Have you ever found yourself in a situation that you know calls for thoughtfulness, but you truly don’t know which act of kindness could even make a difference?
Last Saturday, I pulled the bright orange plastic bag off The Forum to see a headline announcing that a Duluth man had died in a plane crash.
As I was finalizing a grocery list for Easter dinner, another woman somewhere was forced to start making funeral arrangements.
I don’t know the man or the family, so this could have been a headline that caused a moment of ache in my heart before I moved on to the next thing.
But I was reminded of how closely we all are connected a few days later, when a friend and I took our dogs for a long walk in Johnson Park. She told me she was friends with the man’s mother and would be going to the funeral.
My friend was hurting, and I didn’t know what to do.
I find myself in that situation a lot. I have another friend who lives far away from Fargo, but I feel her pain across the miles and struggle with what I can do to help.
This friend has seven gorgeous children, all younger than 13. Her oldest daughter has thyroid cancer, so family vacations have been replaced with several trips a year to the Mayo Clinic.
A few weeks ago, this friend found out her 8-year-old son is going blind. She is frantically searching for a surgeon who can fix his eyes. And now her husband has lost his job.
I just sat there and cried when I found out because I want so badly to help her, but what can I do to offset problems that are so big?
It seems futile, but reading her Caring Bridge site reminded me that sometimes it’s not the size of the gesture, it’s just about letting someone know they are not alone. I want to share with you part of her latest post:
“I was blindsided with a gut punch last week. I was upset and sad and anxious and TIRED. … When I was told about my son, I fell down … I couldn’t stay upright. It’s one of those moments where you only have the energy to breath in and out.
“As a friend was saying how she was praying for us and our family (and as ashamed as I am to admit this), I screamed out ‘I can’t eat prayer! I can’t write P-R-A-Y on a check to Mayo and pay for my daughter’s cancer check up.’ I wasn’t upset with her for praying for my family; she knew what I meant. I was broken down from our circumstances.
“Later, I got a phone call from my daughter’s basketball coach’s wife. She asked me if I could meet her the next day to get my car fixed up. I was so taken aback, all I could do was giggle and sob. I was shocked that someone who knew us would think to help me; with tires. But there’s more, stay with me …
“The next day, I was handed a basket from the families at school. In that basket were love offerings like you wouldn’t believe! My sweet and dear girlfriends had rounded the wagons around my family and those people loved all over us. We’ve been given so many blessings: meals for nearly three weeks, gift cards, movie passes, flowers, phone calls, fixed tires, fixed washer … and while waiting for my washer to be fixed, someone came to me and said she couldn’t give me much but wanted to give me 10 dollars in coins so I could go to the laundry and wash clothes! How very sweet and heart warming. The fact that people are begging to know exactly how to help us, the fact that my hometown is sending me love notes and love offerings … my childhood friends are letting me know they are loving on me in prayer. Oh, I am so humbled and speechless in thanks … and ashamed I threw my little (OK, maybe not so little) tantrum.”
I’m so thankful my friend let me share this with you because it is a testimony to the power of love. We don’t have to do everything to help a person who is hurting, we just have to do something. Together, those little acts of kindness add up to something very big.
Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND, 58107.
Nicole Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo, and currently the executive director of Diva Connection Foundation. She is the mother of three kids and the wife of Bison men’s head basketball coach Saul Phillips. Her column runs every Saturday.