Say ‘Yes’ to Kindness

I remember Saul talking to the children earlier this month. It was about two weeks before my July 14 mastectomy. Our three kids were acting like kids sometimes act in the middle of summer: squirrely. They were fighting with each other and complaining about what was or wasn’t in the refrigerator and pretending they couldn’t hear me when I asked them to separate the laundry and unload the dishwasher.

Saul gathered them up quickly for a team meeting while I was out of the room. Among other things, he reminded the kids that I have breast cancer and it would be awfully kind of them to attempt to make my life less stressful.

I only know of this conversation because the 5-year-old, Ben, ratted him out.

Ben walked up to me later in the afternoon and said, “Mom, you have breast cancer, right? Not cancer, ’cause cancer is the one you die from, right? But you only have breast cancer.”

Somehow in five short years of life, Ben had picked up on something that we had never taught him and that certainly isn’t true. He had created a distinction in his mind.

While I did my best to assure him that everything was going to be OK, I started wondering what other beliefs his young mind was holding. I can only hope that somehow, someway, he is picking up on the importance of things like kindness and integrity and generosity.

These are the things that Fargo resident Erica Forster was taught through example by her mother, too. She sent me this letter:

“My mother, Joanne, was an amazing woman. She would help anyone she could. She passed away at the young age of 47 in 2011 to a brain tumor. When her family and friends got together to celebrate her life, I didn’t expect to hear a story of my mother’s kindness that I hadn’t already heard, for I thought I knew them all.

“My mom’s friend, Candace, came to her funeral service. She walked to the podium to speak and of course began telling everyone of how special Joanne was. Then she went on to tell a story of a time my mother helped her unexpectedly.

“Joanne went to work one day at a little store in Rochester, Minn., called The Bread Baker, where Candace also worked. Candace told my mom how her car had finally broken down and that she was going to look at a new car but didn’t think she was going to be able to afford it. Candace was a single mom with three boys.

“Joanne asked if she could come along when she went to look at the car, and after work, the two of them went to check it out. Candace fell in love with the car, but was still doubtful that she could pay for it. As my mom and Candace started driving away, Candace had no idea what my mom was about to do.

“The next place they stopped was my mom’s bank. My mother took Candace inside and got a loan so she could buy the car she loved! She told Candace to pay her payments when she was able to. Never once did it cross Candace’s mind that day that my mother would help her in such an unimaginable way. Candace ended her story saying she will never forget that day and how she will forever be grateful for my mother and their friendship.

“That’s just who my mom was, she had this saying that she could never say no, not to her kids or to a complete stranger or a best friend. She has passed her kindness on to me, for I can’t say no either.”

Thank you for sharing, Erica. I’m certain my kids can pinpoint quite a few times when I’ve said “no,” but I’m hoping they will remember I always said “yes” when it came to 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.

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 column runs every Saturday. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.

Don’t Let Kindness Skate Past You

Isn’t it interesting how easily your day can be interrupted? You wake up in the morning with big plans, and your day is laid out perfectly. Sometimes the plans are fun and sometimes they are mundane, but inevitably, they are all susceptible to change, whether you like it or not.

For example, you may be having a great time with your family when all of a sudden, the tire pops on your car, and you wind up spending the next two hours waiting for a tow. Everyone is hungry, tired and has to use the bathroom. The fun family outing turns into the day that will never end.

Or you wake up feeling high on life until someone calls with bad news or even uses a tone of voice that sits prickly under your skin and kind of nags at you. Everything you do the rest of the day is colored by that one conversation.

Kindness works the same way, only instead of darkening your mood, it’s an immediate lift to your senses.

I truly believe that you can change your emotions and therefore turn a stormy day sunny just by doing intentional acts of kindness. But if you’re really lucky, like Kelsey from Fargo, the act of kindness will find you.

“I thought I was just taking my son to skate at a local indoor hockey rink on a day off from school, but it turned into such a rewarding experience.

“As we were skating around the rink, I noticed a guy who was trying to get his skates on for quite some time. I started talking with him and found out he was 75 and has Parkinson’s disease, which affected his movement. He hadn’t skated for a few years, and all he wanted to do was try one lap around the ice.

“When he got on the ice he was really struggling. I asked if I could help him. He was shy about it, but agreed. I put my arm around him and we went around about a dozen times nice and slow. My son ended up falling and getting hurt so I told the man to hold onto the boards until I could return. After kissing owies, and making my boy feel better, I turned around to check on the man. He had started to go around the rink by himself, holding onto the boards. Finally he let go and started going on his own.

“The conversation I had in those 30 minutes was probably the best conversation I’ve had in a long time, and the smile that he had after he was able to go around by himself seriously made my day. Still to this day, I’ll never forget that man and the life lesson he taught me that I was able to share with my son.”

Thanks for sharing your story, Kelsey. If you really want to turn around your day, never let a chance to be kind skate past 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 column runs every Saturday. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.

Hunter Kids Get Shout Out for Kindness

Kindness is a big deal in our house. It’s cause for celebration. We don’t have confetti or banners or balloons that drop from the ceiling, but my kids know they’re going to get a big hug and see absolute joy in their momma’s face when I find out they’ve gone out of their way to be kind.

I, myself, haven’t mastered the act of being kind in all situations, but I have gotten pretty good at recognizing kindness when I see it. So has Carol Siegert of Hunter, N.D., who wanted to share this story of chivalry shown by three young people in her town.

“My husband had a life-threatening health issue in August and is now not able to do some of the activities he could do before, like lifting and carrying things.

“We had not been to town for groceries and other supplies for quite some time, so when we finally did go shopping, we had a ‘boatload’ of things to carry into our home. When we pulled up to our house, the neighbor’s son and two friends were shooting baskets next door.

“We made the attempt to start carrying the groceries and supplies inside when out of the blue (and without being asked or told), these three young boys stopped their basketball game and carried all of our bags into our home. Even the mother was impressed, as she had not asked them to do this.

“This is the type of kindness in our youth that we never read about. I wanted these boys to get the recognition they deserved for their kind act, so much to their embarrassment, I announced to the First Lutheran congregation in Hunter, N.D., what these three boys, Hunter, Logan and Michael, had done for us. Let’s hear it for our wonderful youth!

“Besides being honor students at Northern Cass School, Hunter, Logan and Michael seem to be involved in just about every extracurricular activity that Northern Cass offers.

“Beyond that, the same neighbor boy mows our yard each time he mows his own. How very much we appreciate this!

“In my opinion, these three are priceless and a beauty to our community and school.”

Thanks for calling the boys out on their kindness, Carol! They may be a little embarrassed by the attention, but at least they will know that their acts of kindness are noticed and appreciated. And I wouldn’t be surprised if all of the attention prompts them to look for even more ways to be kind in the future!

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 column runs every Saturday. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.

Be Kind and Give Yourself Some Grace

I don’t even care that I have breast cancer right now. I really don’t. Do you know what I’m distraught about? I’m grieved that the parents of two Park Christian students had to bury their sons this week. I’m grieved because it feels like the entire nation is divided over recent decisions by the Supreme Court. I’m grieved because a man in Fargo, 10 blocks from where I used to live, was killed when he answered the door to a guy asking for a glass of water. I’m grieved because nine people were killed in South Carolina during a Bible study. I’m grieved because I got an emergency phone call from the police department stating that a minivan was stolen with a child in the backseat.

Enough. It is enough.

I want to lock my whole family in the house and refuse to let anyone in or out.

I want to stand on top of a mountain with a megaphone and scream for everyone to just BE KIND.

But since neither of those options will produce the results I’m longing for, I will do the next best thing. I will be kind. Me. I will be kind.

I will simply do what I can today to make the world a little bit better for the people around me. I won’t worry about what the fallout will be from smiling at a stranger or giving money to a neighbor in need. I will just do what I can do today.

We live in a free country where we can set off fireworks and buy guns and worship or not worship. That kind of freedom comes with risk. We are like children who are given a taste of adulthood and get to pick their own bedtime or eat as many treats as they’d like. But as we know, that sort of freedom means we have to pay bills and act responsibly, or we will wind up needing a nap and aching from too much sugar.

What I am trying to say is this: None of us has mastered life. We all get it wrong just as much as we get it right. So give the people around you some grace. When they are hurting because they have lost a child or a friend in some senseless accident, sit with them. Don’t worry about taking a side or getting angry on their behalf. Simply sit in the uncomfortable silence until it becomes comfortable. There is no “right thing to say,” so don’t worry about saying anything. Let your kindness speak for you.

When politics come between you and a friend, ask yourself, “Is it more important to be right or to salvage this relationship?”

Again, I implore you, give others some grace. We never know what path they are walking. And while you are at it, give yourself some grace, too.

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 column runs every Saturday. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.

An Act of Kindness Could Last for Generations

We’ve all been there, in line at the grocery store, when either we came up short or the person in front of us did. Maybe that’s why last week’s column about the woman who paid for the elderly man’s groceries resonated with so many of you.

In the past week, I’ve been delighted to hear your stories. Each act of kindness is precious and unique. I’d like to share two of them with you now.

The first is from Alden Sprecher, who lives in Mapleton, N.D., and works at the Village West Hornbacher’s store.

“Last week around noon, a young lady in her 20s stopped at our deli for some lunch. She only spent about $3.50 or so, but when she swiped her EFT credit card, it was rejected. She tried two or three more times with the same result. She comes in quite often, so I knew her, and of course she was embarrassed. She then told me she would have to skip the order and do something else for lunch.

“Almost immediately, the next lady in line said, ‘Let me pay that for her,’ which she did, and the young lady thanked her for her generosity. When the transaction was finished, I thanked the lady myself. She said sometimes people just need to be shown a little kindness.

“Many times I’ve taken some money from my own pocket to help a customer who is short some coins, but sometimes I don’t think fast enough. I could have swiped one of my own credit cards and helped the young lady, but to my shame, I didn’t. I felt embarrassed myself.

“People in the FM area continue to amaze me with their generosity.”

Thanks for sharing your story, Alden, and just think, if you had quickly pulled out your own money, the other lady in line would not have been given such a special opportunity to save the day with kindness! I bet she walked out of the store feeling renewed and energized by her ability to help another woman in need.

Here’s another grocery store story that really touched my heart. It’s from a woman named Jessica.

“My grandpa, John Julius Novotny, passed away two years ago at the age of 92. He served in the Korean War, raised six children in a small home, and worked as a butcher at a neighborhood grocery store called Churchill’s for more than 50 years. In fact, after he ‘retired,’ they called him back to work, less to actually cut meat and more to just talk to the customers. He was a humble man and prayed on his knees every night until he couldn’t get down on his knees anymore.

“I knew he was a great guy, willing to give the shirt off his back to anyone who needed it, but someone told a story at the funeral that really made me stop in my tracks.

“A man in his late 50s walked up to the podium. He said when he was a kid, he was sent to Churchill’s for some ham, but he had already spent the money, so he was stealing the meat. My grandpa caught him in a corner. The guy was sure he was going to call the police. But instead, my grandpa pulled out his wallet, handed him a $5 bill, and said, ‘If you want the ham, you can’t just take it. Now go pay for it. And if you ever need anything again, come to me.’

“As a butcher with six children, my grandfather didn’t have a lot to give, but yet he still gave a lot. This story and my grandpa’s legacy of kindness have inspired me many times to do the kind thing.”

Thanks for sharing your story, Jessica. How long will our acts of kindness make an impact? I guess we never really know. It could be something people talk about for generations to come.

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 column runs every Saturday. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.

Being Kind Doesn’t Have to Make Sense

Just after moving to Ohio, I did something really weird. I was standing in line at the tiny neighborhood grocery store when a man came up behind me with a case of beer. He had to hold it because my groceries were taking up the whole conveyor belt, so I shoved some things forward and said to him, “That looks heavy, here, please set it down.” The man smiled, and with a thick accent said, “Thank you.”

Now, that wasn’t the weird part. The weird part was when I said to the cashier, “Let me buy his beer, too.” As soon as it came out of my mouth, the sane part of my brain started screaming, “What?! You are going to buy alcohol? For a man? You are a married woman! He’s going to think you and your small children are propositioning him!”

But the man immediately saw that I was only trying to be kind, and in broken English, he said excitedly, “I want to buy something for you, too!” He began looking around frantically until his eyes settled on the cases of soda nearby. “This?” he asked. I smiled and said, “Sure, my husband loves Mountain Dew.”

I don’t know what prompted me to connect with that man that day in the grocery store. Maybe something in me knew that he was far from home and could use a friendly smile and a gesture of kindness. I’m glad I did it. It feels good to be kind. Even when it makes no sense at all.

A Fargo man sent me another story of a beautiful act of kindness he witnessed while at work.

“Nicole, I retired about seven years ago and after a few months of ‘doing retirement,’ I discovered that having something to do was very important in one’s older years. So I reverted back to what I was doing while in business school in Sioux City, Iowa, when I was 19, and I took a job at Osgood Hornbacher’s in the front end. When people ask me what I do, I often reply that I hand out suckers and kiss babies. I guess management calls it customer service. I just call it fun.

“Just recently, I was working a checkout line when an elderly gentleman came up to check out his few items of groceries. I think his total was less than $10. After several minutes of digging in his old worn-out black billfold he determined he had only $2. Realizing that he was short a few dollars, he quietly exited the checkout line and slowly walked out of the store.

“The checker began to cancel his order, when all of a sudden a lady in the next checkout line shouted out that she would pay for his groceries. So we restored his order and I quickly pursued the gentleman, who by now had left the store and was walking down the sidewalk. I managed to catch up to him, thanks to his slow gait, and gave him the groceries. He was surprised and smiled and said, ‘Thank you.’

“Upon returning to the store, I encountered the lady who had paid for the groceries, and I thanked her for being so kind to this elderly man. She smiled and said that paying it forward was such a pleasure and she was happy to do it.

“I returned to work with a good feeling about people. The elderly gentleman got his few groceries and benefited from the kindness of someone he did not know. The lady who paid for the groceries benefited from the pleasure of helping others in need. And the checker got to witness the generosity of someone paying it forward. In reality, at least four people benefited from one person’s paying it forward.

“I might finish with the fact that I have seen this happen many times in the store. Yes, the hearts of people living in this area are large and generous indeed.”

I’m glad to hear North Dakota Nice is alive and well in North Dakota and Ohio!

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. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.

Spreading Kindness Through Peace Corps

Mark this down: At age 11, my daughter, Jordan, has decided to become a missionary. Unfortunately for Jordan, her parents have not, so she will have to hit the pause button on that dream for a few more years.

Jordan’s passion and compassion was recently ignited when she attended a presentation by a woman who spends time each summer volunteering in El Salvador. This woman painted a vivid picture of the struggles people in other countries face. All of a sudden, my child was able to view the act of turning on a faucet as a luxury.

Now she is trying to make sense out of why some people are born into education, health care and surplus and others are not. I’m still trying to figure that one out, too.

I got an email from another mother who has a daughter with a heart for helping. Deb Mohagen, of West Fargo, has felt both the pride and worry that come from having a child who lives a life of courageous kindness. Deb’s daughter, Amber, has spent the last two years helping the hurting in Albania.

“About three years ago, my daughter shared her dream of wanting to join the Peace Corps. Immediately, I thought of all the third-world countries she could be sent to, her safety, being so far from home and the lengthy time commitment. My daughter, being very determined and dedicated to fulfilling her mission, left for Albania 27 months ago. I am so proud. I worried I had not passed on the importance of serving others, of sharing kindness and love, of dedicating each day to this purpose. But I was wrong. Amber was a girl with a degree from North Dakota State University who decided she wanted to do more with her life before graduate school or starting her profession. This same girl is now returning as a mature young woman who makes kindness her first priority.

“If you ever need to experience random acts of kindness, just read through the blogs of these special Peace Corps volunteers. They live in third world countries and do not have many of the things we take for granted every day, simple things such as heat in their homes, running water and electricity. They give of themselves for two years to their assigned communities. They work with that community to address challenges in agriculture, community economic development, education, environment, health and youth development. They do all of this in return for housing and a small living stipend to cover food and incidentals. Many of them return to America with no job, no apartment and hefty college loans, yet they return with an experience that is beyond measure.

“Here is some insight from Amber’s blog (https://amberinalbania.wordpress.com) after being in Albania for one year. ‘Whenever work, life and Albanian encounters get extremely frustrating, I start counting. Calculating in my head, the exact amount of days until I return to the infamous land of America. Where things are safe, expected and from what I remember: easy. As most volunteers know, you settle into this spot between uncomfortable and a hard place. I have forgotten what it is like to walk into a store and know exactly what I am getting. Or ordering something on an actual menu and having no surprises. Or having safety regulations and food sanitation laws. Or speaking English. (Oh, how I miss that!) But then I remember why I came here. This is the kind of adventure I was looking for. And of course, that along with the bad days, there are always good days. That I am not here to change the world. I am just here to try and make a positive impact on one person’s life.’ ”

Deb recently traveled to Albania to see where her daughter has lived during the past two years and got a glimpse of the lives she’s touched. Then the proudest mama in the world got to bring her baby home.

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.

Kind Acts Fuel Healing Amid Breast Cancer Diagnosis

“You’ve done a lot of acts of kindness today, Mom.” I seriously cannot get anything past my 11-year old-daughter.

I had just hopped back in the car with a Diet Mountain Dew that I picked up at the gas station for a neighbor.

“What do you mean, Jo?” I honestly couldn’t think of any act of kindness I had done besides the current one.

“Well, you just bought that soda for Cathy and earlier we dropped off shoes for Ashlyn and before that you took me to JoAnn’s to pick out fabric for Michelyn.”

Oh. Right.

My daughter had just cracked my code: On days when my spirits are low and my anxiety over the future is high, I start overdosing on acts of kindness. It’s like medicine to me. The more things I can do to brighten someone else’s day, the more energy and positivity I pump into my own body.

I just found out I have breast cancer. My doctor says we caught it early and with a little (or big) surgery, we will be able to fix this thing.

Here’s the backstory: I turned 40 on May 7 and, like I do every year on my birthday, I went in for my annual check-up. The doctor felt a lump that I had never noticed. She sent me in for an ultrasound, then mammogram, then MRI and then a biopsy. Before I even got the diagnosis, I knew it was breast cancer. I could feel God whispering to me that everything was going to be OK and that he was going to use this experience to help other women.

If you don’t have this type of relationship with God, I understand it may sound strange to hear that I was hearing from the Great Almighty, but I’m telling you, that’s just how it worked for me.

Most days, I am filled with an incredible peace and joy (yes JOY!) as I am being loved up by my friends and soaking in each suddenly precious moment with my family. However, every once in a while, fear creeps in. It fills me with lies and starts my heart racing. And that’s when I turn once again to kindness. Intentional, systematic, courageous kindness. I go out and look for ways to brighten other people’s days.

It’s like my own private form of chemo—only there are really no negative side effects. Sure, it may cost you a few bucks. And it may take up a few minutes of your perfectly timed-out day. And you may get a strange look from the recipient of your kindness. But the return on your investment is priceless.

If you don’t believe me, try it. The next time life overwhelms you, send out an encouraging email to an unsuspecting soul, or buy the silly magnet that reminds you of a friend and deliver it to her or him, or pick up a soda for the lady who lives next door. Be random. Go off script. Do something no one would expect you to do. Take a risk. Be courageous in your kindness.

It’s the most healing medicine you could ever take, for whatever ails you.

If you’d like to follow my day-to-day journey with cancer, please visit www.courageouslykind.com.

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 to the Rosebud Reservation

“No more homework! No more books! No more teachers’ dirty looks!” With apologies to all of my teacher friends out there, does anyone else remember singing this song on the last day of school?

I have very vivid memories of a warm, sunny day at Westside Elementary in Reedsburg, Wis. I don’t remember which grade I was in, but I do remember taking off at a dead sprint down the sidewalk when the last bell rang for summer. My friends and I ran and laughed and chanted those words at the top of our lungs. Ahhh … summer. I’m sure my parents were as thrilled as I was. Or maybe not.

I’m pretty certain the recent graduates of Park Christian High School didn’t run down the streets of Moorhead singing any songs, but I bet there is one experience that they, too, will remember well into adulthood.

Park Christian teacher Matt Larson took a group of students on a senior mission trip this spring to work on a reservation in Rosebud, S.D. His thoughts on kindness were beautiful, as were the thoughts of his students.

“I think the first thing that we learned on this trip is that life is not about us. This trip took our eyes off ourselves and helped us focus on people around us,” Larson wrote.

“The woman who manages the Habitat for Humanity dorms we stayed in has been a missionary in both Sudan and Haiti and now in Rosebud. She told us that the toughest place of all three is the Rosebud reservation. They have 87 percent unemployment and are the third-poorest county in the United States (after Pine Ridge and Cheyenne River, also both in South Dakota). Many of these kids come from terrible home situations, and look forward to school and the community club where they will be valued, loved, fed and cared for.

“We teamed up with the local Boys & Girls Club where our seniors played for three days with the kids and loved every minute of it. There was an immediate bond as they helped with homework, played games, spent time outside, and taught the kids finger weaving.

“We also had students painting the baseball dugouts, creating a fenced-in garden, working on broken vehicles and still others who cooked, cleaned, and served quietly in the background.

“I hope to do this every year with the senior class. I also hope that our relationship with these kids at the Boys & Girls Club of Rosebud is not just a once a year thing. We intend to write letters, send needed things, and pray for them regularly.”

Here’s what the students had to say:

Xander Grohman: “Jayden looked at me and said, ‘You’re my hero.’ All I thought was he was the real hero.”

Jordyn Viland: “Many of these kids are abused in some way, and yet they have this unspeakable joy. It amazes me! I’ve realized now how much I’ve taken for granted in life.”

Olivia Thimjon: “Seeing the kids on Rosebud Indian Reservation completely changed my life … They taught me to be joyful in every situation. They completely stole my heart.”

Nick Nelson: “A few of us spent time building a garden starting with just a 20-by-30-foot lot on virgin soil. When we were finished we had a garden with a fence around it and completely turned up soil. We painted the fence and built the whole thing with hand tools. It was a lot of fun.”

Lexi Madlom: “Going to Rosebud was such a great experience … Seeing how the kids live in abusive, broken homes, and yet they are still happy, makes me look at my life and see how I can learn to make my mindset more like their mindset.”

Christian Borgen: “This trip was very eye opening for me. Seeing how joyful these children were in the face of such adversity made me aware of how much I have to be thankful for. I’m so grateful I’ve had this opportunity to make a difference in these kids’ lives, even for a few days.”

Bryce Payne: “Chilling with the kids was a memorable experience. They are filled up with so much joy. By far, the best trip with my class yet.”

I think the Park Christian students did a remarkable job of illustrating the truth that when you seek to change someone else’s life with kindness, the life you change is your own.

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.

Unseen Sacrifices Count as Kindness

I got invited to a new friend’s house for dinner the other day. She has boys the same age as my 5-year-old son, Ben. Twin boys. Yikes.

Anyway, the boys are truly delightful and have all become fast friends in preschool.

This fall, Ben and the twins will part ways as they head to different schools for kindergarten, so we got our two families together as a sort of end-of-the-year celebration.

During this cookout, I got to peek into the life of a woman who is a full-time nursing student, a mother of three children (she also has a first-grade daughter) and the wife of a lieutenant colonel in the Army.

We were standing in the kitchen visiting when she reached into the freezer. All of sudden, frozen, heavy things started cascading loudly onto the floor. We were all forearms and elbows and giggles trying to force the freezer goods back into their rightful places.

“What was that?” I exclaimed, in a not-so-tactful manner.

She told me her husband would be leaving soon for a month and she would be handling things on her own, so they were making meals now and stockpiling them in the freezer for later.

We decided the kitchen wasn’t safe, so she gave me a tour of the rest of the house. In the hallway hangs a really cool piece of artwork that says, “Home is where the Army sends us.”

It turns out my new friend moves about every two years. She’s lived in Kentucky, Virginia, Hawaii and now Ohio. From a practical mom point of view, that sounds like an impossible feat. Packing up three kids and an entire household of clothes, toys, furniture, pots, pans, plates and knickknacks and moving them into a new home every two years? And then you have to unpack everything? No, thank you.

Yet, to this woman, it’s all part of the fun adventure that is known as Army life.

Hats off to the men and women who enlist in our Armed Forces and to the support staff they call family.

Sacrifices are being made for us every day that we don’t even know about. That’s why it’s so special when we find out there are people out there doing what they can to say thank you on behalf of all of us, like the staff at a repair shop in Minnesota who were so kind to a World War II veteran who walked through the door, as Cleo Ritter shared with me in this letter:

“Random Acts of Kindness are such a fun thing to do. This time the act was directed toward my husband,” Cleo wrote.

“My husband had a chip in the windshield of his new truck and took it to Tim Parker Family Glass in Park Rapids, Minn., to be repaired. While he was waiting for the work to be completed, he was visiting with the office personnel. He is a veteran of World War II and he must have been telling them about that. He was wearing a cap that he had received when he was on the Honor Flight from Duluth to Washington, D.C., which was several years ago.

“After the windshield repair was finished, the receptionist said she would get him a receipt and took the bill in the back room. When she came back out the statement was marked ‘no charge.’ My husband asked what was going on and why there wasn’t a charge. She said they like to honor WWII veterans, so this time the service was on the house. My husband was so impressed and felt so honored. He said, ‘I have been honored twice for being a veteran — the Honor Flight and now this gift.’ ”

There are so many things we can’t do for others, but there are also so many things we can do. Like letting a man relive his Honor Flight by sharing his stories. Or perhaps paying for his windshield.

To all of our veterans on this Memorial Day weekend, thank you for your kindness to our country and to those who love it.

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.