A Token of Kindness Can Heal a Heart

Nothing scares me more than the thought of losing a child. And yet, tragically, it happens.

I have never been able to grasp how parents get through an experience like that. And yet, miraculously, they do.

Jeanette Maré lost her son, Ben, when he was just 3 years old. His airways constricted, and he was gone in moments.

“The depth of pain we were experiencing was beyond description. Every parent’s worst nightmare was our reality, and we didn’t know how we would possibly survive. More than anything we just wished we could die. Perhaps we would have died if not for Matthew (our 6-year-old son). He was still alive, and he needed us as he had never needed us before,” Maré writes.

“Slowly, we began incorporating coping strategies into our lives. We came up with a design for “Ben’s Bells” and started making them in our back yard studio with friends. The therapeutic effect of working with clay was amazing, as was the power of being surrounded by people talking and working toward a common goal.

“We decided to make hundreds of the bells and distribute them randomly in our community to encourage the kindness that we so depended on to get through each day. Since Ben’s death, it had been the kindness of others, strangers and friends, that had helped us begin to heal. We wanted to find a way to pass on that kindness and to help others in the process.

“On the first anniversary of his death, hundreds of Ben’s Bells were distributed throughout Tucson, Ariz., hung randomly in trees, on bike paths, and in parks with a written message to simply take one home and pass on the kindness.”

People did, and in no time, Tucson had a new community-wide mission.

That mission is spreading across the country and has made it all the way to West Fargo, thanks to an elementary school counselor named Deb Boyer.

Deb was in Tucson several years ago for a Nurtured Heart training conference. She brought home several coins created by the Ben’s Bells organization and started giving them away along with compliments to help “recognize little moments, blowing them up big, allowing people to bask in the glow of positivity.”

The main principle of the Nurtured Heart approach is to put your energy toward what you want to see more of out of people, especially children. Instead of pointing out the negative, the idea is to point out the positive.

Deb says the coins are a tangible way to affirm the good she sees in the people around her.

“I put them in connection with their potential and their dignity. It warms my heart to see their face light up,” Deb says.

The parent of one coin recipient wrote to tell me about Deb’s kindness. It had been a few years since the act of kindness occurred, but it stuck with the mother and daughter, perhaps even longer than the compliment alone would have.

It’s still remarkable to me that a woman in Arizona grieving the loss of her little boy would have the energy to spread kindness, but it makes me wonder if maybe kindness has an energy all its own – an energy that spreads, nurtures hearts and perhaps even heals them.

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.

Serving Others Makes ‘A Wonderful Life’

I’m way out of season here, but do you remember that movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life?” My husband and I watch it every Christmas snuggled up on the couch. I start getting misty-eyed right about the time Clarence, the guardian angel, jumps into the river, forcing George Bailey to save him. When the town comes through for George at the end, I’m an absolute mess. Oh, I love kindness!

That particular movie always reminds me of the words from Hebrews 13:2: “Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some who have done this have entertained angels without realizing it!”

Jordan Ohlson is one of those people who apparently entertains angels. He is a Guest Services Manager at Sanford Health, and recently, he picked up an 81-year-old man who needed a lift. But that was only the beginning of the story.

Jordan shared his experience in a memo to his employees, one of whom was so touched by her boss’s act of kindness that she wanted me to share it with the whole community.

“Guest Services Team:

“I want to share with you a story to emphasize a couple of points that I’ve reiterated and will continue to reiterate. Keep in mind that I’m not sharing this story to brag or make you think that I’m an extraordinary person!

“I went to Sioux Falls yesterday. On my way back to Fargo, I noticed an older man walking along the interstate, carrying what looked like a heavy backpack. I pulled over and offered him a ride, which he gladly accepted.

“His name was Clarence, and he had been walking for hours. He explained that he had a spell of bad luck and was trying to get to Fargo, but that he eventually needed to get to Reno, Nevada.

“Long story short, I decided he was a really nice, harmless guy, so I brought him to Fargo and took him to my house. My wife was obviously surprised, but she and the rest of us worked to feed him and do his laundry.

“My kids showed him all their tricks (my kids loved him and he thought they were great), and we let him sleep in our basement overnight. I cooked him breakfast the next day and took him to the bus station where I bought him a ticket and gave him a little cash. Off he went!

“The reason I’m sharing this is because serving Clarence brought a tremendous amount of happiness and satisfaction into my life. It would have been easy not to pick him up. It would have been easy to take him to Fargo, only to drop him off alongside the interstate where he could have continued his journey. I think that’s what he expected to happen.

“But I’ll tell you what. The joy that my family and Clarence felt would not have been as great if I would have decided to leave him alongside the road upon arriving in Fargo. It would not have been as great if we had decided to only feed him and not provide him shelter. It certainly wouldn’t have been as great if we hadn’t ensured he had a way to safely travel to his final destination. In doing all this, our intent was to help him, but we may have gotten more out of the experience than he did.

“I know I’m not alone in my philosophy on how we should treat one another. I want to thank all of you for taking the same approach to serving others. Doing so will truly fill our hospitals and clinics with the spirit of service, which will make the Sanford experience one people appreciate. Remember, the joy we and others feel will be proportionate to the time and resources we dedicate to helping others.”

Thank you, Jordan, for reminding us that when we live with the goal of serving others through kindness, it truly is a wonderful life.

The Red, White and Blue of Kindness

If you haven’t pulled every red, white and blue decoration out of storage by now, you’re late. If that’s you, grab something colorful from your closet and then come back and finish reading this column.

The colors have been unfurled for a weekend of family, food and fireworks. While festive, I appreciate that combination of colors for the switch it turns on in my brain.

I start thinking deep thoughts around this time of year about things like freedom, the American flag and what it means to be a citizen of the United States of America.

The way I see it, there are two ways to help this country retain its beautiful independence. You can either serve, or you can show great gratitude and kindness toward the people who serve.

I have a friend in Fargo whose husband has been on several deployments. With support from people in her church who like to cook, somehow this woman was able to single-handedly parent six kids for nine months at a time. I cannot even begin to imagine how hard that was on everyone in the family.

She told me once how much she appreciated the holiday train rides, military appreciation days and other “perks” that came with being in a military family.

Another friend in Fargo told me about his dad who has escorted several World War II Veterans with no living family members to see the memorial in Washington, D.C. What a beautiful way to serve a service member.

Thousands of individuals and organizations across the country collect items to send to our troops, and thousands more donate to the cause. It is an incredible collective act of kindness.

Maybe those types of causes don’t grab hold of your heart. Maybe that’s not how you choose to acknowledge our military personnel. That’s OK.

Gratitude doesn’t have to come in a large pre-planned event or wrapped carefully into a care package. As Beth Kern from Wisconsin writes, it can come in the day-to-day way we recognize someone else’s sacrifice.

“I was in Columbus, Ohio, for a conference. In the morning, the hotel had a breakfast for its guests. An Army captain was getting coffee and spilled some creamer. I cleaned it up for him saying, ‘You serve us, let me serve you.’ It choked him up, but he said thank you.”

As we go about the task of scraping off the grill and repacking the Independence Day decorations, I hope we continue to have deep thoughts about the beautiful gift of freedom and how we can best show kindness to those who protect it.

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.

Extra Time Opens Door for Kindness

The late, great Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi had a thing with time. His players knew there was “normal time” and there was “Lombardi time.” If you played for Vince Lombardi, you were 15 minutes early, or you were late. I used to operate on Lombardi time. I loved being early. I appreciated a few extra minutes to get myself in order and set my mind on the task ahead. And then I got married.

My in-laws like to tease me about being a “True Phillips” because I have developed the habit of trying to fit just one more thing into each segment of the day. If I have an appointment in 20 minutes, instead of leaving immediately and being ten minutes early, I generally decide to do the dishes and separate a load of laundry, thus making myself ten minutes late. It’s a Phillips Family trait.

On any given day, how busy are you? Or maybe I should ask, how busy do you make yourself? Do you allow time in your schedule for the unexpected, or do you cut everything down to the last minute?

I have no idea who the woman in the following story is, but I know one very important thing about her: she leaves room in her day for kindness.

This letter was sent in by Jack McKeever of Red Lake Falls, Minnesota.

“My wife and I would like to share an experience of kindness that happened in North Fargo.

“Our daughter is wheelchair bound and lives at New Horizons Manor on North Broadway. She was returning home after shopping at Hornbacher’s grocery store across the street and was having difficulty holding onto the items in her lap while controlling her electric wheelchair. A very thoughtful lady parked her vehicle and went to our daughter’s aid.

“The lady carried some of the items all the way to our daughter’s apartment door. We don’t know her name, but wish to convey our appreciation for her help.”

Thank you for sending in your story, Jack. It is a great reminder that when we slow down enough to see the needs of the people around us, we open the door for kindness. Maybe that means stopping long enough to literally hold open a door or maybe it means carting someone’s groceries all the way to their front door.

I don’t know how Vince Lombardi felt about paying it forward, but I have to believe with 15 extra minutes planned into his day, he had to have a little time in there allotted for kindness.

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.

Don’t Speed By Your Chance to Be Kind

My husband got pulled over for speeding the other day. Mr. Leadfoot has been teasing me for years about what a bad driver I am, so as you can imagine, I was delighted to be in the car witnessing the whole thing.

I’m also pleased to have the opportunity to write about this event in the paper and perhaps publicly embarrass him, so you see I’m not a very kind person after all.

It was just before 8 a.m. on a Monday morning. With three kids and lots of snacks loaded into the minivan, we were ready to begin a day of great thrills.

A man in Fargo (a police officer, actually), told me about Kings Island Amusement Park when he found out I was moving to Ohio. It’s near Cincinnati, and he remembered going there a lot as a kid. Since I have a kid who is a roller coaster fanatic, we thought we’d check it out.

Kings Island is about two and a half hours from Athens. We headed out on the back roads, hoping to make good time and get to the park just as it was opening.

Now, back roads in Ohio are not like back roads in North Dakota. They are narrow, twisting, tree-lined, animal-infested and anything but flat. My husband was zooming along without a care in the world as I was stomping the invisible brake and silently praying Bambi and his friends wouldn’t choose this moment to leap onto the pavement.

While watching for potential roadkill, I barely noticed the Ohio State Patrol car pass us from the other direction. All of a sudden we were going a lot slower. My husband, like any good driver who sees a squad car, instantly decelerated. Unfortunately, it was too late. The patrol car turned right around, and before we knew it, we were seeing flashing lights.

I started to giggle. My poor husband. It’s no wonder he chose a job where he has to be out of a town a lot. When he’s home he has to deal with me!

When the trooper walked up to the car, it took everything I had not to yell, “Thank you! My husband is constantly calling me ‘Gordon Leadfoot’! It’s about time he got busted!” But no. I sat silently with a huge smirk on my face.

The trooper walked up to the window looking totally cool in his aviator sunglasses. He asked for Saul’s license and then asked where we were going in such a hurry so early in the morning. Saul sheepishly told him we were trying to get to an amusement park.

The trooper took off his shades and peeked at the three wide-eyed children in the back of the van.

“Kings Island? That place is awesome! Have you ever been there before? You guys are gonna love it! Don’t forget to ride Banshee – it’s new and I’ve heard it’s amazing.”

What?! Aren’t we supposed to be in trouble right now for breaking the law? Aren’t officers supposed to be so harsh and intimidating that they scare you into never breaking the law again?

Saul did get a ticket. He deserved it, and we all knew it. While the officer handed it over, I asked if I could take his picture with my husband. He said he couldn’t because he was pretty sure he would get into trouble with his boss if it showed up on Facebook.

And then he smiled.

That state trooper reminded us of two very important lessons: 1) Obey the speed limit, and 2) Your title doesn’t have to define how you treat people.

There is always room in every profession to lead with kindness.

Just before we drove off (at a very conservative speed), my 4-year-old timidly piped up from the backseat to ask which one of us had to go to jail.

Nobody today, sweetheart.

 I’d love to hear your story of kindness! Send me an email at info@nicolejphillips.com.

Kindness Found in Reminiscing

I remember two things from the end of my grandfather’s life. I was a very little girl, but I remember his eyes and I remember his stories.

His eyes were normally blue, but on this final visit, they were almost turquoise. They were extraordinarily bright, shining, a little damp-looking, and not exactly focused on the people or things in his nursing home room.

I didn’t see my grandfather very often as a child, but when I did, I could always count on him for a tall-tale. He loved to tell me about how he almost caught the Easter Bunny and about the year he snuck up on Santa.

The stories he told on my final visit were different. They were true. While my father stood silently next to me, my grandfather told me about how he had just gone on a trip to Chicago, and while he was there, he took in a wrestling match and a visit to a pool hall. He told me I was just as pretty as those lovely ladies who worked in the hall. He was vividly describing something that had happened 50 years earlier as though it were only last weekend.

My grandfather’s mind had begun working backwards. Little did I know that for months and months, he had been slowly slipping back into another time period. I just thought he was being funny by telling silly stories. I look back now and cannot even begin to imagine how hard it was for my father to watch his father’s mind deteriorate.

Judy Petermann wrote me about her sister-in-law’s experience with kindness that reminded me of my grandfather. I’m sure many of you with aging parents or spouses will relate to Judy’s gratitude toward a stranger.


“Recently, Gena, my sister-in-law who thoroughly enjoys visiting, struck up a conversation with a woman seated at a nearby table. The woman was driving alone through Fargo from Williston, N.D., on her way to the east coast to spend time with family. These two women visited about times past, especially focusing on farming memories.

“Both spent their childhoods working on family farms in Western North Dakota and reminisced about the responsibility of bringing cows in from the pasture and milking, as well as cooking tasks at a young age.

“When it was time to part, they hugged and wished each other well. When Gena proceeded to pay her bill, the waiter informed her that the woman she was visiting with had already covered the charge of the meal for both Gena and her husband.

“That woman’s kindness extended much further than a free meal.

“Gena’s Alzheimer’s was diagnosed about 10-15 years ago and was oncoming much before that. Now, when visiting about present day happenings, she needs to ask the same question about what’s happening, who will be there, or where we’re going every 2 minutes or so.

“The response she seeks only stays with her for a short time, so she needs to ask the same questions again and again. But when visiting about the past, she can continue to stay with the topic and contribute more. Then she enjoys visiting and will even tell remembered jokes.

“The present, however, is difficult. When family or friends are gathered and visiting about issues related to careers, lives, which various family members belong together or even who the newest family babies are, she is lost. She cannot retain that information.

“This can easily bring about depression, because she does have some knowledge of how much she is losing out in family members’ conversations including immediate family. Her only means of connecting is when referring to childhood or past experiences. Hence, visiting with a stranger who will engage her is so refreshing for her. Knowing who they are isn’t what’s important to her.

“This story of sharing preserved memories met the needs of two women who needed companionship: one because she was traveling without family or friends, and the other who got to live in the present while talking about the past.”

– Judy Petermann

The real gift given that day wasn’t the cost of a meal. It was the precious time spent talking with a stranger who felt like she had found a special friend instead of remembering all that she had lost.

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 Ohio University 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.

A Race to Remember

My 16-year-old niece, Kate, has had severe health problems since the day she was born. She has never had a pain-free day in her life.

Two years ago, she spent a month at the Mayo Clinic learning how to cope with the pain. The doctors had come to the realization that the pain wasn’t leaving, so they needed to teach Kate how to survive with her ever-present companion.

I feel a strange mixture of helplessness and inspiration when I’m with my niece. There is nothing I can do for her, yet she is constantly raising the bar for me. My own maladies are trivial when I pause to remember what Kate battles every day. I have no excuse for not giving everything I do my all.

I was struck by a letter I received from Varen Herman, an uncle who found a way to give his nephew an amazing experience, and at the same time, found great kindness from others.


“As I walked to the starting line in a parade of people for the Fargo Marathon this May, I was filled with trepidation. I had back surgery a year ago, and my 10K effort on this crisp North Dakota morning would be my longest organized run since.

“Adding to my nervousness was the fact that I was pushing a jogging stroller to the starting line. I was concerned about runner reaction as I jockeyed for position with this obtrusive object among the thousands of participants.

“Thankfully, the racers treated us with indifference, and the few comments that I received were very supportive. ‘Way to go, Dad!’ and ‘Good luck, Dad!’

“Spectators were fantastic, as well. One moment in particular occurred on Elm Street by El Zagal Golf Course on one of the few hills on the 10K route. As we started up the incline, I commented to my running companion, ‘This is when you feel heavy, Cam!’

“Without warning or prompting, a stranger running next to us silently slid over and grabbed the other side of the stroller handle and pushed it up the hill with me. At the top, he simply released the handle and said ‘Great run, Dad!’

“I was actually pushing my almost 6-year-old nephew. Cameron was born with spina bifida and will never run an event such as this on his own legs.

“When I started running again post-surgery, part of my inspiration was drawn from the potential opportunity to let Cameron see this great event in his hometown (and mine) from the inside.

“He has had more surgeries than I can count. We actually had surgeries around the same time last year, and when I visited him in the hospital and showed him my scar, his eyes rolled from my back up to my eyes and he simply stated, ‘Mine’s worse.’

“He was right. His ‘normal’ is quite different from the ‘normal’ of my own children experience. At the heart of it all, however, is a young boy full of energy with an inquisitive mind, an aptitude for observation and a desire to simply experience all that life has to offer.

“I also think of his mom and dad, my sister and her husband. I would like to say their efforts are tireless, but that would be completely unfair to them. They do get tired. They are completely overwhelmed at times. Yet, they continue to advocate for their son’s health and well-being with every ounce of energy they have on any given day.

