Nicole J. Phillips
People often ask me about maintaining their safety while pursuing a brave and kind life. How do we know if we're supposed to give a homeless person money, or stop to help the car on the side of the road? My answer might sound flippant, but I mean it sincerely: follow your heart. If your heart says "stop," then stop. If your heart says, "Not this time," then take that as a cue to keep moving. A husband and wife were on the same page as far as hearts go when they recently came across a person who needed someone to see him.
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 — Did you have a good summer? People ask each other that question all the time, but this time, I hope you'll take a moment to think about it. What moments of your summer mattered? My guess is they were the ones that were filled with kindness. When we show up in people's lives and notice them and love on them, we take an otherwise ordinary day and make it extraordinary.
FARGO — Life is often made in the margins. Those are the little segments of time on our calendars we don't have planned. They are the 15 minutes before we need to be out the door to our kid's soccer practice, the 30 minutes before our next meeting or, in the case of the woman who sent in the following story, the hour before we pick up a friend. If we use those gaps of time well, the life we create can be filled with joy we could never map out. "Hello Nicole,
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.
FARGO — I went to a conference earlier this month that was basically a two-day party for people who love kindness. Every night, a few folks would stand up and share a five-minute story about their favorite acts of kindness. I wish I would have had the foresight to record their messages. I would have had enough material to fill this column for the next three years. One woman never talked about her particular brand of kindness, but we all ended up being the recipients.
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.