A strange thing is happening. The kids are fed, the dishes are done (sort of) and the couch begins calling my name. Actually, it’s not the couch that’s drawing me in, it’s the television.
I’ve always admired the beauty of being able to watch what you want when you want it, but at the risk of sounding like an 80-year-old woman, I don’t think most of what’s on TV these days is worth watching. And certainly not with my kids in the room.
However, I stumbled upon a new reality series the other day that makes binge watching seem almost as important as exercising. It’s called The Kindness Diaries, and it’s based on a book by the same name.
Here’s the gist: a former stockbroker named Leon quits his day job in search of a meaningful life. He sets out across the globe on a canary-colored vintage motorcycle relying totally on the kindness of strangers for shelter, food and gas.
The episode I watched last night featured a homeless man named Tony sharing his underwear with Leon. Tony owns so few material things, yet he was willing to share them with a total stranger. Leon spent the night on Pittsburgh’s cold concrete with Tony. The next morning, Leon had a surprise. I won’t give it away just in case you want to watch it for yourself.
The beauty of the show is that it reminds me there are ways to love our neighbors that we may have never considered. And the exchange that happens in the space where kindness lives leaves both people feeling like they were the recipient of a huge blessing.
A woman in northern Minnesota sent me a letter about some very interesting work she’s done over the years in the name of kindness. Some of it is off the beaten path, but some of it isn’t. Thanks to her perspective, she’s come out of each situation feeling like she was the one being given the greater gift.
“For years I provided emotional and practical support to persons living with AIDS in San Francisco. I know that John appreciated his laundry being done every week, and I will carry with me forever the remembrance of the smile on his face as I put his clean clothes back on his closet shelves. It was so worth those three flights of stairs up and down to the laundry room every Saturday morning.
I currently volunteer at the local library, shelving books in the kids’ section. The connections and conversations I’ve had with library staff mean so much more to me than knowing books got put in their proper places.
All is neat and tidy in the kids’ section of the library when I finish each Thursday, and I leave feeling validated, appreciated and part of something bigger than myself.
I also volunteer at the local hospital, rocking babies born with drugs in their tiny systems. I whisper in the ears of those wee babes in the nursery, telling them they can grow up to be warriors, strong and brave, and I hope they will remember that they were deeply loved in that rocking chair. I know the nurses appreciate my time and energy, and I know the stimulation is helpful for the babies in withdrawal.
But I know for sure that I am gaining tenfold of what I am giving. Rocking is peaceful, practically meditative, and knowing I am part of the solution is such a tremendous feeling.
My remembrances of doing laundry, holding hands and making cookies with a 4-year-old whose mama didn’t have the energy to stand at the kitchen counter, have provided me with a lifetime of golden moments.”
Are you looking for more meaning in your life? Give kindness (and maybe Netflix) a try.
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 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.