“As is so often the case in these types of stories, I was completely humbled by the opportunity to push Cameron in the Fargo 10K.

“When we crossed the finish line and the medal was hung around Cameron’s neck, I knew together we had accomplished something neither one of us would soon forget.

“Thank you, Fargo, for your unknowing support in the life of a young boy and his uncle.”

Thank you, Varen, for sharing your story. I hope everyone who saw you and Cameron along the course will know the impact of their kindness – especially that runner who helped you up the hill!

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.


Food, Advice & Kindness: Perfect Gifts in Time of Need

Earlier this month, I had the privilege of speaking to about 500 people in my church sanctuary.

I told those people about my life growing up. I talked about visits to a prison to see my mom’s husband and about struggles with addiction during my years as a young mom.I had one main point: Kindness doesn’t just make the world a better place; it makes you a better person.

I received lots of beautiful messages afterward from people commenting on how brave I was to tell my story.

I didn’t feel brave the first time I shared those details; I felt vulnerable. But the amazing thing about vulnerability is that it is the gateway to empowerment.

A woman named Teresa has made herself vulnerable by sharing her story with the hopes of helping others and giving credit where it is due.

“I spent many years of my first marriage fearing for my children’s safety and for my own life as my husband was an alcoholic.

“That exposure and fear brought many acts of kindness into my life from others, but not from the places you would expect.

“Sure, I had family and friends there to support me and help me in any way they could, and for that I am always grateful, but you see, the acts of kindness I am talking about are from people whose job it is to help people.

“There are so many people who work for organizations in our community, and it’s their job to help people, but I think their influence is forgotten or seen as a professional duty. It is almost expected of them, but it doesn’t mean their kindness is any less important.

“While my husband was drinking away our paychecks and going from job to job, The Village Family Service Center helped me with financial counseling, advice and assistance paying my bills, and basically keeping my head above water.

“Things went from bad to worse, and I was unable to feed my children, so I had to get assistance from the Emergency Food Pantry. I was ashamed to be there asking for help, but when the woman talked with me, listened to me and helped me select the food I needed, I smiled. Her kindness and understanding was such a comfort.

“When I decided to finally leave my husband, a friend led me to the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center. Let me tell you, the kindness they showed me, the tears they cried with me and the hand-holding was more than a job to me. It was my lifeline. Within 48 hours of my decision to leave, I felt safe, confident I had done the right thing, and I had all the necessary steps completed to move on with my life.

“It wasn’t just one amazing person at Rape and Abuse, the Food Pantry or The Village Family Service Center, it was every single one of them. They showed my children and me compassion, kindness and love. Because of them, I was able to move on and find love again. Two years ago, I finally remarried.

“Today, I am experiencing the love and compassion of another organization in my community. The Veterans Affairs hospital. My husband was diagnosed with Stage 4 cancer just before Christmas, and to say it was a shocker is an understatement. There is no chance of remission, and he will be on chemo treatments for the rest of his life.

“His pulmonologist, oncologist and infusion nurses are amazing. We go to treatments every 21 days. It’s hard, and we struggle and he feels like crap for weeks afterwards, but the environment is not dreary or depressing.

“We are greeted with smiles and kindness that light up the room. There is laughter and joking around and conversations about our kids and how we are doing.

“This is the profession they have chosen, but they do it with kindness and compassion that cannot be ignored. They inspire me, and I am grateful to them for making a bad situation bearable. The flowers we give and the thanks we express just don’t seem enough for all they do!

“I have had to come in contact with these organizations because of some tough situations, but their kindness has made me a better person and has taught me that life is too short to dwell on just me.

“I can smile, give back to these organizations, volunteer and donate. If in doing their jobs they can make me feel this good and this happy, how can I do the same in my day-to-day interactions? It’s that question that drives me to show kindness each and every day, and for that I am thankful.”

Thank you so much for telling us your story, Teresa. I am certain there are many people who will be empowered to seek out these same organizations thanks to your kindness in sharing.

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.

Sometimes Kindness Backfires

A friend recently asked if kindness ever comes back to bite me. She was struggling with the decision to continue extending kindness to people who just weren’t playing along. She felt as if all of her efforts were being done in vain and wondered if it was worth it.

My answer was, “Yes, I’ve been bitten.”

There are times when people are not interested in receiving the love I’m trying to give, but that’s OK. I’m not worried about how people treat me or even perceive my actions. I’m concerned with how I’m choosing to treat people.

