to the clerk when my husband said, ‘Why don’t you see if we can buy them a punch card or something?’

“I spoke to the clerk, and we were able to purchase a Mayo Clinic gift card they could use in any of the Mayo cafeterias. I walked over to them and told them they could use it anywhere in the Mayo System, trying my darndest to hold back my tears.

“When they left, they came over to our table and gave us a hug and a huge thanks. My hope is that when they are able, they can pay it forward. It doesn’t take much to make someone’s day a little bit brighter.”

Even in middle of their own concerns and expenses, Fran and her husband opened their eyes and their hearts to the needs of another couple. If they had simply paid for the extra food, it would have been helpful and solved the immediate problem, but taking the next step and loving those strangers enough to take a future burden off their plate took great kindness.

I can only believe the extra kindness they extended was good medicine for them all.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND, 58107.

Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s Men’s Head Basketball Coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday.

Friends Don’t Need to Ask for Kindness

The strange yet obvious thing about moving to a new town is that nobody knows you.

When I moved to Fargo 10 years ago, I felt like I had moved to the “Twilight Zone.” Never before in my life had I lived somewhere where I knew no one. My husband left the house and went to work each day, and I sat home with my infant daughter trying to figure out how to create a life that actually included other people. I remember going to the grand opening of the first Starbucks on 13th Avenue in south Fargo. I went to the celebration simply because I wanted to be around people. I didn’t even drink coffee.

I can’t quite tell you where 10 years have gone, but I can tell you that I did eventually make friends and then became so close with those friends that I can’t remember ever not being friends with them.

Thanks to my children, meeting new people in Ohio has been much easier. I have three kids who are involved in all sorts of activities that lead me directly to other parents with similar interests.

One of my closest friends here is named Liz. She has lived in Athens her entire life, so when she invited me out to dinner with her circle of friends, it was like some sort of social science experiment. I got to hear stories of who dated whose husband back in high school and how they snuck into the movie theater in college. These are women who have been there for each other through love, marriage and the baby carriage. It’s truly beautiful.

Their bond is so close and so filled with acts of kindness that I don’t think they even notice it. It’s like breathing to them.

I happened to witness one of the most touching acts of kindness I had seen in a while just because it came up as a side-note in conversation. Liz was telling me that she and a few other women had taken the previous day off work to hang out with their friend Becca, whose dad died in July. That mid-December day would have been his birthday.

I’ve met Becca before. She’s either lighting up the room with her ever-present smile or sending the place into a fit of hysterics with some quick-witted, sarcastic comment. I immediately understood when Liz said Becca wasn’t one to let people know something was bothering her. Becca subtly mentioned to her friends that she didn’t know how she’d handle the day, that it would be hard.

That was it. She simply said it would be hard, and that was enough to round up the troops. Three of her friends took the day off work so Becca wouldn’t have to be alone. I would be willing to bet there were several more women who wanted to be there but couldn’t figure out how to play hooky without getting fired.

The friends went out for breakfast and then planned on spending the day shopping and watching movies, but no one ever hit the “play” button on the first film. They shopped and then spent the rest of the day sharing stories about Becca’s dad and looking at pictures. Becca admitted there was some crying but said laughter and good memories quickly dried the tears. She also mentioned they discovered chocolate-covered potato chips. I was sure to tell her that we know all about those in Fargo.

Sometimes we spend so much time thinking we should be doing more that we don’t realize how much we are already doing. Yes, I absolutely believe that we should pursue kindness and add it to our lives systematically and intentionally, but isn’t it precious when we realize it’s just a part of who we are?

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.

Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is a writer, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Ohio University’s Men’s Head Basketball Coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday.