Kindness Can Be Both Contagious and Courageous

My dad is a deep thinker. He spent most of his life as a therapist, so he’s a pretty good listener, too. He can be engaged in a conversation and then spend several days, if not weeks, thinking about the deeper meaning behind someone’s words or actions. Had he not gone into the profession of family counseling, he would have made a great researcher in the field of sociology. Human interaction fascinates him.

My dad retired a few years ago and decided he’d had enough of Wisconsin winters. He and his wife now spend several months as snowbirds, swimming and playing shuffleboard at a condo in sunny Arizona.

He calls me on a regular basis to give me a weather report, find out if I need to take a last-minute trip out West, and to fill me in on the latest shuffleboard gossip. I wasn’t at all surprised when he sent me this email. My dad had clearly been busy thinking again.

“Sometimes I think your column could be called ‘Kindness is Courageous.’ For men, it takes courage to do nice things for people. Probably for women, too, but especially for men. We wonder how our actions will be interpreted. Will people think I am showing off? Or if I do something nice for a woman, will she think I am trying to make a pass at her?

“In the last shuffleboard league game, I played a man who has suffered two strokes and now has limited use of his left arm. We were tied in the last frame when his phone rang. He was unable to get it out of his pocket before it quit ringing.

“He told me it was his daughter calling to see if it was time for her to come and get him. I called her back for him and therefore missed my last shot. He won the game. I took his phone and laughingly told her he won and she could come and pick him up. Andy was as happy as a pup with a new toy.

“My teammates, who were not on the same end of the court, didn’t see what had happened and made several comments about me not focusing on the game. Kindness almost always carries a risk.”

I agree, Dad, kindness almost always carries a risk. But so do so many of the amazing things we do in life – like spending every penny you have to go to college, like being the only single guy to sign up for country line-dance lessons, like teaching your teenage daughter how to drive, like asking a lovely woman on a first date. You’ve done risky things all your life, Dad. Why stop now?

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.

Taking the Extra Step Eases an Already Heavy Burden

I say that I’m grateful for my health and the health of my family. I say that I’m grateful for the food that makes its way to our table. But maybe I’m not.

Health and nourishment have always come easy. If I really knew what it was like to go without either, I think my gratitude level would change entirely toward both.

Perhaps there are some things that you can’t truly understand unless you’ve been there, in the midst of the battle.

A woman named Fran is going through the battle with her husband. He’s getting radiation at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Fran says she and her husband are counting their blessings because it’s preventative radiation. But still, they are on the battle field and they know what it’s like. Maybe that’s why their hearts were so touched when they encountered another couple who looked wounded and beaten:

“One morning last week after treatment, we went to the patient cafeteria for breakfast.

“While in line, we noticed a young couple ahead of us about to pay for their breakfast. When the clerk rang up their order, they didn’t have enough money to pay for it. It just broke my heart to think that, here are two people, one most likely ill, and they cannot pay for their breakfast. The clerk made a comment that they could return something on their tray. I told the clerk not to worry, I would pay the balance of their bill.

“We got our food, paid for our orders and found a place to sit. I noticed the young couple went to sit in the farthest corner of the cafeteria, away from everyone. I sat there trying to figure out a way to make sure they had enough to eat. I was about to suggest we talk to the clerk when my husband said, ‘Why don’t you see if we can buy them a punch card or something?’

“I spoke to the clerk, and we were able to purchase a Mayo Clinic gift card they could use in any of the Mayo cafeterias. I walked over to them and told them they could use it anywhere in the Mayo System, trying my darndest to hold back my tears.

“When they left, they came over to our table and gave us a hug and a huge thanks. My hope is that when they are able, they can pay it forward. It doesn’t take much to make someone’s day a little bit brighter.”

Even in middle of their own concerns and expenses, Fran and her husband opened their eyes and their hearts to the needs of another couple. If they had simply paid for the extra food, it would have been helpful and solved the immediate problem, but taking the next step and loving those strangers enough to take a future burden off their plate took great kindness.

I can only believe the extra kindness they extended was good medicine for them all.

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 Don’t Need to Ask for Kindness

The strange yet obvious thing about moving to a new town is that nobody knows you.

When I moved to Fargo 10 years ago, I felt like I had moved to the “Twilight Zone.” Never before in my life had I lived somewhere where I knew no one. My husband left the house and went to work each day, and I sat home with my infant daughter trying to figure out how to create a life that actually included other people. I remember going to the grand opening of the first Starbucks on 13th Avenue in south Fargo. I went to the celebration simply because I wanted to be around people. I didn’t even drink coffee.

I can’t quite tell you where 10 years have gone, but I can tell you that I did eventually make friends and then became so close with those friends that I can’t remember ever not being friends with them.

Thanks to my children, meeting new people in Ohio has been much easier. I have three kids who are involved in all sorts of activities that lead me directly to other parents with similar interests.

One of my closest friends here is named Liz. She has lived in Athens her entire life, so when she invited me out to dinner with her circle of friends, it was like some sort of social science experiment. I got to hear stories of who dated whose husband back in high school and how they snuck into the movie theater in college. These are women who have been there for each other through love, marriage and the baby carriage. It’s truly beautiful.

Their bond is so close and so filled with acts of kindness that I don’t think they even notice it. It’s like breathing to them.

I happened to witness one of the most touching acts of kindness I had seen in a while just because it came up as a side-note in conversation. Liz was telling me that she and a few other women had taken the previous day off work to hang out with their friend Becca, whose dad died in July. That mid-December day would have been his birthday.

I’ve met Becca before. She’s either lighting up the room with her ever-present smile or sending the place into a fit of hysterics with some quick-witted, sarcastic comment. I immediately understood when Liz said Becca wasn’t one to let people know something was bothering her. Becca subtly mentioned to her friends that she didn’t know how she’d handle the day, that it would be hard.

That was it. She simply said it would be hard, and that was enough to round up the troops. Three of her friends took the day off work so Becca wouldn’t have to be alone. I would be willing to bet there were several more women who wanted to be there but couldn’t figure out how to play hooky without getting fired.

The friends went out for breakfast and then planned on spending the day shopping and watching movies, but no one ever hit the “play” button on the first film. They shopped and then spent the rest of the day sharing stories about Becca’s dad and looking at pictures. Becca admitted there was some crying but said laughter and good memories quickly dried the tears. She also mentioned they discovered chocolate-covered potato chips. I was sure to tell her that we know all about those in Fargo.

Sometimes we spend so much time thinking we should be doing more that we don’t realize how much we are already doing. Yes, I absolutely believe that we should pursue kindness and add it to our lives systematically and intentionally, but isn’t it precious when we realize it’s just a part of who we are?

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 Face of Kindness Takes Many Forms

I was walking down the street with my 4-year-old son this fall when we came upon a young woman with a heavy limp using a cane.

As we approached her from behind, I could see his interest piqued and braced myself for whatever was about to come out of his mouth. I silently prayed that whatever he said would be too quiet for her to hear.

Nope. In full preschool buoyancy, he loudly proclaimed, “Mom! That lady walks funny.” I wanted to crawl into a hole when she turned around. Until she smiled.

That young woman gave us the most beautiful smile and then said to my son, “Yep, it looks pretty silly when I walk. And I’m not very fast. I have a disease that makes it hard to use my legs.”

We went on to have a brief but sweet conversation, and I left feeling so grateful for so many things, including her willingness to talk about the differences my son so obviously questioned.

A Minnesota woman who now lives in Colorado shared an experience she recently had in which kindness not only paved the way over awkwardness, but gave her a new friend.

“Traffic was backed up because of a tiny old lady, gingerly walking through the slush and ice, trying to cross the entrance of a parking lot. She was wearing a long blue jacket, thick mittens and good, heavy boots. She also had a paper mask covering her face.

“I pulled over and got out to help her navigate the sidewalk. I asked where she was going and if I could give her a ride. She was a little winded but managed to say, ‘Light rail, train, train,’ which is about a mile down the street.

“After helping her climb into the van and buckling her in, she started thanking me profusely. She explained that she had missed the bus because her leg is sore from a skin graft. She isn’t able to lift her leg high enough over the snow banks, and she is very afraid of slipping on the ice and breaking bones.

“She needed to go to the grocery store, so I told her I would go in with her, help her with her groceries and give her a ride home.

“Her name is Joan, and she is 82 years old. While I was helping her double-bag her four bundles of organic bananas, I couldn’t help but notice the actions of the shoppers around us.

“Joan carried on as if not noticing the staring children, the avoiding glances, the startled reactions. You see, Joan doesn’t have a face. She has piercing blue eyes looking out over a big rectangular skin graft covering where her nose, cheekbones, upper lip and upper teeth used to be. And she breathes through a tracheostomy tube.

“Bananas were the only things she needed, as they purée so well. She only eats what she can purée in her blender.

“On the way home, she told me how she had lost her face to ‘the mildest form’ of melanoma. She was originally diagnosed with it in 1965.

“When she was a young lady, she had gone to a dermatologist for her severely oily skin. Back then, they told her to sit in the sun to help dry her skin out. They also gave her sunlamp treatments, unaware that those were the worst things to do.

“Joan said she hopes there are no more recurrences because, she said, there isn’t much more left of her face that they can take.

“But then she said, ‘I am just so thankful to God that I am still alive.’

“When we got to her apartment, I carried her heavy bundles of bananas and walked her to her door. I wrote down my number and told her to call whenever she needed a ride or found herself in a pinch.

“I gave Joan a hug and went home.

“This remarkable moment in my life took about an hour to unfold. I am replaying it over and over again. I want to be sure to not miss any part of what I need to learn from this experience.” – Marcy Bernier Corbitt

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 Makes the Old New Again

Now that Christmas and New Year’s festivities are finished, most of us just want to move on to spring. Me too, but may I share my favorite memory from this past holiday season? It has to do with a certain misfit reindeer …

For some reason, for the entire months of November and December, my 4-year-old son was infatuated with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I’d hear him singing the Rudolph song from the back of the minivan, he’d spot a Rudolph book 10 aisles away at Walmart, and the Rudolph stick-horse for sale at the grocery store almost sent him over the edge.

The kid had a one-track mind.

In the past, my kids have fixated on things like SpongeBob, so this Rudolph thing was certainly a step up in my book. But the best upshot from this little love affair was the fact that we got to watch the movie at least once a day for an entire month.

Do you remember Burl Ives as the singing snowman and the stop-motion animation that must have been cutting edge in 1964? I got to experience a piece of my childhood through the eyes of my own child, and it made the whole holiday so much sweeter.

Angela McKibben of Fargo went through a similar experience with her son, only for him, it was Harry Potter fan-ism, and he picked up a few fans of his own along the way.

“My 10-year-old son was excited to hear that the Harry Potter movies were going to be playing at Marcus Theatres every Wednesday night starting in October. We decided that we would go to all eight movies, so my son, my boyfriend and I started a weekly Wednesday night tradition.

“Every Wednesday we sat in the same spot, ate the same snacks and made a ton of memories. Each night we would drive home and talk about the movie.

“The last night of the series was Nov. 19. The lights came on, and we were getting ready to leave when two young women approached my boyfriend and said, ‘I know this is a little weird, but we wanted your little boy to have this.’ They handed him a card. The women had also been at each Wednesday night movie and sat near us in the theater.

“They told us that they had enjoyed watching my son and looked forward to seeing him each week. I’m sure they were talking about the little things my son was doing, like conducting the orchestra from his seat, quoting the movie, getting excited and telling us how he would make a good wizard, and using his cup to make fake eyelashes.

“We were so touched. We thanked them and left. In the car, my son read the outside of the card. It said, ‘To: the boy who watched.’ The card was filled with amazing words from these two women telling him how they have enjoyed his comments and quips during the movies the past eight weeks, and how they so looked forward to seeing him on Wednesday nights. They told him they were the first generation of Harry Potter watchers and so enjoyed watching the second generation enjoy the movies as much as they did.

“The ending words in their card made my son smile the most. They stated that he was a wonderful young man and felt that he needed to hear that, because young people don’t hear that enough. The card ended with them telling him they knew he was going to grow up to be an amazing man. Tucked inside was a $20 gift card to Marcus Cinema.

“It was such a kind gesture that totally blew us away. I just wanted to share my random act of kindness that these two young women made on a 10-year-old boy who watched.”

There is something special about reliving fond memories through the eyes of a child and something extra special about the adults who use kindness to help create new memories along the way.

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 Thaws ‘Frozen’ Boots

I want to teach my kids two things before I die: 1) the importance of being kind; and 2) the value of a dollar.

I want to teach them lots of other lessons, too, like how to drive a car and do their own laundry, but let’s not rush it.The kindness thing is important to me. When I find myself not being especially kind, I’ll see my children’s little faces and remember that they will do as I do, not as I say. They keep me in line, and we learn from each other.

The money thing is a little harder. My kids are growing up with so much more than I did, and I don’t always think prosperity is to their advantage. I remember being a child and putting a winter coat on lay-away until my mom could afford to buy it. We had to make hard choices, but doing so made everything we got that much more special.

There is a woman in Fargo named Laura who probably feels much like my own mother felt when shopping. Tough choices have to be made, and when kindness enters the picture, it becomes all the more meaningful. Here is her letter:

“My 9-year-old daughter really needed church shoes and winter boots, so my children and I braved the post-Thanksgiving shopping crowds and went to Kmart.

“We found a cute pair of Disney ‘Frozen’ boots and a nice pair of black church boots. According to the sale sign, if you bought one pair of boots, you could get the other pair for only $1. It turns out the exception to the sale was the Disney boots. They didn’t count.

“I asked a lady who worked at the store if she thought the ‘Frozen’ boots would count as the more expensive pair so the other pair would only be $1. No, she didn’t think so. She smiled and said I should buy them anyway because they were so cute. I said I was planning on it, but money was tight and the ‘Frozen’ ones were $30.

“My 6-year-old son was asking for slippers, and the store employee heard me tell him ‘no’ to the pair he wanted. We moved over to the slipper/sock section to see if they had cozy socks that were more reasonable.

“The lady from the shoe department asked me if I was going to be in that area for a little longer and if I’d wait for her just a bit. A minute later, she came back and was talking to us about the boots and slippers and stuck some money into one of my daughter’s boots. She said it wasn’t much, but it was all she had in her purse and she wanted us to have it. I burst into tears! Even thinking about it now makes me weepy.

“This kind woman talked with the kids and me a little longer before she had to get back to work. When I looked at how much she had given us, I realized it was $30. I left that store feeling so blessed by a stranger’s kindness.” –Laura Hess Ronngren

Thanks for sharing your story, Laura. And thank you to the beautiful woman at Kmart who had a heart to send your daughter home with the perfect pair of boots.

In all you do and all you endeavor to teach your children, I hope kindness tops your list this New Year.

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. 

Santa Brings Gift of Kindness

I look forward to getting out the Christmas decorations each year and lovingly placing them throughout the house.

I usually pull out the boxes and turn on the Christmas music the day after Halloween, but this year I held off until the middle of November. My husband thanked me for my great self-restraint.As much as I love decorating, I hate un-decorating. The minute Christmas is over, I want everything out of my house. The same frames and figures I so tenderly set upon the mantle, I now throw into a box filled with crumpled up old copies of The Forum newspaper, which act as a nice buffer for my laziness.

When it comes down to it, my stuff is just stuff. Nothing holds much sentimentality because I have the great blessing of still being able to hold onto my little ones. I’m sure as they grow, I will find more meaning in those handmade ornaments labeled “Jordan, age 4.”

My friend Judy has one very special decoration that I’m sure she finds difficult to put away each year. It’s a snow globe, and it was given to her daughter, Charity, from a man who showed great kindness to both mother and daughter.

Here’s Judy’s story:

“I saw a man who played Santa at West Acres Mall in the 1980s who looked just like the storybook. He had that familiar squint that people get when they smile with their eyes.

“My daughter, Charity, was with her dad that holiday, so I skipped the Santa visit. When the next year rolled around, I went to the mall looking for that particular Santa. I was saddened to learn he had retired.

“When Charity was 5, she had been diagnosed with a heart condition called cardiomyopathy. It was a rough year as we learned about additional health complications. I wanted to make her Christmas really special.

“I did some research and found the name and address of that retired man from the mall. I sent him a letter, telling him I was a struggling single mom and that I couldn’t pay him, but I could make him a good dinner and some really good cookies.

“He wrote back almost immediately saying he would be more than happy to play Santa.

“He came to the door with the few gifts I had left on the step for him to put in his big red bag to deliver to Charity. She was so excited to see him, and after she opened the gifts I had left, he pulled out one more. It was a gift from him. It was a snow globe with a Santa in the middle that played ‘I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas.’ Charity’s eyes lit up, and she went to place it in her room.

“That night we formed a friendship with a Santa named Palmer Forness that would last a lifetime. Charity continued to write him, and we would exchange Christmas cards every year.

“We met for lunch in November 1997, two months before Charity died. We talked of old times and laughed. Charity put her arm around him and said, ‘Palmer, I always knew you were the real deal.’

“Charity passed away unexpectedly in her sleep at the age of 16. About 750 people were at Charity’s memorial service, and right there in the middle of this big church sat Palmer.

“When it was time to share memories, no one stood up. My heart was aching as I wondered why no one wanted to speak.

“Then, after what felt like an hour, Palmer stood up. He is rather shy by nature, so this was out of character for him. But he stood up and shared about that first Santa visit and many memories after in such detail that I found myself back there again. When he was done, everyone else wanted to share, and it turned out to be a beautiful night of memories.

“So as I’ve done every year since my first encounter with Palmer, I unpack the carefully wrapped Santa music box he had given to Charity years before. I wind it up and place it up high for everyone to see. I guess you could say I’ve always believed in Santa, but now I can say he’s my friend.”

You can learn more about Charity and cardiomyopathy, and visit an online support group for people who have lost loved ones at www.charitymae.com.

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. You can also get a Daily Dose of Inspiration from Nicole at www.nicolejphillips.com.

Kindness Reminds Us of the Spirit of Christmas

My friend Liz has been haunted for a year by the way she reacted to her husband’s random act of kindness last Christmas Eve. I’ll let her tell you about it:

“I love the holidays. I look forward to them every year. But inevitably, I am always amazed at the amount of stress I feel during this ‘joyous’ season. So much so, that I become like a Christmas robot. If I stop, I might forget something, or even worse, run out of time.

“So, like most, I constantly shop, hide gifts, wrap gifts, plan meals, make crafts, try to keep up with the advent calendar, shop more, etc. Usually by Christmas Eve I’m so exhausted that I’m going through the motions and hoping for the best.

“Last year, after finishing some last-minute shopping, dressing my family in our ‘holiday best,’ and preparing food for Christmas Eve dinner, it was time for church.

“Knowing I would soon be singing ‘Silent Night’ in a candlelit sanctuary truly calmed me, although not enough. Still, in the back of mind I knew that I had kids to put to sleep, gifts to wrap, breakfast items to prepare and many other Santa’s helper duties to complete before dawn.

“Midway through the service, a man joined. He wore a hooded sweatshirt and carried a large backpack. It seemed as though this was his home, at least for the duration of the service.

“After the service, I smiled at him and hoped he was able to get some refreshments before he went on his way. I noticed my husband talking to him but didn’t think much of it. After all, my husband talks to everyone.

“A few minutes later, my husband introduced me to the man and informed me that he was going to stay in our guest lodge that night. For some reason, my first emotion was anger. How could my husband put me on the spot like this?

“My next emotion was fear. What if he caused harm to my children? What if he stole from us? I also felt inconvenienced. Would I have to share my family holiday with this stranger? At what point would he leave? And where would we take him?

“In the heat of the moment, I pulled my husband to the side and tried to calmly and discreetly express my concerns through gritted teeth. However, my husband was determined to give this man a place to sleep on Christmas Eve.

“I begrudgingly got into the car with my husband, children and our new guest. During the long ride to our country home, I went through the list of things that I was going to say to my husband when we were alone.

“Meanwhile, he and this man quoted Scripture, spoke of Jesus and maybe felt the true meaning of Christmas (I wouldn’t have known because I had abandoned the true meaning of Christmas weeks ago).

“Once we were home and our guest was settled into our lodge, I distracted myself with Christmas preparations. Soon, I heard my in-laws pull into the driveway. They came to take our guest to a hotel. A combination of guilt and relief consumed me. Why didn’t I think of that?

“The next day, Christmas went on as usual. My kids were unfazed by the previous night’s events and were overjoyed with the many presents Santa brought. A mixture of emotions was still swirling inside which left me feeling anxious and sad. I smiled and then cried when no one was looking.

“It has taken me almost a year to realize so many lessons from that night. If I don’t stop, I might forget to see things like my husband does. He views the world with purity, kindness and light.

“I might forget that Jesus shows himself in many forms. He’s not concerned about whether our shopping is done, gifts are wrapped or if the advent calendar is on the third or 22nd day. He’s concerned about how we react in moments of need. To him, it’s not about the kind of car we drive, but rather about who we give a ride to.

“If he ever shows himself to me again, I hope to act with more kindness. Luckily, I’ve got a great role model in my husband, who, in spite of my awful Christmas hospitality, still sees good in me every day.”

Liz has been given the ability to see a difficult situation from a new perspective. It’s an incredible gift that is worth taking an entire year to unwrap.

I hope you receive gifts that are equally as valuable this holiday season. Merry Christmas!

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. You can also get a Daily Dose of Inspiration from Nicole at www.nicolejphillips.com.

Kindness Eases Loneliness for Those No Longer With Us

A woman I haven’t seen for 15 years just emailed me out of the blue.

Kris and I met at the wedding of a mutual friend, and although we barely knew each other then, and certainly not at all now, Kris had something on her heart that she just knew I’d understand.Kris is lonesome.

Our mutual friend, Heather, died of cancer nine years ago this month. This weekend, in fact. Today. Nine years ago, today.

Kris knew that she could write me and I would immediately understand what she meant when she said she was “homesick” for Heather.

We all have seasons of “homesickness” for those we have lost, but it sure makes me feel better knowing there is someone out there who loved her just as much as I did and still misses her as much as I do. It seems as if, together, we can keep a piece of her alive.

Debbie Tight, a Fargo woman who lost her son several years ago, wrote to me recently about how much she appreciates the way her son’s friends still work to keep his spirit alive and how it continues to act as a balm to heal her pain.

“Our youngest son, Tom, died suddenly and unexpectedly on May 18, 2001. He was 26 at the time and had type 1 diabetes since he was 16. October 11, 2014 would have been his 40th birthday. It was also the day of the annual Step Out for Diabetes Walk at the Scheels Arena here in Fargo. My husband, Bob, and I participated in the walk, and in preparation sent out emails to family and friends requesting donations to the American Diabetes Association. Since Tom’s contemporaries are all near or at 40 years of age and in their ‘earning years,’ we decided to include some of them in our request for donations to the ADA.

The day of the walk arrived and we were at the arena waiting for it to begin when a good friend of Tom’s who lives in West Fargo walked up to us, with a crutch in one arm and his one year old son in the other. He had just had knee surgery and couldn’t participate but wanted to let us know that he was thinking about Tom, especially on that day.

Another dear friend said she couldn’t make the walk, but sent her 90 year old mother and her sister in her place. Just before the walk started, our friend rushed in saying someone in the back needed to talk to us right away. To our great surprise, there stood Tom’s best friend from Minneapolis and another friend who had flown in from Oklahoma – all to walk with us and remember Tom. We were blown away by their love, kindness and generosity.

Between the morning walk and an afternoon Bison football game, my husband and I scurried around, ordered sandwiches and a cake and had everyone over to our home in north Fargo for supper.

The group included all of the above plus several other friends. We talked, laughed, reminisced and had a wonderful time. This is a day we will NEVER forget – a great tribute to our son, Tom, and much love expressed by dear friends.”

If you are having a season of “homesickness” for someone special, I hope you pick up the phone, send out an email, or do whatever you can to reach out to someone else who shared your love. That simple act of kindness has the power to soften the heartache for both of 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. You can also get a Daily Dose of Inspiration from Nicole at www.nicolejphillips.com.

Job Seeker Finds Big Kindness on Facebook

Sometimes social media is nasty. I mean really, truly, ruin-a-person’s-day nasty. It gives people the opportunity to say whatever they want with little, if any, filter.

Some people need excitement in their lives, so they try to “stir the pot” by being downright rude. Then they wait and watch to see how the world will react via the anonymity of the Internet.

What if all that energy was spent on something positive?

I got an email that simply said, “This seems like a good one for you if you’re in need of some ideas.”

Boy, was that person right! Below that one sentence was a series of photos, screenshots actually, taken of an entire conversation between a bunch of strangers on Facebook.

The first post was from a young man named Dustin who had gotten a new job but was still going to be $50 short for rent. He had one week to make up the difference, so he was asking if anyone knew of quick work – snow shoveling or yard chores – he could do.

People responded with all kinds of ideas, like donating plasma, being a pizza delivery driver, or contacting short-term employment agencies.

Then one woman bravely said this: “I know I’m just a stranger to you, but we are here to help our neighbors. I can give you a loan and you can pay me back.”

And then 45 minutes later, the same woman came up with an even better idea and posted this:

“I know that there are many other people out there, like me, who would like to help but perhaps don’t have $50 to give. Well, how about $5?

“That’s all it would take, 10 people to give $5 in a ‘random act of kindness’ or ‘pay it forward’ gesture, and this man would be covered without anything to repay.

“I’ll start… #1.

“Let’s show everyone what North Dakota is made of. Who’s going to be #2?

“Ready? Go!”

One minute later, she had her second donation. Four minutes later she had her third. In less than an hour, all 10 spots had been claimed by people wanting to help a total stranger.

The woman who came up with this brilliant act of kindness is Michelle Hjelden, a paramedic from Fargo. When I asked her why she did it, this is what she told me:

“I was simply compelled, by my faith and who I am, to act on behalf of Dustin.

“I know how warm a heart feels when you give selflessly. It makes me feel a warm, peaceful/soothing inner ‘spark’ that signals to me that God is pleased, and through that he makes me so much more thankful for what I have. The yearning to maintain that special feeling keeps me constantly striving to be a better person and keep that ‘spark’ aglow, because to be honest, not many other things beat it!

“I knew there were others on that post who also wanted to feel that way, but perhaps couldn’t do it by themselves. I could have helped Dustin directly on my own, but I knew that many more people would be affected with that ‘spark’ if we all worked together by giving a little bit.”

People whom Michelle had never met dropped off donations one by one. There were smiles and hugs and many warm feelings as Michelle recognized that special spark in each of their eyes.

And then, she got to give the money away.

“A young, timid … boy ascended my stairs with his hands in his pockets, shoulders shrugged upward as if embarrassed, and head humbly bowed.

“He’s a good kid who needed restored faith and trust in others, and he got it.”

Dustin wasn’t on the Internet looking for a handout. He was looking for odd jobs to make some quick cash to pay the rent. He got the money, but perhaps more importantly, he got the money wrapped in kindness, empathy and a vote of confidence with a gift tag that said, “We see you. We’ve been there. We know you’ll find your way and help others in the future, but today, let us help you.”

Thanks to one woman’s clever idea, many people got to be part of something that was about much more than the money, and at the same time prove that the world – even on the Internet – isn’t such a bad place after all.

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. You can also get a Daily Dose of Inspiration from Nicole at www.nicolejphillips.com.