Help One Young Boy Feel Not So Alone

Sometimes I feel small. When I hear about huge problems like human trafficking, child abuse and global hunger, I just feel small. Those problems are like giants, they are huge. What could I possibly do that would even make a drop in the bucket?

Maybe you feel the same way. But what if we all put our one single tiny little drop in the bucket? Eventually we’d have a full bucket. Eventually we’d gain some ground, build some momentum and perhaps even convince others to join our cause.

That cause doesn’t have to be about something massive like ending poverty. It could be just about shining light into the lives of people who feel like they are all alone.

That’s what is happening for a Michigan boy named Colin. Thanks to social media, his mom has been able to collect all of those tiny little drops of kindness and assemble them into the best birthday celebration ever. Here’s what she posted on Facebook:

“I am Colin’s mom, I created this page for my amazing, wonderful, challenging son who is about to turn 11 on March 9th. Because of Colin’s disabilities, social skills are not easy for him, and he often acts out in school, and the other kids don’t like him.

“So when I asked him if he wanted a party for his birthday, he said there wasn’t a point because he has no friends. He eats lunch alone in the office every day because no one will let him sit with them, and rather than force someone to be unhappy with his presence, he sits alone in the office.

“So I thought, if I could create a page where people could send him positive thoughts and encouraging words, that would be better than any birthday party. Please join me in making my very original son feel special on his day.”

I first heard about the “Happy Birthday Colin” Facebook page on a national radio station. At last count, nearly 3,700 people have “liked” the page. Within 24 hours of his mother’s post, nearly 700 people had added a message of encouragement.

We can’t change the experience a young boy in Michigan is having at school, but we can help him to know he’s not alone in feeling alone.

Fighting world problems isn’t always about one individual standing up and taking charge. Sometimes it’s about the collective effort of all of us striving to change the world, simply by being kind.

You can wish Colin a Happy 11th Birthday at www.facebook.com/

Coliniseleven.

 


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.

Everyday Kindness

My email inbox is usually filled with letters of happiness, but I got one not too long ago that broke my heart.

This poor woman, Hilary, had dealt with loss after loss, and yet she was writing to tell me about all of the kindness she was able to experience through her difficulties.

I read the email to my husband who had a much different take on it than I did. I’ll let you read the letter and then tell you what my husband said.

“Dear Nicole, Feb. 18, 2013, was the worst day of my life. Six months after the death of my mother, my brother, Sean, and I were helping care for our father during his final illness. He eventually died of cancer. My brother, to whom my father had left his small business, attended a national conference the next week.

“On Feb. 18, Sean, his partner, Judy, and my then-16-year-old nephew were driving from Minnetonka to attend Dad’s funeral.

“Just west of Barnesville, they were involved in a horrible accident that killed Sean and Judy and left my nephew with life-threatening injuries.

“Family had assembled at the church an hour before the scheduled funeral service; we knew my brother had a long drive and initially weren’t concerned by his absence. Many of the other attendees, however, exclaimed about the road conditions, and neither Sean nor Judy responded to our increasingly urgent calls and text messages.

“After the service, we were unable to focus on the kind wishes of funeral attendees, and explained our distress to the pastor. He and Michele Walloch of Boulger Funeral Home immediately set about making phone calls. Within 15 minutes, troopers arrived at the church with the agonizing news.

“A year later, the days surrounding my father’s death are both a foggy blur and achingly immediate. There are so many people who were kind and helpful – my family and I are grateful first to Pastor Josh Schunk and Walloch, who responded to our confusion and pleas for help with calm efficiency.

“The troopers who came to confirm the news were patient, professional and compassionate, helping us sort out whom to contact and how. We are especially grateful to Lt. Brian Cheney, who called to check on us and visited my nephew in the hospital.

“My nephew received diligent care at the accident site and was quickly transported to Sanford Medical Center’s Intensive Care Unit, where staff treated him and us with care and respect. The nurses always took time to respond to our concerns and questions, and made us feel part of a team.

“The first responders in Barnesville retrieved personal belongings from Judy’s car so family members could avoid seeing it.

“Ryan Erdman was working on a Minnesota Department of Transportation team along the area of Interstate 94 where my brother’s accident happened and stumbled across Sean’s wallet. Not only did he return the wallet, but it arrived – grubby and salt-encrusted – complete with the $100 bill my brother had apparently tucked behind his license.

“In the midst of everything else, I just couldn’t manage organizing my brother’s funeral. Judy’s sister and brother-in-law, Jean and Mark Sabre, graciously included us in their beautiful celebration.

“Friends and old teammates of my brother traveled from as far away as California and Paris, and related wonderful (and appalling) stories of team hijinks.

“Staff from Hospice of the Red River Valley who had made it possible for my father to spend his last days at home stayed in contact. My dad’s friends and colleagues wrote, called, visited and delivered meals. Members of the community, from the woman at the office supply store who scanned funeral documents for me, to the staff at my father’s credit union, expressed their condolences, and months after the accident, remembered to ask after my nephew’s recovery.

“Most of all, my father’s widow, Ann Braaten, and all her family embraced us with such affection and comfort that we never felt alone.

“Now, a year later, my husband and I have left Fairfax County, Va., after living there for over 25 years, and own a home in Moorhead. When we tell people the news, they often respond aghast, ‘Why? It’s so cold there!’

“Well, right now it is cold outside. But there’s plenty of warmth if you need it.”

I read that letter, to my husband, who said, “Honey, it’s sad and touching, but it’s not about kindness. Those people were just doing their jobs.”

I thought for a moment before I answered him. Kindness doesn’t have to happen on a mission field or by emptying your bank account. Kindness can happen right where you are, doing just what you do, but by doing it with love. Every action taken, when done with love, matters.

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.

90 Acts of Kindness

At the risk of sounding like a commercial, I would like to share with you something really neat that’s been happening in the Fargo-Moorhead area this past month.

Gate City Bank is getting ready to open a new branch in West Fargo, and to celebrate, the business has challenged it’s employees to live up to the company motto, “For a better way of life.”

The month of February has been dedicated to showering the community in kindness. Ninety acts of kindness to be specific, one for every year of business.

It sounds like a cool project, but sometimes when an edict is handed down from a boss, it has a way of losing its appeal.

I wanted to get to the heart of the matter and hear what the employees really thought about this assignment, so I started popping into various Gate City Bank branches and subtly asking what this kindness project is all about.

All of the acts of kindness are listed on the company’s website, but I can tell you, it was way more fun to hear about them from the people who actually did them.

An employee at the branch near 25th Street and 32nd Avenue South in Fargo told me with a big smile about how the employees got to buy their mail carrier lunch at Erbert & Gerbert’s. Then he told me how fun it was to surprise the nearby fire department with a platter of sandwiches.

At the Gate City Bank on Broadway in north Fargo, I was especially touched when an employee told me how this project goes right along with what her family practices in their home. Her husband, who is battling a serious illness, makes a conscious effort to do regular random acts of kindness because it makes him feel better mentally and physically.

Shoppers have been left speechless at grocery stores and coffee shops when they are handed gift cards from bank employees.

One waitress in West Fargo was almost brought to tears by a very generous tip thanks to the 90 Acts of Kindness Project.

But even in the banking business, not everything has to do with money. Employees have volunteered their time at a horse rescue ranch and a cat shelter, carried a woman’s groceries to her car, and even pumped gas for someone while the driver got to stay nice and warm.

Each recipient of a random act receives a card labeled with the act number and an invitation to the Veterans Boulevard West Fargo Grand Opening, which starts Monday and runs through Friday.

Events are planned at that location all week long, everything from meeting Thundar and the new Bison football coach to an FM Opera Young Artists performance. At 11 a.m. on Wednesday, the final 90th act of kindness will be presented.

These acts are all over the board, they don’t follow a certain mold, but they all point to the same principle: When we lead with kindness, we create a better way of life.

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.

Random Act of Kindness Day

Did you know there is a Carrot Cake Day? Yep. It was Feb. 3. There is also Hedgehog Day (not to be confused with Groundhog Day), Homemade Soup Day, and my personal favorite, Gumdrop Day, which happens to be today.

Once you have those on your calendar, I hope you’ll add just one more: Monday is Random Acts of Kindness Day. It is a day specifically set aside to make random kindness completely intentional.

In an email from a reader named Harvey Laabs, I was once again reminded that an act of kindness, however quick, spontaneous, or cost effective is still vital to the health and happiness of our community.

“Hello Nicole! Last April, I was out doing an eight-mile training run. I had signed up for the Fargo Half Marathon, my third consecutive one. That year was my first one in the 70-74 year age group.

“It isn’t even that I like running all that much, but signing up for the half and doing the required training was a great motivator to keep in shape.

“On that Saturday, I was about five miles into my run and feeling a bit tired. … Then, while running on 17th Avenue West in West Fargo, an SUV pulled up alongside me and slowed down. As it came even with me, the passenger’s window went down, and I could see two teenaged boys in the vehicle. The one in the passenger seat put out his hand, holding all fingers up in the air, and shouted, ‘High Five!’ I reached over and slapped his hand, he replied with ‘Have a great day!’ and off they went.

“I’m quite sure that doing this cost them no more than 10 seconds. Their motive for doing this could only have been to lift the spirits of this old man lumbering along the street. And it worked!

“This very short, brief act of kindness made the remaining three miles a whole lot easier than it would have otherwise been.

“I can’t even guess how many times I have repeated this story to myself as well as friends and family. The two young men might not even realize what a big impact their brief act of kindness had on me.”

It was quick, spontaneous and free. I hope you can find a way to brighten someone’s day today, tomorrow and especially Monday as we work together to celebrate Random Acts of Kindness in our community.

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.

Maddie’s Mission

There is a gas station attached to a coffee shop in north Fargo where I like to write. It’s warm, it smells like java and fresh muffins, and there is just enough background noise to keep me on task.

The other day when I walked in, I noticed a man sitting at a table. He didn’t have anything to eat or drink in front of him. He was just sitting there. His hair was long, and his face was worn. He had seen the harder side of life.

I thought to myself how kind it was for the managers to let him sit there without buying anything. But then I thought about how uncomfortable I would feel if I were the one sitting there, hearing my stomach rumble and knowing someone was doing me a favor by letting me warm up before it was time to go back into the cold.

I walked over and asked the man if I could buy him a coffee. I’ll be honest, it was scary talking to a homeless man. I’m not sure I’d ever done it before, and I wasn’t sure the reaction I would get. But when he looked up at me, in his eyes, I saw my maker. I can’t explain it really; I can just say that when he accepted the coffee and a little breakfast, too, I had to accept a hard truth about myself: I’m sometimes afraid of the people who need me the most.

I was humbled and inspired to learn about a little girl named Maddie, who at 7 years old, is already serving those who often have the least. Her mom, Kandia, shared this story of how Maddie’s Mission came to be:

“This all started for Maddie when we were driving to do errands and she saw a person walking without the appropriate clothing for winter. The wind chill was 20 degrees below zero. The person didn’t have a hat, scarf or gloves and was obviously very cold.

“When we got to the store, Maddie saw a box of handwarmers and insisted that we buy them to give out to homeless people we come across in our daily life.

“From that point, everything just sort of snowballed in that little 7-year-old mind, and she ended up coming up with this idea for what she calls ‘Stay Warm Packs.’ ”

“Maddie fills gallon-size zip-top bags with some of the essentials for survival in winter and gives them to homeless individuals. She spent her entire Christmas break making these, taking time to write a message on each one and drawing a cheery picture on the bag for the person receiving them.

“The packs have winter hats, handmade scarves, a box of matches to start campfires, Chapstick, a new pair of socks, a pack of tissues, sports drink mixes, hot chocolate mix (because her little mind rationalized that you can melt snow over your campfire and make hot chocolate), a package of handwarmers, and most recently she has been adding gloves when she can.

“It started out as a simple project that was going to be a one-time thing. Maddie made up 24 little bags and we went to the homeless health clinic to hand them out. While we were there, Maddie got a supportive donation that allowed her to continue her mission.

“When Maddie asked about spreading the awareness of homelessness, we took to social media and started a Facebook page called ‘Maddie’s Mission.’ She posts her activity on there fairly regularly and has me post some awareness things we come across.

“She beams ear to ear when she sees the comments on Facebook. You can just tell the support helps boost her feeling that what she is doing is indeed good and the right thing to do.

“With the support of people on her Facebook page and in the community, she has continued her project and has made it her mission to help as many homeless individuals as she can to survive and stay warm this winter.

“In total, she has made and distributed almost 100 ‘Stay Warm Packs.’ She has also started collecting hooded sweatshirts and winter coats to take to the Gladys Ray Shelter. She always tells me, I may be little but that doesn’t mean I can’t help.”

