I get a lot of credit that I simply don’t deserve. People approach me at church or the grocery store and say they love reading my column.
But the truth is, it’s not my column. It’s the community’s column. If people didn’t share their stories of kindness with me, I would have nothing to write.
Sure, I could get by for a few weeks by talking about someone who was especially nice to me at the gas station or something sweet my kids did for another little girl or boy, but very quickly I would run out of stories to tell.
The very thing that breathes life into these words is the very thing I get all the credit for: being kind.
I’m a little ashamed to admit that I am still developing the fruit of kindness in my life.
There are days when I am standing at the kitchen sink feeling sorry for myself for no good reason. When I start examining that self-pity, I quickly realize that I have spent too much time with an inward focus and not enough time looking at the needs of others.
There are days when I fool myself into believing I’ve got this kindness thing mastered, only to turn around and do something really ugly. I blame my husband for my own lack of planning or I lose my patience with my kids. My ugliness always seems to strike hardest on those I love the most.
In those times, kindness becomes an effort, but it also becomes the key to loving and forgiving myself and breaking free from self-pity. When I turn my gaze outward, I find opportunities to be kind. That kindness leads to gratefulness. That gratefulness extinguishes my selfishness.
On the hardest days, I have to look at kindness almost like homework. I have to intentionally decide to get back on track.
I am incredibly proud that someone from our little corner of the world is helping the entire nation to do just that. This person, who wishes to remain anonymous, has started a website devoted to deliberate acts of kindness, simply because he or she wants to encourage people to be kind on purpose.
You can buy a wristband or a T-shirt, but the crux of 40AOK.com lies in the cards. There are 40 squares on each card. Each time you complete an act of kindness, you get to mark it off in a square. The creator of the site says, if you need motivation, you can reward yourself after completing each set of 10 squares, but I think you’ll find the reward comes every time you make the effort to be kind.
I hope you’re not like me. I hope kindness is such a part of your personality that it shines consistently and constantly. But if you sometimes find yourself in need of a little reminder, be kind to yourself. Tell those you have hurt that you are sorry and then remember that perfection isn’t the goal. Kindness is.
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 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 an author, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Bison Men’s Head Basketball Coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday.