If someone tells you to “go fly a kite,” you can pretty much assume he or she is not leading with kindness and a future get-together is not in the works.
Much like the phrases “bug off” or “take a hike,” the origin of “go fly a kite” is a little hazy.
Some people believe it came from the stock market crash of 1929, when little pieces of paper were tossed out the window. Others believe it had something to do with a conversation between Benjamin Franklin and his wife.
Either way, when Harvey Laabs left the chill of North Dakota’s winter to head south earlier this year, kites and kindness became synonymous.
“I was fascinated by the tricks the pilots performed at the South Padre Island Kite Festival this past February. Individuals could make their kites literally dance to the music, while teams played ‘follow the leader’ in a zig-zag course through the sky.
These were not the kites that we flew as children. These kites had multiple control strings. Talented pilots could steer them in any direction they wished.
My curiosity led me over to the team area for the Austin ‘End of the Line’ Kite Team. They were a friendly group of six who had formed a team a couple of decades ago.
Jim, one of the members, asked me if I had some spare time. He led me over to the practice field, bringing one of his kites along. He showed me how to stake out the line and set up the kite in preparation for flight. I watched closely as he pulled and pushed with his hands, directing the kite to fly up, then left, then right, then down and on and on; he made it look easy. After several minutes, he brought the kite down to a soft landing.
Then he did the unthinkable. He handed me the lines to his $300 kite! It didn’t take long to find out that what Jim made look easy, wasn’t easy at all. I managed to get the kite in the air, but keeping it there was another story. Jim coached and encouraged me for 20 minutes as I made many attempts to keep the kite in the air. My most successful flight lasted almost a minute. Most flights ended in a rather dramatic crash into the ground. Miraculously, the kite survived through all of this.
A few days later, I contacted Jim and thanked him for helping me. I told him of my plans to purchase a kite of my own. Jim replied that he was glad to help.
As I reflect on what Jim did, I realize it was much more than teaching me to fly a kite. He gave me his time and showed great kindness in his willingness to go out of his way to help a stranger.”
It sounds like for Harvey and Jim, “go fly a kite” is now a way of saying “Let’s spread some kindness through the air.”
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 Friday. You can visit Nicole at nicolejphillips.com.