Thank you, Maddie, for being big enough to show the people around you what it means to truly love your neighbor.

Join Maddie in helping the homeless at www.facebook.com/maddiesmission2013.

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.

Kindness Through Voicemail

I have a strict personal voicemail system. I keep messages on my phone until I make the decision to a) call the person back or b) ignore the person.

Yep, that’s the kindness lady just being honest. Tell me you don’t do the same thing!

There is one message that has been sitting in my voice mailbox since Dec. 5, 2012. Yes, it’s been more than a year. You see, this message falls into another category: kindness.

Let me set the scene: I had been serving as the volunteer executive director for Diva Connection Foundation (now Women’s Impact) for more than a year. I had just worked my tail off writing a grant proposal. The people in charge of giving out the grant money drove to Fargo from Minneapolis to talk with us in person and learn more about the organization. I was psyched. We were incredibly close to taking the nonprofit to a whole new level.

Then the bad news came. We had not been chosen. There would be no money to further our mission, just more blood, sweat and tears as we passionately worked to empower the women in our midst to become leaders in our community.

I was devastated.

That’s when I got a call from Pat Traynor. He runs Dakota Medical Foundation and Impact Foundation and was instrumental in getting us off the ground. I heard the phone ring, I knew it was him, and I was too sad to answer.

Here’s the message he left on my voicemail:

“Hey, I thought you guys did a great job. I just want you to know, just because a foundation doesn’t want to fund you yet doesn’t mean that you aren’t on to something spectacular and that you haven’t done an outstanding job. I just want to tell you that I care. I think you’ve done an outstanding job, and I think you’re a world-class, first-class, top-grade, wonderful and awesome individual. Keep up the great work! I’m proud of you!”

This Fargo man I greatly respect took 33 seconds out of his day to call me, and the words he said meant so much that I haven’t been able to let them go.

Your words have power. You have the ability to show great kindness by using those words to lift up the people around you. It costs you nothing and takes less than a minute of your time.

Just in case you are the one who could use some encouraging words today, let me say: You are a world-class, first-class, top-grade, wonderful, awesome individual. Keep up the great work! I’m proud 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 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.

A Chain-Reaction of Birthday Kindness

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Kids are key to spreading kindness.

There is an interesting trend happening around town thanks to kids. I first noticed it this past year when my older children, ages 8 and 10, started getting invitations to birthday parties. More times than not, carefully printed on the invite is a note asking the attendee to support a local nonprofit organization by bringing a donation instead of a gift. We’ve purchased items like dog food, dog toys, baby wipes and infant sleepers.

Apparently, north Fargo does not have the monopoly on creative and considerate kids.

Proud grandma Lola Knutson wrote to me because she wanted to share what some terrific second-graders are up to these days.

“My grandson, Lucas, was planning his birthday party with his mom and dad. It is not every day you turn 8, you know. A trip to Thunder Road was in store, they decided. However, when it came to making up a list of birthday gifts he might want, Lucas decided on his own that he wanted to do something for someone else rather than get presents for himself.

“Lucas has always been concerned with others, including packing Christmas baskets at church to buying the crossing guard at school some brand of new mittens when hers didn’t keep her hands warm.

“Concerning his birthday, his mom, my awesome daughter who is teaching me many things about parenting, held up two envelopes that had arrived in the huge stack of mail that had piled up on their counter. Lucas chose the Great Plains Food Bank.

“His birthday guests were asked to bring donations for the food bank instead of gifts. The donations from Lucas and his friends amounted to enough money to buy food for many, many people. I am so grateful to the gal who accepted his donation. She made a big deal out of it for him, and it has deeply affected him in a positive way. The organization even put a picture of Lucas on its Facebook page!

“This part of the story is terrific in itself. But now Lucas has received an invitation to a friend’s birthday party. This little guy is requesting that toys be brought for a toy drive for needy children rather than gifts for him. Lucas is quite excited that he has started a possible ‘chain reaction’ of kindness. His comment to me when he received his invitation was, ‘We may just make this go around the world!’ ”

You’re right, Lucas. We have no idea how or when one act of kindness will multiply and spread light to an entire world. Thank you for using your special day to make a day brighter for someone else.

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.

