Kindness Found Through Tragedy

Once upon a time there was a little girl with long dark hair, brown eyes that opened up to her soul and a smile that radiated throughout the room. Her name was Amanda.

Little Amanda loved to play with dolls and wear pretty dresses. Her mother couldn’t keep up with the pile of laundry that continued to grow as Amanda changed from one beautiful outfit to the next many times throughout the day.

More than anything, Amanda wanted to be a mommy. She loved visiting her mom’s day care where she could play with all the children.

One day, Amanda and her mother were eating at a cafe. A sign on the table caught Amanda’s attention. It was advertising the need for foster families. Since Amanda’s mom already ran a day care center, little Amanda thought their family would be the perfect fit for children in need of a temporary home.

After quickly convincing her mom, Amanda sat down her father and three brothers and told them about the children who were feeling scared and lost and needed their love. The boys were sold.

Amanda and her brothers had many foster siblings throughout the years, and two of those children found their forever family in Amanda’s home.

Little Amanda grew into a teenage girl, loved by her friends and adored by the many little ones she babysat on a regular basis. She began working toward her CPR certification so she could start taking care of the babies in her mother’s day care.

On Nov. 15, 2006, three days after her 16th birthday, Amanda was driving from piano lessons to a nearby town to attend a CPR class. It was dark, so Amanda probably didn’t see the cow on the road until it was too late. Her car ended up crashing into a tree, and 16-year-old Amanda Swanson of Arthur, N.D., was dead at the scene.

A life so full of light, hope and love was suddenly gone.

Her young friends sat together, grieving, in the counselor’s office at Northern Cass High School. Through the pain of their loss, they came up with a plan.

Amanda had once mentioned wanting to collect gifts for all of the kids in the foster care system.

That year, those students collected 1,500 presents. Bobbie Mikulecky, who was like a second mother to Amanda, says her basement was brimming with bags of toys. Bobbie and Amanda’s mom, Christi, sifted through the show of generosity with full hearts knowing that Amanda would have been so incredibly pleased.

Seven years later, Bobbie, Christi and many of those same students still collect gifts for children in Cass, Clay and Traill counties. Different agencies benefit each year, depending on need. Bobbie also saves a few bags of goodies to deliver in the summer when donations are low but need is still high.

The woman who first told me about this effort of love and remembrance, Mary Beth Engelke, says this is a story of tragedy turned to kindness and hope for hundreds if not thousands of children in our area.

These people are working hard to keep Amanda’s passion alive and they would like your help.

Games, balls, toys, infant clothes, baseball caps, gift cards and other unwrapped donations for Amanda’s Hope Chest can be dropped off before Dec. 20 at Mary’s Market in Arthur, Nepstad Oil in Grandin, Northern Cass School, or Dakota Heritage Bank in Hunter.

If you can’t provide a physical donation this year, I hope you’ll give of yourself by sending up a prayer on behalf of Amanda for the many children who could use a little extra love this holiday season or perhaps even a forever family.

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 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.

Oh Canada Kindness

Have you ever been traveling and met someone from your hometown? There is an immediate bond.

Even if you don’t know any of the same people or came from completely different sides of the tracks, for just a brief moment, meeting someone from home feels like running into family. We immediately trust them and go out of our way to show them a little extra kindness.

Now, if I’m the only one who feels this way, please don’t burst my bubble by telling me. I would be completely embarrassed to know that it’s not normal to walk up to someone in the mall just because he or she is wearing a University of Wisconsin sweatshirt.

I recently received an email from Avis Dolan of Fargo, illustrating how a beautiful act of kindness was carried out thanks to the common bond of home.

“My mother-in-law, Lucille, was diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer on July 3. She has had numerous additional health problems because of the diagnosis and six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy.

“She has not been to her home in Grafton, N.D., for months, and is instead staying at Valley Elder Care in Grand Forks, waiting for the end.

“She is an amazing woman, having knit hats for the homeless in Mesa, Ariz., for years. I can’t even recall the number, but I know it is in the thousands. She has also worked with the hospital auxiliary, embroidering dishtowels for their bazaar.

“My mother-in-law was born in St. Boniface, Man., and married my father-in-law from Oakwood, N.D. She speaks French fluently and beautifully.

“My husband is the oldest of the five children, and this has been a devastating time for the family as they watch their mom, grandma and friend lose her strength and life.

“This past weekend, my brother-in-law, his wife, and a few other family members were staying in her home in Grafton while they visited her in Grand Forks. They were at a local establishment for a curling tournament where some women were singing ‘Oh, Canada.’ My brother-in-law went over to them and told them his mom was born in St. Boniface, and one of the women said she was from there as well. He explained that Lucille was very sick.

“Those two complete strangers came to Valley Elder Care and found Lucille’s room. They brought her a card and they sang ‘Oh, Canada’ in French together. When my husband told me this story, it brought tears to my eyes. I am in complete awe that people would take time out of their schedules and lives to visit a very sick but kind and beautiful stranger.”

Thank you for sharing that story, Avis. I wish Lucille a peaceful journey as she passes on to her eternal home.

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.

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.

Old-Fashioned Kindness

As our world gets smaller through the Internet, cable TV and free long-distance phone calls, I think it’s also getting bigger and more disconnected.

We can say things – mean, hurtful things –without having to look a person in the eye. We can voice our opinions and send them off into cyber-space without any ramifications. We can spend our entire day ignoring the needs of others, assuming someone else will fill the bill.

Or we can stop, open our hearts and do what’s not only kind, but what would have once been considered common courtesy. I’m thankful for the following examples of ways people in Fargo are bringing back the good ol’ days.

From Lorna in Fargo:

“One sunny day this past summer I was on my way from my north Fargo home to a luncheon in south Fargo. My path was continually blocked by construction, one street after the other until I had lost my way.

“Finally, knowing that time was becoming an issue, I pulled into a driveway and asked directions of a gentleman retrieving his garbage can from the berm. He began giving directions, then deciding it was too complicated, he got into his own car and graciously and efficiently led me through the construction and traffic right into the parking lot where my event was being held and just in time for the luncheon to begin, I was touched by his generous kindness.

“On another day, I had walked to the Northport grocery store and library and was on my way home when suddenly I realized my credit card was missing.

“Entering my apartment, the message light on my phone was blinking. The voice said, ‘This is Bell State Bank. Someone has turned in your credit card and it is here waiting for you to pick it up.’

“Needless to say, I was overwhelmed with relief and gratitude!

“I learned someone had found my card in the parking lot, taken it into the store adjoining the library, and that a service person there had turned it in at the bank. My heart continues to be warmed as I think of the kindness and integrity of these people who saved the day for me!”

And from another grateful woman in Wahpeton:

“I went to lunch by myself at the Olive Garden before a recent doctor’s appointment in Fargo. Across from me were three lovely ladies and a cute 2-month-old baby girl. As I was ready to leave, the waitress said, ‘Your meal was taken care of.’ I was shocked and thought, ‘Who knows me here?’

“It was the three nice ladies, and I want to thank them now for their acts of kindness. It truly made my day, brought tears to my eyes, and made me want to do an act of kindness for someone else.

“A few days later, I had a pick-up at Domino’s, and, not realizing it, had dropped my credit card. The next morning, an ambulance driver called to tell me he had found my card. He even brought it to my door. I was really blessed and fortunate.”

From Mavis of Fargo:

“I was trying to juggle my umbrella in the pouring rain and put money in the kiosk outside the NDSU student union. I put in half of the fee in quarters, then watched in dismay as the machine refused to take my dollar bills.

“A student who was waiting to pay his own fee asked if he could help. I explained my dilemma and he tried my bill, which the machine again rejected. He took his pre-paid parking card and paid for my parking. I thanked him and offered to reimburse him, to which he replied, ‘No thanks,’ and wished me a great day.

“Three days later, I was in the check-out line at Hornbachers. When I took out my checkbook to pay for my items, I was told to put it away. I asked if they were closing the lane and was told the gentleman who had just left had paid for my groceries. In disbelief, I asked why and how could he have known how much it was. My eyes filled up with tears.

