Nicole J. Phillips
Are you on the treadmill? Do you wake up each day knowing there are more things to be done than could actually be accomplished? Does it feel like everyone needs a piece of you? When I begin to feel that way, I know it's time to close my eyes.
Have you ever had kindness show up just when you needed it? If your answer if yes, when you've finished your morning coffee, please send me your story. That's what this column is all about. We share stories of the kindness you've given and how it made you feel, or the times a kind act happened when you needed it the most. Kindness has the power to change the way we see people. It has the ability to break through our hard shells, because we want to help another human the way someone else has helped us. Kindness becomes contagious when it connects with gratitude.
FARGO — Can you remember what you got for your seventh birthday? How about your eighth? Ninth? Maybe there's one special present that stands out, but for me, it's all pretty fuzzy. It's not the big celebrations or occasions that I remember from my childhood. My brain chooses to hold onto things that are much more random. For instance, I remember when I was about 9 or 10, my mom would drive me to the "big city" to run errands. We lived in the little town of Reedsburg, Wis., and Madison was about an hour away.
FARGO — There is something to be said about being in the right place at the right time. It feels fortuitous, almost like someone is watching out for us or that our interactions are predetermined. But instead of hoping to be in the right place at the right time, I long to be more aware of my surroundings. I want to be attentive enough to the people around me to know when they need a helping hand or an extra dose of generosity.
If it had rained one hot July day in 2011, I would not be writing this column. If I had felt too tired by my depression to take my kids to the city pool, I would not have a found my purpose. If one teenage mom in a shiny gold bikini had been too proud to accept the money I offered, I would not have discovered the power of kindness to transform a life.
I think 2 might be my favorite age. Not for my own kids, but for other people's kids. When my children were 2, I was caught up in diapers and crushed Goldfish crackers and constant laundry duty. Now, as a mom of school-age kids, I can sit back and see how adorable other people's toddlers are because I don't have to take care of them. I was sitting with my family at church the other day when a woman and her 2-year-old granddaughter sat down in front of us.
My brother saved a little boy's life once. The boy was swimming and got out too deep. No one saw him go under except my brother. It happened more than 30 years ago and I'm certain my brother never even stops to think about what would have happened if he hadn't been in that lake that day. Maybe time has also erased it from the memories of the little boy's family. But maybe not.
When my son started bringing home information about his sixth-grade graduation, I thought it was cute. There would be a ceremony and a class party and even some donated prizes. Then I found out some of the parents were giving their children gifts to celebrate the milestone. I am all for using any excuse possible to celebrate life with ice cream, but in our house, gifts are reserved for birthdays and major life events.
FARGO — I'm a pretty outgoing person. There are certainly things that heighten my anxiety, but talking to strangers isn't one of them. I have to remember that just because my comfort zone covers a four ZIP code-area, not everyone is wired the same way. For some people, making eye contact and sending out a genuine smile is enough to get those tummy butterflies in a tizzy.
There is a woman in my town who does a lot of good. I mean A LOT. She and her husband have been blessed with a successful local business, and they are constantly pouring into the community. The thing is, they do it so quietly, unless you're really paying attention and perhaps digging a little, you'd never know the identities of the "anonymous" donors. I happen to take a special interest in kindness and those who are radically loving others, both openly and incognito. I remember the kind things I hear people doing because I want to try out their ideas. Their kindness is contagious.