Kindness Says ‘Happy Birthday’ Best

I’m turning the big 4-0 this week. When I was a kid, 40 sounded so old, but now that I’m here, I have to say I would never want to go back to being 20 or 30. My skin may be a little wrinkly, but it’s so much more comfortable at this age.

Heading into this monumental birthday, I gave myself three goals: 1) to lose the 8 pounds I had gained since moving to Ohio a year ago, 2) to finish reading the Bible cover to cover (I’ve been working on it for four years now), and 3) to finish writing a book that’s been on my heart for the past 10 years.

Done, done and DONE! I don’t know what sort of life goals I’ll come up with for my 50th birthday, but I’m sure there will be something since we are all a work in progress.

The funny thing about birthdays is that they are really special, but usually only to the person who is actually celebrating. I humbly admit that my birthday is way more important to me than it is to you or anyone else. So, to celebrate my special day, I’ll spend the evening sitting in a mandatory parent meeting for my daughter’s upcoming class trip to Gettysburg. Not exactly what I’d like to do on my birthday, but maybe I’ll bring along cupcakes and force everyone to pretend they care that I’m nearly over the hill.

It sure is nice when people go out of their way to make you feel special, on your birthday or any other day. I got a letter from Sharon in south Moorhead who wrote to me about an act of kindness that made her feel “warm and special.” We all deserve to feel like that at least once a year.

“It was in December of 2013, on my birthday, at Hornbacher’s in Moorhead. I had finished buying groceries and found that my car wouldn’t start. I called a tow company, and expecting to have to wait awhile, I was taken by surprise when two young gentlemen arrived in such a timely manner. I told them I was so surprised they arrived so quickly. Having recently started up this business, they remarked that it is their goal to not have anyone wait more than 5 to 10 minutes.

“As we were driving to south Fargo to the automotive shop, they needed my license to fill out the paperwork, and they noticed it was my birthday. They wished me a happy birthday and we had such a nice conversation during the short ride. After dropping off my car, they asked me how I was going to get home, and I told them I would wait until my husband got off work in two hours and have him pick me up. They offered to take me home, though I knew they were not required to do so. I tried reassuring them that I didn’t mind waiting at the shop, but they insisted they would help. I took my groceries along and off we went. Again, I was amazed at their willingness to help me.

“Once we got to my house, they carried my groceries and the other packages I had purchased that day, and didn’t leave until I was inside with all of my things. I offered to pay them and they absolutely refused! They were all smiles and again wished me a happy birthday and off they went.

“I had plans that evening to have dinner out, and because of these men going beyond the act of duty, I had time to get ready and enjoy the evening. I will be forever grateful for such acts of kindness.”

Those men at the tow shop didn’t send flowers, they didn’t run out and buy a last-minute gift, they didn’t even zip off a quick “Happy Birthday” Facebook message. They simply made this woman feel special on her special day by showing her a little kindness that went a long way in saying, “This day is important to you and therefore it’s important to us.” Isn’t that just what kindness is all about?

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. 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 columns run every Saturday.

Kindness Reveals True Beauty

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Well, I only have about 500 words to work with, so let’s hope that’s enough to draw a picture.

I saw a video online that I can’t get out of my head. It was produced by the Dove company as part of the “Choose Beautiful” campaign. In the video, there are two doors side by side. Above one door is the word “Beautiful.” Above the other door is the word “Average.” Both doors led to the same place, but for some reason women had trouble walking through the door labeled Beautiful.

This little experiment was done in San Francisco, Shanghai, Dehli, London and Sao Paulo.

It isn’t just American women who struggle with self-concept. Women from these five major global cities stood outside the doors contemplating which word fit them best. In most cases, they ended up walking through the door that signified they thought of themselves as average.

Halfway through the video, something really piqued my interest. Women with their daughters or friends literally stopped, changed courses, and urged the person next to them to walk through the Beautiful door. They chose to put their own self-conscious feelings aside to instead remind their companion that they are indeed beautiful. In that one moment, the women chose kindness.

One mother interviewed said she wished all young girls would see themselves in a more positive and powerful light. That’s why she wouldn’t let her daughter walk through the Average door.

Another woman who was pushing a friend in a wheelchair stopped and veered over to the Beautiful door when she realized she was about to walk through Average. She wanted her friend to know she thought she was beautiful.

I have a friend who is struggling with some major stress right now. She says at the end of the day, all she wants to do is drown her exhaustion in potato chips. She is feeling fat and ugly. Neither of those words fit her in the least.

Not sure how to lift her spirits, I simply sent her a text that said, “You are beautiful. I just thought you should know that, since clearly the enemy has been filling your head with lies.”

This is not even about physical beauty. It’s about seeing yourself as you truly are: wonderfully made, a miraculous creation both inside and out.

But often we can’t see that for ourselves. That’s where kindness comes in. It takes nothing, we sacrifice nothing, we lose nothing, by telling someone we think they are worth more than whatever this world is offering them.

Some people live in homes where they are constantly surrounded by love and uplifted with positivity, but some people don’t. You may be the only person who ever thought to tell a friend or stranger that they are special.

That’s powerful. That’s kind. That’s beautiful.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.

If you would like to see the Choose Beautiful video, go to dove.us/choosebeautiful. And remember, you are beautiful.

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 columns run every Saturday.

Running With Purpose… and Kindness

A few Saturdays ago, I wrote about my attempt to take my own life during my teenage years and the kindness found at that time in an Easter basket.

It always hurts to go back and relive a period of darkness, but I do it because always, without fail, reopening my wounds allows other people to share their own hurts and regrets and worries. And together we continue to heal.

Through writing that particular column, I was introduced to a woman named Tenielle Klubben.

Tenielle is a runner. I would even say she is a serious runner. She is competing in the Boston Marathon on Monday, a feat she qualified for after finishing fifth in the women’s division at last year’s Fargo Marathon.

For five years, Tenielle has had an ache in her heart caused by suicide. A close family friend, Cassidy Joy Andel, took her life in 2010 at the age of 16. Tenielle was in college at North Dakota State University when she got the call.

The crack in Tenielle’s heart has never quite managed to heal but, as we all know, life goes on. Tenielle continued to put one foot in front of the other, carrying along the idea that one day she would do something in Cassidy’s honor that would perhaps save another life.

That “one day” came a few months ago while Tenielle was sitting in her office at VISIONBank. Her boss, VISIONBank President Dan Carey, stopped to ask how the running was going. Then Carey asked a question that put Tenielle’s training on a whole new course. He said, “If you could run for a cause, what would it be?”

Tenielle didn’t miss a beat: suicide prevention and awareness. Just like that, the idea was off and running.

Tenielle teamed up with Impact Foundation to create Running with Purpose. She launched a website and Facebook page, and is raising funds for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) and other local charities. As a fun twist on the dollar amount, Tenielle is asking for “themed” donations based on the number of miles in a marathon, like $2.62, $26.20 and $262.00, although people are welcome to give any amount.

Here’s the interesting thing about Tenielle and suicide prevention donations and Facebook pages. She’d rather not do any of it. It’s very much out of her comfort zone to be in the spotlight. In fact, she says she worries sometimes that when the attention is on her, it is somehow taking away from other people who were closer to Cassidy. It’s almost as if she feels guilty about speaking up. But then she starts running, putting one foot in front of the other, and she can feel Cassidy and God propelling her on.

I asked Tenielle if she ever gets emotional when she runs. The phone went silent. All I could hear were tiny little sniffles, and I knew I had hit a soft spot.

Suicide tells us we didn’t try hard enough, we didn’t care deeply enough, we were too focused on ourselves. But those are all lies.

So Tenielle chooses to focus on the truth, that good can still come out of bad, that lives can be saved, and that the Boston Marathon is just the beginning. Tenielle Klubben will continue Running with Purpose.

For more information

• Visit runningwithpurposefargo.org or search Facebook for Running with Purpose Fargo.

• If you or a loved one struggles with depression or thoughts of suicide, call the FirstLink Suicide Hotline at (800) 273-8255.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. 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 columns run every Saturday.

Friends & Strangers Come Through With Moving Kindness

Being a coach’s wife has its perks. I got to take my kids to the NCAA Men’s Final Four basketball tournament this past weekend in Indianapolis.

For most people, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. For the Phillips kids, it’s part of Daddy’s job. Sometimes I wonder if my children will ever realize they live a life many middle-aged men would trade their left foot for.

Anyway, while I should have been focused on the teams and the hype and the fanfare, I was stuck in a land called Nostalgia.

I kept thinking about how one year ago, at this same tournament, my husband accepted a job that would start the next chapter in our lives.

I was reminiscing about the whole whirlwind of our move to Ohio when a family friend said, “You should really put together a to-do list for other moms who need to move.”

What a great idea! I immediately put everything aside and made my list. Here it is: Surround yourself with good friends.

That’s it. Just make sure you have a circle of personal cheerleaders so when the going gets tough (or your husband decides to take a new job), you have people to lead you through the chaos.

I had friends in Fargo pack my suitcase, take over taxi duties for my children when I was too exhausted to wiggle, and even coordinate the sale of my house. They showered me with kindness during my last six weeks in North Dakota.

When I got to Ohio, God’s greatest gift to me wasn’t the nice house or the good schools or the warmer weather; it was the people. After only a year, I am humbled to say I have a group of friends who love and protect me like a mama bear protects her cubs.

But before those friendships were formed, I relied on little acts of kindness from strangers to help me get through each day.

An online post from a woman who recently moved to Fargo reminded me of how fortunate I am to now be surrounded by such close friends.

This woman didn’t have a support system in place when she made the move to the F-M area, but she soon felt the kindness of the community.

She posted this thank you note on the website reddit.

“I just want to say thank you so much to the angel at the gas station who helped me. I don’t know if you’ll see this, but thank you … Thank you so much for giving me $20. When I asked you for some gas, I was flat broke and my tank was empty. It means the world to me. I’m a single mother of two sons and these little things help. We moved here from out of state. I had just gotten a job, but our fridge was empty, our gas tank was empty and I’m not going to see a paycheck for another two weeks. What you did for me was truly a blessing.”

The responses that came after that post were extraordinary. People from the Fargo area offered to have pizza delivered to her door, sent her the address and hours of the emergency food pantry, emailed her Walmart gift cards, and offered to donate clothes to her boys.

The outpouring of kindness included this message, “I’ll meet you at a gas station and fill up your gas tank the rest of the way. I’ll come wherever it’s most convenient for you. If I don’t get back to you right away, I’m sorry. I work the graveyard shift so I might be asleep, but I will get back to you.”

And this one, “Moving is stressful. Let me know of a couple of restaurants in town where you and your boys would enjoy eating. I’ve got you covered for dinner and a movie! I’ll send some e-gift cards if that’s cool with you. Welcome to Fargo!”

Can you even believe there are people in this world who would go so far out of their way to help a stranger? I can only imagine that at some point, someone, somewhere, helped them out in their time of need, and now they are giving back, proving again that kindness is contagious.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. 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 columns run every Saturday.

Girl Finds Kindness in an Easter Basket

The Easter Bunny stopped showing up at my house around the time my parents got divorced. Come to think about it, Santa stopped showing up around then, too. I suppose it’s no great tragedy. I was in third grade or fourth grade, and I was the youngest child in our family. At some point, it was just time for everyone to move on.

When I was about 13, my dad and I moved to a new town. By the middle of eighth grade, I had a made a few friends, but, in all honesty, I was still struggling to find my way.

I was a teenage girl living with a single father. My life was full of angst, both real and imagined. Tragically, that was the year I attempted to commit suicide. Since I’m sitting here today writing this column, I can say with great certainty and gratitude that God had other plans for me.

One of my most distinct memories from that year happened just before Easter. I was sitting at the school lunch table with my friend Colleen. I think we were talking about something incredibly important, like our favorite types of candy.

Colleen started asking about my family’s Easter traditions and what I thought I’d get in my basket. When I told her it had been several years since the Easter Bunny had paid me a visit, Colleen’s jaw dropped. “You don’t get an Easter basket?!” Um, no. “Seriously? How can you not get an Easter basket on Easter?”

I went on to explain the difference between her family and mine. While it’s true that she lived with two parents, I think the biggest difference was that she was also the oldest child in her family. She had younger siblings who were still in elementary and preschool. Of course the Easter Bunny would still show up at her house.

Even after my lengthy monologue, Colleen still couldn’t envision a time in her life when there would be an Easter morning without an Easter basket.

Lunch was over and we left the cafeteria and the conversation. I didn’t think anything more of it, until a few days later, when I got called down to the principal’s office.

Sitting on the secretary’s desk was the biggest Easter basket I had ever seen.

It was huge and colorful and filled with deliciousness, and it was for me.

I stood there in shock. Who would do this? I asked the secretary who had delivered it, but she would only say that it was from the Easter Bunny himself.

I can’t tell you how loved and cared for and even protected I felt at that moment. It stands out in my memory as one of the greatest random acts of kindness I have ever witnessed. And it was all for me.

Colleen refused to admit that she had anything to do with the basket.

Looking back, as a mom myself, I can almost see how that story would have unfolded: Colleen coming home from school and sharing our conversation with her mother, the two of them hatching a plan to create this surprise, and then running to the store to buy an extra basket and loads of my favorite candies, finally pulling it all together by delivering the gigantic gift to the school office and begging the secretary not to tell.

One of my sweetest memories happened because another girl listened. Then her mother listened. Then they both cared. That’s how kindness unfolds. That’s how people are lifted up. And that’s how we change the world.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. 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 columns run every Saturday.

The Kindness of Mrs. Johnson Lives On

Every once in a while, a person comes into your life just for a season. We’d like it to be longer, but the gift we were given has an expiration date, and for one reason or another, the time comes when the season has ended and the person is gone.

Shortly after I started writing this column back in 2011, I got a letter from a 90-year-old woman. The previous week, I had written about how hard I was finding it to raise three small children and maintain a kind demeanor, especially in my home.

This woman, with great wisdom, gently reminded me to let the sticky fingerprints and the dirty floor go. She told me to relax. She told me I was a good mom. She didn’t even know me, and yet with that one letter, she breathed life into my weary soul.

The next time I got a letter from Mrs. Johnson, she included a $50 check. She told me she greatly valued my words about kindness and wanted to show me in a tangible way.

The third letter I got from Mrs. Johnson included a request: may she write letters to my children?

And that’s when the season of kindness truly blossomed.

I have two large manila envelopes filled with nearly 100 letters sent back and forth between Mrs. Johnson and my now 11-year-old daughter, Jordan.

Jordan would tell Mrs. Johnson things like how spooky she thought our basement was, and Mrs. Johnson would tell Jordan about how she used to have to churn butter in a cellar with a dirt floor and that she would take her dog along for protection from the shadows.

Jordan told Mrs. Johnson about the lunches at Longfellow Elementary, and Mrs. Johnson would write back and tell Jordan about her one-room schoolhouse in rural North Dakota, and how each morning she would put a potato by the fire and by noon it would be baked and ready for lunch.

We visited Mrs. Johnson at her north Fargo home several times. Jordan would sit right next to her on the couch. I have no idea what they talked about, because they kicked me out so they could have some “girl time.”

Before we left, Jordan would always run over and give Mrs. Johnson just “one more hug” about three more times.

We all cried when we visited Mrs. Johnson for the last time before moving to Ohio. We knew we’d keep on writing, but we also knew we’d never see each other again face to face.

Several months after our move, the letters stopped. By this time, Mrs. Johnson was 94. I imagined she was in heaven, and I looked in the obituaries for confirmation, but I could never find her name.

Finally, just last month, I found out that indeed our season with Mrs. Johnson had ended.

I got an email from her daughter explaining the decline in her mother’s health and her eventual passing. I was so grateful to have closure. Mrs. Johnson’s daughter sent me a DVD of the funeral service, and it was through the words of people who had known her much longer than I that I got to hear things about Mrs. Johnson that surprised me and yet, didn’t. The depth and width of her kindness extended far beyond my comprehension.

Mrs. Johnson’s letters serve as an instructional manual on how to love others in an unlovable world. Her check for $50 hangs in a frame on my office wall, still uncashed, as a reminder that you can’t put a price on kindness, and that someone I didn’t even know believed in me and my mission.

It’s sad to lose a friend, whether through death or other circumstances, but it’s better to have had the gift, even for a short time, than to never have had the gift at all.

I look forward to seeing you again, Mrs. Johnson, in a place where we can continue to let our friendship blossom in a season that will never end.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. 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 columns run every Saturday. 

Kindness Abounds Through Cancer Journey

I am so sick of cancer. I am sure for many of you, that is the understatement of the century, but it pretty well describes how I’m feeling right now.

I just found out that cancer is messing with yet another one of God’s beautiful creations. This time, it’s my friend’s mom. She had a double mastectomy last week and is preparing for the chemo journey ahead of her. My friend has been holding her mother’s hand throughout the whole scary process: the biopsies, the diagnosis and the surgery. She will continue to hold her mother’s hand as long as she needs to. I just wish she didn’t need to.

Dale Thornton, from Moorhead, is dealing with his own journey, but as you’ll see from his letter, he’s not letting cancer stop him from encouraging the people around him.

“A number of years ago when I was working with Native students at the Bug-O-Nay-Ge-Shig School in northern Minnesota, I devised a pin to encourage the students to stay in school. The pin had a red line drawn through the words ‘give-up-ed-ness’ indicating that regardless of what happens, they should keep trying. Also, at the bottom of the pin were the words ‘Don’t Give Up’.

Fast-forward to my cancer diagnosis. I decided to take my own advice and wear the pin when being treated at the Roger Maris Cancer Center. When asked about the pin, I gave away as many as my allowance permitted.

A few months ago, my wife and I were talking to friends who were also dealing with cancer, and the topic of the pin came up. After discussion, the husband reached into his wallet and handed me a hundred-dollar bill and instructed me to buy more pins.

A few weeks later, I decided to post a photo of the pin on Facebook with an encouraging word. A friend of mine asked if I accepted donations, and I responded certainly. To date, I have received $500 to make pins available to many more cancer patients.

Should I ever have doubts about the kindness of people, all I need to do is remember this series of events.”

It is so hard to know how to support someone going through the war against cancer. What we really want to do is make it all stop. Make the cancer go away. Provide total healing. When we can’t do that, we feel helpless and oftentimes end up in a state of paralysis, doing nothing.

Dale captured the essence of kindness in those pins. By giving them away, one by one, he was able to brighten someone else’s day, and by accepting those donations, he was allowing others the opportunity to support him.

1888624_10202839422607189_1230586143432668591_nDale says he has given away more than 1,000 pins. That’s a lot of pins, translating into a lot of encouragement. Amazing things happen when we lead with kindness and Don’t Give Up.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. 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 columns run every Saturday.

Kindness Comes in Handy During Car Troubles

I hit a car the other day. I was attempting to parallel park, and somehow the gray of my minivan ended up on the side bumper of the other person’s tan car. I was devastated, and mortified since it happened right in front of the window of a busy coffee shop.

I managed not to cry, which is usually my first reaction, so I was devastated, mortified and yet, a little bit proud of myself.

I left an apology note on the car with my contact information and headed into the coffee shop. Thankfully, no one had the guts to comment on my parking job.

Two hours later, I returned to my minivan, only to see that the assaulted car was still sitting there. There was another piece of paper attached to the man’s windshield – a parking ticket.

I couldn’t stand the thought of the owner coming out to a roughed-up bumper and a parking ticket, so I left another note and tucked some money into the ticket envelope.

The next day I got a text message from the owner telling me not to worry about the fender and asking if he could return the money. I finally convinced him that it had made me feel better to use that tiny act of kindness to reroute both of our days.

A Fargo woman sent me the story of her recent car trouble. She didn’t hit anyone in front of a store full of onlookers, but was certainly embarrassed all the same.

“I attended the wonderful musical production of Disney’s ‘Beauty and the Beast’ at Sheyenne High School in West Fargo. It was an excellent performance!

“I had never been to the school, so I parked in an unfamiliar lot. I was careful to back into a spot so I could easily get out, but it never occurred to me that I should look where I had parked.

“When I came out of the school after the performance, it was dark. I got totally mixed up and very embarrassed because I could not find my vehicle. It was an extremely cold evening, so I walked back into the school. As I walked out of the building again, I happened to mention to a passing couple that I could not find my car.

“I was walking around the lot some more when a car pulled up right beside me. It was the couple I had spoken to briefly. The very kind people, Doug and Alice, rolled down their window and invited me to ride around the lot in their car.

“It turns out there are two parking lots at the school, and we did eventually find my car.

“I just want to shout out a big ‘Thank you!’ to these kind strangers.

“Doug and Alice How of Minnesota, I hope you see this and know how grateful I am for your kindness.” – Kathleen Bennett, Fargo

I’d love to hear more of your stories of kindness. If you’ve been the recipient of an act of kindness, or are the one making someone else’s day, please let me know. I can’t wait to hear from you!

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. 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 columns run every Saturday.

Shoveling a Path of Kindness

People in Ohio keep asking me what winter is like in North Dakota.

They want to know how many days a year school gets called off due to cold weather. I tell them, “Hardly ever.” They want to know how often our cars refuse to start. I tell them, “Nearly never.” And then they ask the biggie: Can you even go outside in that weather? I tell them, “Yes … but you have to wear a hat until May.”
The biggest difference I’ve noticed during my first winter in southern Ohio is the radical swing in temperatures. It will be nearly 60 degrees one week and 4 degrees the next.

And then there’s the snow. I understand the F-M area is having a “light snow year,” but having spent 10 years burrowing out of my Fargo driveway, the Ohio precipitation is a welcome relief. Snow generally comes down as sleet, which makes driving interesting in these Appalachian foothills, but at least there aren’t too many days of back-busting shoveling. If you wait an hour or two, the sun seems to do most of the work for you.

Imagine my surprise when I woke up a few weeks ago and it looked like Fargo outside. My driveway was covered in 6 inches of heavy, wet snow, and it was still coming down.

I knew I couldn’t wait for Mother Nature to melt it away. I was going to have to pull out the big red shovel. But first, I had to get the kids to basketball practice. I forced my minivan down the driveway and onto the street. Based on the difficulty my tires had cutting through the snow, I knew I had my work cut out for me when I got home.

But a few hours later, I was stunned to pull into a clean, professionally plowed driveway. Who in the world has a plow for the front of their truck around here? That’s a Fargo thing.

With the kids still in the car, I sat there babbling the only word I could think of – kindness. “Kindness! It’s kindness! Do you kids see this? Someone did an act of kindness for us!” I was nearly giddy.

Later in the day, I ran into a new neighbor who admitted she took the liberty of sending her husband (and his truck) over to do the job. Hallelujah!

I have such great fondness for my new neighbors. There is a tenderness and devotion that, selfishly, probably would not exist had they not literally cleared the path between their house and mine.

So what if that affection could spread throughout a whole town? That’s what city leaders are trying to create in Dilworth.

This winter, they have been promoting a program called “Shovel Dilworth.” They are asking people to spread goodwill throughout the land by shoveling neighbors’ sidewalks, fire hydrants, bus stops and the paths used by kids to get to school. The DGF High School National Honor Society members and Dilworth Boy Scouts are on board, both shoveling and convincing their classmates to join in. The goal is to incorporate the whole community, and eventually neighboring communities, like Moorhead.

Since it’s fun to give and to get, citizens who make the commitment to help can sign up on the city’s website for a chance to win a $25 gift card. You can enter yourself or another Good Samaritan. One mom entered her 11-year-old daughter, who has taken the program to heart in her own neighborhood.

Our chance to spread kindness by shoveling for others is quickly melting away. The Shovel Dilworth program goes until April 3, but will be back again next year, along with the snow.

Shovel Dilworth

Want to adopt a sidewalk or help a neighbor? Call Will Mackaman at (218) 299-7839 or register yourself at www.eventbrite.com/e/shovel-dilworth-tickets-14949751108for a chance to win one of five $25 gift cards donated by the Dilworth Lions Club and Park Board.

Please continue to share your stories of kindness with me at info@nicolejphillips.com. Or send a letter to Kindness is Contagious c/o Nicole J. Phillips, The Forum, 101 5th St. N., Box 2020, Fargo, ND 58107.

Show Kindness By Reminding People They Are Not Alone

My girlfriend is talking about going back to work. She’s not certain she can swing it with three small children at home, but she feels like she should be using the degree she worked so hard to earn.

I could tell her beautiful heart was torn between being at home for her children and something she couldn’t quite identify. As we sat on the floor watching her baby play, she looked me in the eyes and sadly asked, “Is this all there is?”

Her question didn’t come from a place of ingratitude or selfishness. It came from a place of exhaustion. In that one question, she was asking many. Will it always be this hard? Will they ever look at me and see a strong, accomplished woman, or will I always be the maid, the nurse and the short-order cook? Am I the only mom who sometimes wants to be somewhere else? Do other moms feel this strange mix of heart-melting love and then guilt for wishing they would leave me alone for five minutes?

I know what she was asking because I have been there so many times. I would say I finally feel at peace with where I am, but that’s probably because my children are older and actually do leave me alone for five minutes. I don’t think it’s anything I did. I think it’s something time did. And so now we have a different problem: my children are growing up too fast.

My daughter turns 11 on Feb. 29. She is a leap-year baby, so technically, she only gets a birthday every four years. I didn’t realize how old Jordan was getting until I took her and my two boys to Disney World earlier this month.

I was sitting on the bus heading to the Magic Kingdom, kind of lost in thought. When I turned to look at my children, they were gone. In their places were taller, older, more self-sufficient children.

The last time I took my kids to see Mickey Mouse, Jordan was 6, Charlie was 5 and Ben was 1. Being back on that bus transported me to a time that no longer exists, so when I looked at them, I was