Lost Purse Stirs an Act of Kindness

When I was a little girl, I was fascinated with my mother’s purse. I remember digging through it, looking for who-knows-what, only to be told that it wasn’t polite to look in a woman’s purse. It became one of those unwritten rules: you don’t ask people how much money they make, you don’t ask a woman her age, and you don’t play in your mother’s purse.

Now that I’m an adult, I get it. My kids have been told more than once, “Get out of my purse!” It’s not that I’m hiding anything incredibly secretive in there. It’s just that it holds a lot of stuff. My stuff. Stuff that I may want on a moment’s notice, and stuff that may fall out if a child is rifling through it.

I completely understand the panic Penny Burgau says she felt when she went looking for her purse and came up empty.

“I had to stop after work and get a few groceries at the Moorhead Hornbacher’s store. When my shopping was complete, I ventured to the parking lot and unloaded my groceries into the trunk of my car. I then wheeled my cart back into the cart corral. It was snowing and kind of slippery outside so, needless to say, I was anxious to get home and call it a night.

“When I got into the garage, I looked on the seat next to me for my purse and – no purse. I opened the trunk to get my groceries out, and still no purse. Now the panic set in.

“My first thought was that I had to call Hornbachers and see if by some lucky chance someone had turned in a purse that was left in the grocery cart in the cart corral. Then I remembered I couldn’t call anyone as my phone was in my purse! By this time my legs were like jello and my head was swimming as to what I should do next since almost my entire life is stored in my purse!

“I tried to calm down and told myself I had to drive back to Hornbachers. The roads were slippery and I knew I couldn’t drive very fast as an accident on top of all this would get me nowhere.

“Just as I was pulling out of our driveway, there was a gray van with a couple inside pulling into our cul-de-sac. I didn’t recognize the vehicle or its occupants, but they were looking at me with an expression that I really couldn’t explain at the time. The next thing I know, I threw open my car door and ran up to the vehicle and shouted ‘You didn’t by any chance find …’ and before I finished the sentence, the gentleman held up my purse!

“I couldn’t believe it. They had driven all the way to my house to deliver it to me after finding the address on my driver’s license. They explained that they saw the purse in the grocery cart and no one was around. Being the honest people they must be, they drove to my house to hand-deliver it.

“I was just ecstatic and thanked them profusely. I hugged the gentleman and I think I even said I loved him. At that point I really did.

“One of the regrets I have of this entire situation is that I never got the couple’s names. I’m so sorry I didn’t, but I hope they read your article so they know how much I appreciate what they did for me and the honesty they displayed. Yes, Moorhead-Fargo, there are Good Samaritans in our fine cities and this is one act of kindness that I will never forget.”

Thanks for sharing your story, Penny. The next time my kids are digging through my purse, I’ll have to remember to say a little prayer of gratitude that at least I know where my purse is!

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.

First-Grader’s Question Prompts Family to Help Hungry

The Christmas cookies are gone. The ham, roast beef or whatever you had for that special dinner is a distant memory. And yet, because donations tend to lag after the holidays, people in our community will go through the rest of this cold winter hungry.

Marv and Nancy Greenberg of Fargo didn’t realize exactly how close that reality would hit home until their daughter started school two years ago.

“I am a firm believer in the whole ‘pay it forward’ train of thought, and whenever possible, my husband Marv and I try to do exactly that.

“When our now-7-year-old started kindergarten at Lincoln Elementary in Fargo, little did we know how much we would put our energy into helping her school ‘family.’

“When Aliya was in first grade, she came home and asked why some of the kids in her class didn’t get to have milk or orange juice at the morning break. She also questioned why some kids were not able to partake in the monthly popcorn event the PTA held.

“When we asked her why she thought they didn’t get to enjoy the same benefits that she gets to enjoy, she realized that for some people, school snacks are a luxury.

“We met with the school principal and asked how many kindergarten and first-graders could not afford that morning beverage and were astounded to hear the cold hard facts.

“We proposed paying for all of those children who went without as long as we could break it down monthly as an expense. And so we did.

“We could go to sleep at night knowing that all of those little kids were getting the nutritional benefit of that morning milk or juice supplement. We also decided to endorse and cover the popcorn money for those who could not do it themselves that year.

“Aliya is now in second grade, and our son Ari is in kindergarten. Since the state budget included enough money to cover the milk/juice for all elementary students this year, my husband suggested making Thanksgiving food hampers for 10 families at Lincoln School.

