There is a gas station attached to a coffee shop in north Fargo where I like to write. It’s warm, it smells like java and fresh muffins, and there is just enough background noise to keep me on task.
The other day when I walked in, I noticed a man sitting at a table. He didn’t have anything to eat or drink in front of him. He was just sitting there. His hair was long, and his face was worn. He had seen the harder side of life.
I thought to myself how kind it was for the managers to let him sit there without buying anything. But then I thought about how uncomfortable I would feel if I were the one sitting there, hearing my stomach rumble and knowing someone was doing me a favor by letting me warm up before it was time to go back into the cold.
I walked over and asked the man if I could buy him a coffee. I’ll be honest, it was scary talking to a homeless man. I’m not sure I’d ever done it before, and I wasn’t sure the reaction I would get. But when he looked up at me, in his eyes, I saw my maker. I can’t explain it really; I can just say that when he accepted the coffee and a little breakfast, too, I had to accept a hard truth about myself: I’m sometimes afraid of the people who need me the most.
I was humbled and inspired to learn about a little girl named Maddie, who at 7 years old, is already serving those who often have the least. Her mom, Kandia, shared this story of how Maddie’s Mission came to be:
“This all started for Maddie when we were driving to do errands and she saw a person walking without the appropriate clothing for winter. The wind chill was 20 degrees below zero. The person didn’t have a hat, scarf or gloves and was obviously very cold.
“When we got to the store, Maddie saw a box of handwarmers and insisted that we buy them to give out to homeless people we come across in our daily life.
“From that point, everything just sort of snowballed in that little 7-year-old mind, and she ended up coming up with this idea for what she calls ‘Stay Warm Packs.’ ”
“Maddie fills gallon-size zip-top bags with some of the essentials for survival in winter and gives them to homeless individuals. She spent her entire Christmas break making these, taking time to write a message on each one and drawing a cheery picture on the bag for the person receiving them.
“The packs have winter hats, handmade scarves, a box of matches to start campfires, Chapstick, a new pair of socks, a pack of tissues, sports drink mixes, hot chocolate mix (because her little mind rationalized that you can melt snow over your campfire and make hot chocolate), a package of handwarmers, and most recently she has been adding gloves when she can.
“It started out as a simple project that was going to be a one-time thing. Maddie made up 24 little bags and we went to the homeless health clinic to hand them out. While we were there, Maddie got a supportive donation that allowed her to continue her mission.
“When Maddie asked about spreading the awareness of homelessness, we took to social media and started a Facebook page called ‘Maddie’s Mission.’ She posts her activity on there fairly regularly and has me post some awareness things we come across.
“She beams ear to ear when she sees the comments on Facebook. You can just tell the support helps boost her feeling that what she is doing is indeed good and the right thing to do.
“With the support of people on her Facebook page and in the community, she has continued her project and has made it her mission to help as many homeless individuals as she can to survive and stay warm this winter.
“In total, she has made and distributed almost 100 ‘Stay Warm Packs.’ She has also started collecting hooded sweatshirts and winter coats to take to the Gladys Ray Shelter. She always tells me, I may be little but that doesn’t mean I can’t help.”
Thank you, Maddie, for being big enough to show the people around you what it means to truly love your neighbor.
Join Maddie in helping the homeless at www.facebook.com/maddiesmission2013.
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. You can also get a Daily Dose of Inspiration from Nicole at www.nicolejphillips.com.