“On my short drive home, with tears streaming down my face, I thought about these random acts of kindness. I was overwhelmed with gratitude for these two strangers who were my angels.”

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.

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.

Kindness Gives Eyes to the Blind

Many of us – including me – take our biggest blessings for granted. Not only do I overlook everyday blessings, but I am quite often ungrateful for the biggest gifts in my life.

Instead of being grateful for the ability to hear my rambunctious boys, I tell them to be quiet.

Instead of being grateful for the ability to see my daughter’s creativity strewn all over her room, I tell her to pick up the mess.

Instead of being grateful for a healthy body, I hunt for the closest spot in the parking lot.

Carol Ricker of Pelican Rapids, Minn., sent me a new perspective when she sent me this letter about her friend, Darlene.

“I so enjoy your columns and take heart in knowing there are so many kind people in this ‘crazy’ world.

“I am writing you about my friend, Darlene Splittgerber of Pelican Rapids. For years, she has had no sight at all in one eye and very limited sight in the other.

“I learned from my sister about a machine called a video-magnifier, which my sister leases from her local Lions Club. I asked the Pelican Rapids Lions Club and my church, Pelican Rapids Baptist, for assistance in getting funds for purchasing a machine for Darlene. They purchased a machine, but that particular machine didn’t work for Darlene.

“During those months, I was in contact many times with Sandy Beutler from Minnesota Services for the Blind, located in Moorhead. What a kind and caring woman Sandy is.

“Darlene’s husband, Fred, passed away in October of 2012. Her days were endless, and not even being able to read her mail made her time pass all the more slowly.

“In August of this year, an extremely generous and kind-hearted man named Mike Eckhardt donated a very expensive video magnifier machine through Services for the Blind. Darlene was the happy recipient of a long-awaited dream come true!

“I’m certain that Mike could have sold it, as the machines sell for up to $5,000. Having purchased it for his parents who no longer use it, he chose to make someone else extremely grateful.

“Darlene is now able to read her Bible, and I’ve seen her get out old special cards, discovering new messages that she didn’t even know were written.

“Sandy, thank you a million times over! Mike, you are a hero! After six months of waiting and frustration, all is well. There were many prayers said by many people. God answered.”

Thank you, Carol, for sharing those acts of kindness.

At 84-years-old, you probably have the right to say you are too tired to help, and yet you changed another person’s life because you found the strength to persevere and fight for a friend’s happiness. Thank you for adding your light to this 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.

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.

Shine Light Amid Darkness

Get a Daily Dose of Inspiration from Nicole at www.nicolejphillips.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nicolejphillips!

I was doing my daily mom carpool recently when my 3-year-old son, Ben, piped up from the back seat.

“Mom, what does yannoy mean?”

Yannoy? My brain started turning over every word in Webster’s dictionary trying to figure out what Yannoy means.

“Yannoy, Ben?”

“No! Annoy, Mom. What does annoy mean?”

As I used words, like bother and bug, to help him grasp the concept of annoy, I started to think of all the ways I allow myself to become annoyed during the day.

Someone goes first at the four-way stop even though it’s my turn. Someone sits at the four-way stop waiting for me to go even though it’s not my turn. Someone walks through a door and lets it slam in my face instead of waiting an extra two seconds to hold it open when he can see my hands are full. Someone washes her hands in a public restroom and throws her paper towel on the floor next to the garbage, leaving it for someone else to clean up.

None of these things are tragic, but if I allow myself to start believing that the world is out to steal my happiness, it certainly will.

The Bible talks about going beyond forgiving your enemies and actually wishing a blessing for them. That’s always stumped me because I don’t feel like I have very many enemies. Who am I supposed to bless if I don’t hate anyone?

Maybe my enemy isn’t a person. Maybe my enemy is everything in this world that’s not light and love. If that’s the case, then every day I have the chance to chase away the enemy called darkness, in my life and the lives of the people around me. My weapon is kindness.

Dennis Seeb, a brilliant poet and philosopher in the Fargo-Moorhead area sent me a note telling me about how he combats the darkness of people who bump into his happiness.

“A few weeks back I was leaving a local coffee shop. I was already in my car heading out of the parking lot. Here comes another vehicle, and the driver must think I am headed to the drive-through because instead of slowing down, she actually made a decision to gun it and cut me off so she could get in line of the drive-through ahead of me. Much to her dismay I simply smiled at her as she zoomed by.

“So I thought about it for a moment. I was not going to let her get away with this kind of behavior. So I parked my car and then went back into the coffee shop. Thankfully, there was no line inside. I told the barista what had happened and said I wanted to pay for that person’s purchase. I did that and then left. A fleeting moment of grace. It felt pretty good.

“I had a choice at that moment. I chose to continue to have a perfectly nice day. It is just that simple.”

Perhaps the woman in the car felt the world was out to get her, that the darkness was surrounding her and the only way she could combat it was by kicking into survival mode.

That one act of kindness Dennis paid to a woman who maybe didn’t deserve it may have changed the entire outlook of her day and affected the way she treated everyone else she bumped into.

Kindness is contagious. It’s also a powerful tool to use against people who yannoy 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 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.

Volunteers Bring More than Just a Hot Meal

New! Get a Daily Dose of Inspiration from Nicole at www.nicolejphillips.com or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/nicolejphillips!

I have a sneaking suspicion winter is going to come back to Fargo-Moorhead this year. Hopefully, it won’t last until May like it did last year.

It’s OK to joke about the nine months of winter we get in North Dakota and Minnesota and how hearty we Norwegians are, but the truth is, for some people, the snow makes it very hard to get around.

There is a whole population of people who won’t leave their homes once winter sets in. There are more than 350 homebound residents in the Red River Valley, but thanks to Meals on Wheels and the 30 volunteers who donate one hour each day, those people can count on a fresh, warm lunch delivered to their door every weekday.

For some, it will be their only source of real nutrition and interaction with another person.

One of those volunteers is Heather. Every Thursday, she and her 3-year-old son, Cormick, spend one hour delivering meals to 14 grateful recipients.

Heather said she started volunteering this summer as a way to show her son civic responsibility and encourage him to come out of his shell. Little Cormick is pretty cautious of new people, but he loves delivering meals to his new homebound friends.

He gets to push elevator buttons, find numbers on apartment doors and help hand over the lunches. He has learned to look people in the eye and say, “Have a nice day.”

In return, his friends are building his self-confidence with compliments on his manners and helpfulness. Cormick’s favorite resident is Mr. Steven, because he usually rewards the young volunteer with an ice cream bar.

Heather says she loves the whole experience. She describes it as “enriching, educational and very rewarding.” Unfortunately, she will soon be taking her love to Minneapolis, where she is moving in the next month.

Heather contacted me with a great idea. She likes the concept of paying it forward, where kindnesses are done in threes, so she is asking for three people who would be willing to take over her volunteer responsibilities.

It doesn’t have to be the same Thursday shift or the same delivery route. She just wants to know that Meals on Wheels will be in even better shape when she leaves than when she found it.

Meal on Wheels volunteer coordinator Nicolette Schaefer-Vrchota says the time commitment is very flexible. It only takes an hour, and people can deliver every day, once a week, every other week or even on an on-call basis to fill in when the “regulars” have conflicts. Volunteers need a valid driver’s license and their own vehicle. The main volunteer needs to be 18 or older, but children are always welcome and encouraged to come along.

If you’ve ever wondered if you can really make an impact on another person’s life, the answer is yes. In the five minutes it takes to hand over a fresh meal, you can find your way into a person’s heart thanks to the needs of the stomach.

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.

Kindness is a Common Thread in Fight Against Cancer

Five years ago, I went through one of the scariest experiences of my life. I found a lump in one of my breasts.

I made an appointment to see my doctor, truly thinking she’d squelch my fears with the words, “It’s nothing.”

Instead, she said, “We better get that checked out,” and scheduled me for an ultrasound.

The results of the ultrasound pointed to the need for a biopsy. This was it. The outcome of that test could change the course of my life and the lives of my husband and children.

The night before the biopsy, I cried quietly in my husband’s arms, thinking for the first time how badly I wanted to see my children grow up.

Please click here to finish reading this column:  http://nicolejphillips.com/kindness-is-a-common-thread-in-fight-against-cancer/ 

Kindness: Benefits for the Giver

I recently realized I’ve been writing this column for almost exactly two years. I still remember standing on stage at The Avalon in downtown Fargo for the launch party of the new SheSays section. I felt so proud to be included in such a prominent group of female writers and more than a little overwhelmed and intimidated.

I was nervous writing about kindness. I wasn’t sure people would buy into the whole “we sure could use a little good news” thing that worked so well for Anne Murray.

There have been times over the past two years when my email inbox has been flooded with stories of kindness; other times it has been a deserted wasteland of spam.

I have seen growth in my writing and learned to deal with criticism. I feel a new level of comfort in sharing my opinions and personal stories.

I probably could have predicted those changes if I had ever stopped long enough to think about them. What I never could have anticipated are the ways in which I have changed physically and mentally since dedicating my life to kindness.

Researcher Allan Luks did a study in the 1990s involving more than 3,000 men and women. He concluded that regular helpers are 10 times more likely to be in good health than people who don’t volunteer.

Another study by the federal government in 2007 found that people ages 65 and older actually live longer and have lower rates of depression when they volunteer.

That was interesting to me because several years ago, I was a Lexapro junkie. OK, maybe not a true junkie, but I did rely on the drug to control my depression and anxiety.

Around the time I started looking for acts of kindness to do, I decided to try life medication-free. It was a gamble. I have three kids who need their momma to keep it together. I never had that crawl-under-the-covers-for-days sort of depression, but everyone around me could definitely tell when I was feeling off.

I weaned off the Lexapro. The first time I felt the dark cloud coming over me, instead of turning to a pill, I tried turning toward kindness. I made a distinct effort to do a random act of kindness for a stranger.

All of a sudden, I felt a huge rush of adrenaline, a blast of energy and total exhilaration. Several hours later, a heightened sense of calm and emotional well-being overtook my body.

I had experienced what Luks defined as the “helper’s high.”

According to Luks, the high has a biochemical explanation. Volunteering (or in my case a random act of kindness) reduces the body’s stress and releases endorphins, the brain’s natural painkillers.

Luks found stress-related health problems improve after performing kind acts. A drop in stress may, for some people, even decrease the constriction within the lungs that leads to asthma attacks.

Helping can decrease both the intensity and the awareness of physical pain in the body. It can strengthen the immune system.

Helping reverses feelings of depression from stress, supplies social contact and decreases feelings of hostility and isolation that can cause overeating and ulcers.

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but a few months ago I updated my column photo. I’ve lost about 30 pounds since 2011, and thanks to Forum photographer Carrie Snyder, I have been able to exchange head shots. It turns out Luks may have been right about that overeating part.

Kindness is contagious, but I think it is also reparative. As soon as I started focusing on other people more than myself, I began healing myself.

Kindness and even the act of looking for acts of kindness got me out of my own head. I stopped focusing on me and in return I was the biggest beneficiary of any act of kindness I could have ever delivered.

 


 

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.

Man’s Joy for Life is a True Gift to Others

I have a special friend who comes to nearly every Bison basketball game. I can always count on him to be waiting near the locker room to greet the players, but he’ll leave his post when he sees me, and that’s always my favorite part of the night. He wraps his arms around me in a hug that allows me to feel his love all the way down to my toes.

His name is Michael, and he is a 31-year-old living with Down syndrome. He lives with his parents, who adore the Bison almost as much as Michael. Almost, but not quite.

Michael got the chance to go on a summer vacation this year to visit his sister, Amy, who lives in New York City. His mom emailed me so I could hear all about the big trip.

“Michael was so excited to see his sister, and she had some surprises planned for him and us. The last day we were able to spend the morning in the studio of ‘Good Morning America,’ watching the show.

“Amy had written a sweet story to GMA about her brother coming to NYC. They responded and wanted to help his sister make his day special.

“We had an awesome morning watching Michael meet Robin Roberts, Lara Spencer and George Stephanopoulos. Everyone was so kind and it was a great morning. Michael got a tour of the studio and came home with his GMA mug and T-shirt. He was so excited!”

This is what Amy wrote about her visit from Michael:

“After a weekend full of Michael, I am reminded about human emotions and our capacity to feel, mostly because Michael succeeds at feeling every single human emotion to its fullest within the span of a day, every day.

“I keep seeing articles about understanding introverts, and now I am seeing articles about understanding extroverts … We are all delicate, and we are all strong, and we are all brave, and we all get scared. The best we can do is hope for the best in every encounter we have and treat everyone kindly. It is what Michael does and things seem to work out well for him.”

October is National Down Syndrome Awareness month. One in every 691 babies is born with the disease.

Fargo is kicking off the month by having its first Buddy Walk today inside Scheels Arena in South Fargo. Registration starts at 9, and the one-mile walk starts at 10. Everyone is welcome to attend the walk and other activities for families.

Up with Downs is a group that serves families in Fargo-Moorhead and the surrounding areas. The group strives to educate the public and put on events for parents, friends, relatives and caregivers of individuals with Down syndrome. The members love to meet with new families to provide support and resources. You can contact the group at www.UpWith

DownsFargo.com.

I hope you have a friend like Michael who reminds you to celebrate each moment of each day and can hug like nobody’s business.

Nicole Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo, and currently the Executive Director of Diva Connection Foundation. She is the mother of three kids and the wife of Bison Men’s Head Basketball Coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday.

Shine Bright in a Stranger’s Darkest Hour

A few weeks ago I got a last-minute invitation to attend an annual event called “Pray for Gray.”

Julie Fletcher began the foundation and the fundraiser as a way to provide hope and support for brain tumor patients and their families.

The project is dear to Julie’s heart. Doctors found a pear-sized tumor on Julie’s right frontal lobe after she suffered an seizure. Julie was told she could have 12 to 15 months to live. That was six years ago.

Some of the people honored at the Pray for Gray event won’t be as lucky as Julie. And they know it. The courage these people show in the face of a devastating diagnosis is enough to bring me to tears.

I went home wrestling with some big questions. I understand I will never know why bad things happen to good people. I have made peace with that. What I want to know is what I can do that will make any sort of difference to someone going through such a difficult time.

Then I got a message from a woman named Bonnie who reminded me that even if we can’t fix a situation, we can smooth some of the rough spots.

“Nicole,

Ten years ago, our 17-year-old daughter was diagnosed with a tumor in her pituitary gland. We were looking at multiple tests and trips to the Mayo Clinic, and eventually brain surgery, and then our washing machine broke down.

“Facing one more bill in the midst of the emotional turmoil of our daughter’s diagnosis was more than I could bear. I made the comment out loud that I didn’t care if I washed clothes on a rock but I wasn’t going to charge one more thing on our credit card.

“When we received a bill from the company that came out to deliver our washing machine’s death sentence, I decided to temporarily ignore the envelope until I could pay them.

“Sometime later, I got a call from this business spelling out to me that what I received was actually a credit. The woman on the phone explained that I was to come pick out a new washing machine fully paid for by an anonymous donor. The instructions were also to let me know not to get the cheapest one I could, but to get a ‘good’ one with features that I wanted.

“I wept right on the phone when that angel delivered the news, while wondering who would do such a thing. The nice lady on the phone would not tell me who did it.

“It’s 10 years later, and our daughter is a trauma nurse in Texas. Today is her wedding day, and she is back home to walk down the aisle.

“My prayer for Nathan and Nicole is to wish blessings on them that God would continue to care for their every need, even in hard times and that God would abundantly bless that dear person who met our need in a very difficult time.”

Thank you, Bonnie, for reminding me that we are here to be the light in times of darkness.

And thank you, Julie, for working so hard to help other brain tumor patients. You have turned your darkest hour into a mission that shines so brightly with your love.

NEW! Get a Daily Dose of Inspiration from Nicole at www.facebook.com/nicolejphillips.

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.