“Again, back to a meeting with the principal. Approval was given with great excitement, and off we went to start our grocery shopping. We spent four hours shopping, sorting and packing these hampers. We were exhausted and sore but all-smiles knowing our random act of kindness went so far.

Rather than just buying the ingredients for Thanksgiving dinner for these 10 families, we decided to go all out. Each family received three giant boxes of food the Monday before Thanksgiving, and they were elated. Most of them said, ‘I get all THREE boxes?’ Amazing doesn’t begin to describe the feeling of accomplishment our family feels.

“My challenge is this – if every family who has a child attending school were to partner with one other family and ‘adopt’ a family in need in their school and go together on the cost of something like this Thanksgiving food hamper, it would maybe be the equivalent of Mom and Dad giving up their daily latte for a week in order to fund their share.

“I want your readers to realize how easy it can be to make such a huge difference in the life of a student who sits beside your child each day at school, but doesn’t have the luxury of three square meals, or a warm bed or new clothes every time they start school.”

Thanks for sharing your family’s experience, Nancy.

For those of you who would like to help, but just aren’t sure where to start, contact the Great Plains Food Bank at (701) 232-6219 or http://greatplains

foodbank.org.

For every dollar received, the Great Plains Food Bank can buy four meals, so your money goes far in helping to feed our hungry. Also, be sure to ask about the backpack program, which helps feed kids who would go without meals on the weekend.

Our greatest asset in caring for our community is simply our desire to do so.

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.


Learning to be the Light a Dollar at a Time

Is it possible to turn a tragic experience into an opportunity to live more fully and love more openly? Absolutely.

I hear about people who take death, disease and other disasters and somehow find the strength to exhibit kindness through their despair.

I got this letter from a man who went through a very dark time several years ago and ended up learning to be the light.

“I once heard that every curse comes with a blessing but didn’t understand it until life-threatening cancer struck without warning. That curse indeed brought unexpected blessings. I wouldn’t have chosen to go through the experience, but it’s made me a better person.

“The diagnosis came just before Christmas, and I had much less than an even chance of surviving five years. I told my adult children, both of whom had drifted away from the church in which they’d been active as youth, that the only Christmas gift I wanted that year was for them to join my wife and me in worship on Christmas Eve. They did, and it was wonderful.

“On Christmas Day, the four of us carried on our tradition of going to a family movie together. While buying popcorn, I sensed the young lady behind the counter was working on the holiday because her family needed the money. Realizing I didn’t know how many more times I’d celebrate Christmas with my family, her sacrifice touched me deeply.

“When she gave me the popcorn, I handed her money equal to twice the order and said, ‘Keep the change. Thanks for working today. I hope you have a good Christmas with your family when you get home tonight.’ She gave me a startled look, teared up, and said, ‘That’s the nicest thing anyone ever did for me!’ Intuition confirmed, I teared up, too.

“Leaving the theater, I reflected on how an extravagant tip can be such an unexpected kindness. And I didn’t have to be wealthy to put the idea into practice. In a restaurant, simply adding $1 above the usual percentage tip would transform it into a resounding expression of appreciation for the service. I resolved to do it as often as my health allows. I rarely see the result, but am confident I’ve generated many smiles a dollar at a time.

“My new habit unexpectedly led to friendship in another setting. My wife and I subscribe to a concert series and buy discounted parking garage tickets in our package. It dawned on me that this was another opportunity for frugal extravagance as kindness.

“Arriving for the next concert, I handed the garage attendant the usual pre-paid parking stub, but slipped her the amount of the discount, too. She tried to hand it back, but I refused: ‘With the discount, I get to park for the regular price and thank you at no extra charge.’ She was surprised and grateful.

“At the next concert, I realized that after years of concerts, we knew each other by sight, but not by name. I introduced myself, and she reciprocated. In the following years, we’ve carried on a conversation, seconds at a time while I go through the garage gate. She asks about my health, and I keep up with how she and her husband are doing. It’s become a bonus feature for the concert evening.

“And that’s another blessing with the curse: Before the cancer, I rarely went out of my way to establish new relationships. Now I recognize each as a unique gift to myself wrapped in kindness shown to others.

“After aggressive treatment, my prognosis improved dramatically. I’ll likely survive well past that five-year threshold that seemed so unlikely at first. But for however many years of good health remain, I’ll enjoy surprising people with frugal extravagance and count each opportunity a blessing for myself.”

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.