Sometimes kindness backfires. But as a family in Moorhead discovered, when it hits its mark, it is so worth the risk.

“Hi Nicole,

“I love reading your column and appreciate the hope it brings to our community. In that light, I want to share a ‘Kindness is Contagious’ moment that recently happened to our family:

“One April day after school, I biked with my young kids to the end of our road to clean up litter. We spent about 45 minutes picking up trash in the green space near the road. It was hard, muddy work, but the kids were huge helpers. We left bags of recycling and trash near the curb (with plans to pick it up later by car) and started biking home.

“Suddenly, I heard a man call out behind me. I slowed down, and a young man on a bike who was probably in his 20s caught up to me. He asked if we had just picked up the garbage from the ground. I said ‘Yes,’ and he asked to speak to the kids. They turned around on their bikes to visit with him.

“Before I knew what was happening, this young man handed me a $50 bill. He thanked my kids for doing such good work and told them to split the money. I tried to turn it down, but he insisted and biked off with a huge smile.

“We stood there for several minutes so surprised and touched. My kids asked why he gave them the money. I told them that sometimes doing a kind act can make someone else so happy that they want to help out, too. Kindness IS contagious.

“We still don’t know who that young man was. If you are reading this story, please know how much your kind gesture was appreciated. You brought huge smiles to the faces of two little kids. Thank you.”

My guess is the interaction lasted no longer than two minutes, but those kids will remember that act of kindness for the rest of their lives. Sometimes when you stop to talk to a stranger, it ends up feeling awkward and uncomfortable, but sometimes it ends up creating a lasting lesson in love.

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 Ohio University 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.

A Public Service Announcement for Giving

In the past three years, kindness has become my ministry. It is my passion, and in my opinion, it’s the answer to every problem out there. Be kind.

I’ve recently met a woman who shares my passion for kindness, but instead of “Be kind,” her platform is “Give.” She is so passionate about giving that she wrote her own Public Service Announcement and paid to have it published in papers in Western North Dakota. She calls it her PSA for the Greater Good.

“Nicole, as a social entrepreneur and arts/social issues advocate, I can’t help but think about all the new, unchartered money pouring into western North Dakota. Some people literally don’t know what to do with their money. This is what compelled me to write the attached letter that I placed as a display ad in both the Minot and Williston Daily News.”

Here’s the letter she wrote. I hope it inspires you as well as the people out west who are very quickly learning about the responsibility that comes with riches.

“Marcy was an active teen engaged in student council, volleyball and youth ministry at church. So when she was diagnosed with a degenerative disease, her life unraveled. Her prognosis was uncertain, her mother quit her job to care for Marcy, and bills piled up. While no amount of money could restore what had been lost, a local gift program was able to restore peace of mind and hope with collective donations.

“Jason didn’t know where he fit in … middle school bullying was a nightmare … he loved performing, so he took a leap and auditioned for a summer theater program. Here he found a safe place to explore his gifts and a community that embraced him. Instead of taking his life that summer, Jason chose to live, and by example, likely saved the lives of others.

“These are examples of how lives are saved, empowered and supported when someone makes the decision to give. What makes this exchange more profound, however, is the unexpected effect it has on the giver’s life.

“I speak from experience. Giving brings joy and purpose to my life. I have devoted the last decade to creating awareness around people/projects/organizations that illuminate the human condition. It’s the thread that runs through who I am and how I spend most of my time. It usually shows up for me in arts and social issues advocacy, supporting kids’ passions and teaching mindfulness practices.

“I feel a deep responsibility to give. I am inspired by the philosophy, ‘To those much is given, much is expected.’ However, even though one person can make a difference, this ad is intended to have a leveraging effect.

“Many of you have had the great fortune of benefitting from North Dakota’s oil resources. If you find yourself in an unexpected position of surplus funds, my plea to you is to consider ‘giving’ as an investment with Joy and Purpose as your ‘return on investment.’ Your money can live on in the lives of people like the ones depicted in these stories.

“Finally, I know you’re asking, ‘Why would someone take out a personal ad with the intent of harnessing surplus dollars just to advocate for giving?’ Albeit unconventional, it is pure in nature and it’s what I do … remember? (See above).

“If nothing else, think of it as a PSA for the greater good. If this inspired you to give, drop me a line. I’d really love to hear about it. If you are unsure where to start, email me at ginasandgren@cableone.net. I know of plenty of noble causes who need a champion.

My best,

Gina Sandgren”

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 Ohio University 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.