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.


15 Rules for the Game of Life

Sometimes these kindness stories fall into my lap, and sometimes I have to dig a little. The story this week is a combination of both. What I uncovered during my digging took an already great act of kindness (that had fallen into my lap) and turned it into a priceless conversation that left me with way more than I had expected.

Forum reporter Sherri Richards got a story idea from a friend who had seen it on Facebook. Sherri brought it to the attention of my editor, who thought it would be a perfect fit for this kindness column.

That’s how the story ended up in my lap, but because not everything you read on Facebook is true, I figured I had better make a few phone calls and do a little more digging.

My first call was to Teresa Lewis, who had originally posted the story online. Teresa explained the turn of events.

Teresa’s daughter, Tara, plays basketball for the Liberty Middle School Mustangs in West Fargo. Because of the population explosion in West Fargo, students who have been in class together since elementary school are now finding themselves in opposing colors on opposite sides of the court.

Last year, the girls all suited up together as Cheney Packers. But this fall, with the opening of a new school, the classmates were forced to become competitors.

Now hold on. If you’ve never been to an eighth grade girls’ basketball game, you may be thinking to yourself, “Really? Cut-throat competition at the eighth-grade level? I don’t think so.” Let me reassure you that a win is a win and all who play their hearts out want one, regardless of their age or sex.

Teresa said it was a weird feeling and difficult to figure out when to cheer because she knew so many of the girls on the court.

Even the Liberty coach, Chris Haugen, saw the dilemma. He is a physical education and health teacher at Horace Elementary, so some of the girls on the floor had once been in his classroom.

Coach Haugen decided to use this opportunity to teach his players and former students about true sportsmanship.

Before the game, Coach Haugen gave each of his players a flower. He asked them to walk across the court and hand it to a Cheney player while saying these words, “Teammates last year, competitors today, friends always.”

As the game tipped-off, many of the parents and players were still wiping tears from their eyes at this great act of kindness.

When I called Coach Haugen to ask about this series of events, he told me that he feels compelled to equip his students with more than the basics. He wants to help them develop character traits that will last a lifetime.

Then he shared with me 15 principles he has come up with to help kids remember what’s important in competition, in the classroom and in life. Now, at awards banquets, he only has to say the first word. The students have taken all 15 rules to heart.

Words To Live By

Chris Haugen, Physical Education Teacher, West Fargo Public School District

1. Play by the rules.

2. Give good effort.

3. Encourage yourself and others.

4. When life knocks you down, get back up and into the game.

5. Success is doing your best; win or lose.

6. Be humble in victory. Don’t brag.

7. Be gracious in defeat. Don’t whine or make excuses.

8. Be respectful of other people, even though they may not be respectful of you.

9. Share everything that is good, useful or fun.

10. True winners never cheat.

11. If you want to be good at something, practice hard.

12. Say you’re sorry when you hurt someone.

13. Look at people’s eyes when they speak to you.

14. Put things back where you found them when you’re done.

15. Say “Thank you” daily for the many blessings you have received.

I am so thrilled to know we have teachers like Chris Haugen leading the way for our next generation.

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 Found Through Tragedy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


 

Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is an author, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Bison Men’s Head Basketball Coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday. You can also get a Daily Dose of Inspiration from Nicole at www.nicolejphillips.com.

Oh Canada Kindness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is an author, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Bison Men’s Head Basketball Coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday. You can also get a Daily Dose of Inspiration from Nicole at www.nicolejphillips.com.

Old-Fashioned Kindness

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

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

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

From Lorna in Fargo:

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

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

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

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

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

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

And from another grateful woman in Wahpeton:

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

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

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

From Mavis of Fargo:

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

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

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

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

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

Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is an author, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Bison Men’s Head Basketball Coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday. You can also get a Daily Dose of Inspiration from Nicole at www.nicolejphillips.com.

Kindness Gives Eyes to the Blind

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is an author, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Bison Men’s Head Basketball Coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday. You can also get a Daily Dose of Inspiration from Nicole at www.nicolejphillips.com.

Shine Light Amid Darkness

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

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

“Mom, what does yannoy mean?”

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

“Yannoy, Ben?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Nicole J. Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is an author, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Bison Men’s Head Basketball Coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday. You can also get a Daily Dose of Inspiration from Nicole at www.nicolejphillips.com.

Kindness: Benefits for the Giver

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


 

Nicole J Phillips is a former television anchor for Fox News in Fargo. She is an author, speaker and mother of three kids. Nicole is married to Bison men’s head basketball coach Saul Phillips. Her columns run every Saturday.